Honestly, I did not know what to expect when going into VA-11 HALL-A. I just went off the name and a promo image when I chose this game to review, and boy was I surprised. VA-11 HALL-A (now known as Valhalla going forward) is a visual novel type game, with some bar tending elements thrown in. Place it in a Future cyberpunk setting and you get quite the combo.
You Had Me at Welcome
The story is a trip, to say the least. You will touch on topics ranging from depression to sex to society. Yeah, it goes everywhere, and it does it without a single issue. But at the beginning of it all, there lies a girl named Jill.
She is just a simple girl who- wants to mix drinks and change lives. Life is not that easy though thanks to the fictional setting of Glitch City and its residents. Being the underbelly of the country where the law is corrupt and corporations reign supreme. AI’s are also pushed to their limits in this town as well, thanks to the lax laws in place. Everything just mixes into one perfect cocktail of chaos. Standing as a haven in this maelstrom of bourbon and Waifus is VA-11 HALL-A, a back alley bar where anyone is welcome. And you will find just about everyone there.
Here you will find a wide range of characters. Spanning from the hacker to sex workers and everything in between. On the surface, it seems like there is way too much going on in this story, but the writing in this game is near flawless. I can not find a single issue when it comes to the script. Every character has a natural feel to them and their own unique personalities. On top of that, the interactions are as organic as it gets. I felt as if I was listening in on to real people having real conversations the entire time.
Valhalla also does have multiple endings, But I was only able to complete one playthrough with my time. So I do not have any comments on those, outside the one I experienced. In the spirit of not spoiling it, all I will say is yes, yes I did have fun. Those in the know will understand, and I recommend becoming one of those people if you are not.
Clean As Can Be
While Valhalla isn’t revolutionary in its artwork, it excels at what it does. Blending an Anime and 2D pixel style together perfectly. Each character stands out as individuals with their impressive designs and unique reactions. Those reactions couple perfectly with the dialogue as well, creating an immersive experience that you can get invested into with ease.
Backdrops are quite pleasing as well, providing the perfect setting for our bar. And boy does the home you live in feel comfy and leaving me with no complaints at all. UI is clean and straightforward, gotta love that.
The Soundtrack to Your Life
Honestly, this was one of my favourite parts. At the beginning of your shifts and when you come back from break, Valhalla allows you to choose 12 songs to play in order from an extensive 8-bit library. I had a lot of fun exploring and finding my favourite songs to play during my shift. While there were songs that I liked more than others, not a single one did I find bothersome. Every track was welcomed. It is obvious a lot of love and care went into this, and it shows. The sound effects and the out of work tracks. There was not a single detail lacking.
Yes, There is Gameplay
So the game is primarily a visual novel, where you read dialogue. But what Valhalla does offer in gameplay is well thought out. The primary mechanic is the ability to craft drinks for your customers. It does not come up too often, but what the crafting does, it mixes things up (pun intended) just the right amount. Sukeban Games has also done a great job at using this mechanic as a storytelling tool, adding a nice personal layer to each brew. Whether it is a drink one orders for celebration or the usual, that personal element created with each one leaves an impression without you even realizing it. And I love it.
There are also a few other smaller mechanics. Things along the line of budgeting your money or truth or dare. In the end, they don’t require much effort to do, but it is a nice change of pace. Though, out of those smaller mechanics, there is one that does stand out.
At the beginning of each day, there is a list with a couple of tasks to complete given to you, mainly a reminder for your next bill payment. But there is a mention that Jill is distracted, and the only way to solve this issue is by purchasing something. It is a small mechanic, but that focus can save you from screwing up an order. This is tied to the little speech bubble that appears when you make a drink, when Jill is focused, it will have the order or hints to solve a mystery order. If she is distracted though, god knows what will appear in the bubble. So it doesn’t hurt to occasionally buy into her desires if you feel like you will need it.
What a Game
VA-11 HALL-A is one hell of a ride, but it is a ride I refuse to get off of. If you want a visual novel, this is a defining example of one. If you want a gripping story with genuine characters, do not skip over this. If you want a cozy game to burn some time, pick it up. I can not stop and think of a reason that anyone interested should pass over this game.
- THE GOOD
- Art Design
- THE BAD
VA-11 HALL-A is one hell of a ride, but it is a ride I refuse to get off of.