You would think that my birth month would have served as an overall nice month for me. But alas, while it did have some of the highest highs of the years so far, it also served some of my lowest lows. I didn’t get around to a lot, admittedly, so this one will only be a double feature. Call it an apology for last time where my article was massive even for my own standards. Let’s do this.
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action for PC
VA-11 Hall-A, developed by a small indie team based in Venezuela known as Sukeban Games, can be categorized as a visual novel first and foremost. The game takes place in the year 207X, and certainly delivers on the promise of cyberpunk, and you play as surly smartass bartender Jill Stingray working at the titular bar VA-11 Hall-A in what seems to be halfway between cyberpunk dystopia and cyberpunk suburbia, what with living in an apartment alone with a cat and still going to work every day. This world hasn’t gone completely to hell yet, but it sure seems to be heading that way.
While a visual novel need not require gameplay, Va-11 Hall-A (christ, that’s unnatural to type), this game has some in the form of mixing drinks for customers that come in from a set pool of five ingredients. A little basic for bartending, but it’ll do. Sometimes the way you mix them will give you a little leverage to have fun and spike someone’s drink with more alcohol than usual at no penalty, and they very well may respond differently (see: drunkenly) in response. This in large part is the game’s way of providing multiple, very subtle ways to play and influence characters you interact with from behind the bar table, which can lead up to big differences nearer the end. It can be your choice to cut someone off, or give a customer something non-alcoholic if you think they’ve had enough. Relationships are developed, bonds are formed and broken, and your goal is to keep customers happy with accurate drinks in order to earn your pay and take care of your rent (or not, if you wish).
I’ve been…attempting to be neutral this whole time, describing what the game is rather than what I think of it up ’till now, but I’m just going to show my hand right here. I love this game. I love this game so damn much. Maybe I’m a fool, but there’s a small part of me that really thinks society could be somewhere close to how it’s depicted by 2070something.
First off, the characters. All of them are memorable, and when they become regulars, many like Sei develop further down the line, for better or for worse. Jill’s own story is revealed to the player about midway through, and by the end, while there is a lot of goofy anime-ish stuff, all of it comes off as very…human.
That’s the operative word there, I can’t remember the last time I ever played a game that depicted situations and people as so human. I feel genuinely like I’ve known people just like many of the people in this game, good and bad alike. And yeah, obviously there’s very little chance of human-talking dogs anytime in the next 70 years, but there’s definitely a line between the goofy comedy relief and the actually emotionally engaging and relatable situations these characters get into – again, especially with Jill, your player character.
The soundtrack (which you have to load your jukebox with when you begin your work day) compliments the tone very nicely, and while it’s not Undertale levels of amazing memorable tracks, I find it light techno-trance-y enough to fit well with the rest of the game.
And hey, life has a lot of goofy stuff in it too. Maybe not talking-corgi level goofy, but still.
God Eater: Resurrection for PC
God Eater was a game that originated on the PSP in Japan only back in 2010. A mere eight months later, developer Shift and publishers Bandai Namco decided to rerelease it under Gods Eater Burst and bring it overseas with a couple of added doodads for the PSP in 2011. About five years later, in 2016, they remade and rereleased it yet for PS4, Vita and PC under the name God Eater: Resurrection.
God Eater: Resurrection is a fast-paced action RPG with an emphasis on very large monsters, very large weaponry, and very large anime artstyle. Exploiting particular body parts for weaknesses in combination with elemental and weapon type advantages is key in this game, and most often you’ll have a team of up to three other NPCs that do fairly good work slaying monsters with you as long as they aren’t getting in your way with their pesky bullets, which may or may not happen a lot. Stamina and ammo management are key factors to keep in mind, and you may be wondering, “Hmm, doesn’t this sound familiar…?”
Yes, God Eater takes a lot from the popular Monster Hunter series, except it’s faster, more fluid, and has an actual story and characters worth caring about unlike the Monster Hunter game I played on the Nintendo 3DS.
Okay, I admit I’m a bit biased. I never could get into Monster Hunter, mostly because it lacked everything I just listed. But I’m very into God Eater here. The story so far of a future dystopia just trying to survive against the monsters takes multiple dark turns, and has quite a bit of intrigue and mystery building up. Full disclosure, I haven’t beaten the game as of yet, but I’m still enjoying myself greatly. The characters themselves, even in the time I’ve played, have gone through a lot, revealed, changed and developed, to the point that what they speak on the field shows distinct change over time in tone and words.
The voice acting, in my opinion, is very noteworthy. Most of the time, even if it’s just mediocre, I tend to switch the voices to the country of origin rather than English (in my case, mostly Japanese). However, especially in the character Alisa’s case, the voice acting is downright stellar despite clashing a little with the subpar facial movements. Oddly, in cutscenes, your own character is mute, despite speaking lines during operations, so you have a semi-silent protagonist. Maybe he’s got weird reverse anxiety and can only speak in high pressure situations.
You’ve certainly got your choice of weaponry, In addition to being able to switch between gun and melee near seamlessly, you’ve got six varying category choices of massive melee and four of massive guns, all varying in range, power, speed, damage type and special attacks, so you’re sure to find something you like with that kind of variety.
Music is kinda eh. Lots of horns, occasionally it’s trying a little too hard to be Cowboy Beebop to my ears, and for whatever reason only the support conversations’ music are insanely unbalanced. But you can’t win ’em all. I still enjoy the hell out of this game.
College feels like it’s kicking me while I’m already down, but I’ll try to get more gaming in next time to make a bit of a more robust update. Sorry for it only being a double-feature, we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled three games next month (hopefully!)