I was too foolish to actually listen to my co-hosts on IrrationalPod to sit down and actually play VA-11 Hall-A, a very cool adventure game about being a bartender and just talking with your patrons. The follow up, N1RV Ann-A, is something I will not make the same mistake with, especially after my demo at PAX.
For the uninitiated, N1RV Ann-A is the follow up chapter to 2016’s VA-11 Hall-A, and takes place in the same grim, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world. Here, in the much more affluent city of Saint Alicia, you play a hotel bartender named Sam. My brief demo with N1RV Ann-A started with an introduction to this area, which is a city where everything you could ever possibly need is an “hour or less” drive away. This is a stark contrast to Glitch City, the setting for VA-11 Hall-A, a bleak and negative end of this future, where the patrons who you talk to are in far more dire straits.
Jumping in as Sam in N1RV Ann-A has a far different vibe off the bat, one that’s much more positive, but still equally as relaxing. VA-11 Hall-A was a game you cuddle up with a warm drink and enjoy as a laid back game about conversation, and N1RV Ann-A as a follow up immediately gets this and recreates it effortlessly. It makes me continue to wish I had dedicated the time to VA-11 Hall-A.
The demo I played had me going through one conversation with a single patron, a young woman named Parka, or who at least went by Parka, and she had never had a drink before in her life. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but the conversation quickly took a turn for the serious. When asking Parka about what she does, she had trouble explaining her work, finally describing herself as an erotic fiction writer.
To give an idea of where the conversation goes, her most recent story is about a mother creating a sexual relationship with her young teenage son.Parka is upset with a website she found taking panels or segments of her work out of context, and villainizing her as a pedophile and a monster online. This obviously has some direct allegories to organized hate or gathering of harassers online in message boards or through websites, and while I’d say those comparisons are easy to line up, they didn’t feel cheap. The angle Parka takes the conversation with is the frustration with harassment or the misinterpretation of her work.
The conversation, over a few drinks, turns into a venting session about how children are idealized and protected in fiction, and how they are untouchable or are unable to do wrong. Parka explained to me that she wants to write stories about broken people, and eroticism was more a vehicle to do that where she doesn’t have to conform to the idealism or restrictions of a publisher. Ultimately it ends with Parka shaken to learn your character, Sam, has an eight year old son, and the story she is making assumptions about to write is exactly a cynical take on the person right in front of her.
Even in just 10 minutes this conversation was very compelling. All this told in a visual novel, where between segments of the chat Parka would ask me what a good drink for a beginner would be. I would serve her a Screwdriver, or a Rum and Coke, which acted as excellent dressing for a more thoughtful conversation than I could have asked for in such a brief chunk of time with the demo.
I think it’s easy to say that this is something that is trying too hard to be deep or thoughtful, but everything presented here was earnest and genuine. The only thing I didn’t love was the take on a “southern accent” that Sam talked with, which was the only part that felt forced here. The actual back and forth didn’t have the plague of cynicism on Sam’s part, and this more idealistic versus cynical perspective created what felt like a real conversation.
No word on when N1RV Ann-A is coming out but now is the perfect time to play VA-11 Hall-A and catch up for this next chapter.