When it comes to my impressions of N1Rv Ann-A, let me preface them by saying this: I played Sukeban Games’ work in complete reverse.

Going into N1Rv Ann-A’s demo, brought to indie publisher Ysbryd Games’ booth at PAX East back at the end of February, I had never seen anything more than the start screen of its predecessor, VA-11 Hall-A. And in all honesty, didn’t have much of an idea of what the game was aside from it appearing to be a visual novel. 

The demo was just a small look into what N1Rv Ann-A is aiming to be, but I had enjoyed it so much to the point where it became a priority to go back and run through the game it was following up.

I ended up beating VA-11 Hall-A twice in quick succession, having experienced a cyberpunk, bartending “booze ‘em up” — as Sukeban Games dubbed it — that exists in its own unique sort of space. It’s a game that tells a slice of life type of story in a post-dystopian setting of Glitch City, where corporations rule the world and human augmentations are the norm. 

You’re not trying to change the world or save it. You’re just trying to get by, playing as Jill Stingray — a directionless bartender in her mid-20s — as she serves drinks and hears out the struggles of regulars in a small downtown bar, all while trying to work through her own. The direction of the story relies on how well you serve customers, how much attention you pay to their conversations, and how well you manage your money. 

There’s nothing quite like it, and N1Rv Ann-A is not only retaining all of what made VA-11 Hall-A special, but trying to build off it.

But first things first: N1Rv Ann-A shares the same world as VA-11 Hall-A, but features a new setting and an entirely new cast. The harsh concrete jungle of Glitch City is traded in for the tropical sights of an artificial island called St. Alicia. And the protagonist role is handed off from Jill, who was mostly reserved and kept things pretty close to the vest, to a new bartender named Sam, who is a few years older and much more outgoing.

Now onto the demo: The scene sets in, offering your first look at the new hotel bar you’ll be spending time behind. It’s upscale, it’s bigger, and in what might be the most striking difference from the bar in Glitch City, there’s a floor-to-ceiling window that lets you see the shore and skyline outside.

In walks your first patron of the night, a well-off businesswoman named Olivia.

“So, are you gonna leave my hand empty? This a bar, and I can’t play my part without a prop,” she says.

Her question introduces one of the first new additions to the game. Whereas VA-11 Hall-A’s gameplay was solely in serving drinks, N1Rv Ann-A will also allow you to decide how Sam should respond in conversation.

Your options are displayed via caricatures of Sam that represent each approach. For this scenario, there were two, friendly or doubtful. Wanting to be welcoming, I chose friendly. Olivia asked, in so many words, for a beer.

The menu opens up, and you grab a bottle from the variety of drinks to choose from.

In comes the second new addition. In VA-11 Hall-A, the last part of creating a drink was mixing it, which was a mechanic that operated on a timer (less than five seconds shakes a drink, more than five stirs it). In N1Rv Ann-A, mixing is a much more active task. Sam is shown putting the drink together in an animation that changes depending on what you’re making (sometimes she just has to pour the drink out, other times she’s shaking everything together in a cocktail shaker). The player is asked to “Shake It!” regardless, done by rapidly dragging the cursor back and forth until a meter fills, at least that’s how it works on PC (the game is also coming to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4).

After some small talk, Olivia starts opening up about her job at a biotech company, working on the business planning side of a lab that specializes in making artificial implants, the ones that were commonly seen on the characters featured in VA-11 Hall-A. 

Turns out Olivia is under a lot of stress. She explains that she works in a cutthroat environment, where colleagues are working just as hard to tear each other down as much they themselves are trying to make their own way up. 

Time for another drink. This time, Olivia asks you to get her drunk. I obliged, making a Cuba Libre that I loaded up with rum. It did its job. Her face turned beet red. 

The conversation goes on, and Olivia reveals that her own climb up the corporate ladder hasn’t been all that noble either. Her office isn’t a great place to be, and she says she’s worried that karma might catch up to her soon. 

She wants one more drink before calling it a night, and at this point, I wasn’t sure that was the best idea. Still, I gave Olivia one more. Toned it down a bit, sure. But the drink still had kick to it. 

Anyway, order fulfilled and so goes a satisfied customer…until she dropped to the floor passed out…oops…

The demo was over, and the attendant at Ysbryd’s booth walked over to see how I did.

“Got the pass out ending?” She asked.

Got the pass out ending.

“A lot of people got the pass out ending,” she said. 

Sukeban and Ysbryd have N1Rv Ann-A slated to come out at some point this year. In the meantime, you can get prepped with VA-11 HALL-A, available on the Switch, Steam, PS4, and PlayStation Vita. 

About The Author

Nick T
Jr. Staff Writer

Nick is a junior staff writer at GAW who loves hockey and a good RPG. The first game he played was Ice Hockey on a hand-me-down NES, and having grown up with the PS1, he knows the first three Crash Bandicoot games like the back of his hand and can recite every track from PaRappa the Rapper on the spot if you ask him to. Along with writing for GAW, Nick also works on the sports desk at the Philadelphia Inquirer. If he isn't on skates in his free time, he's probably trying to cycle through several 60-plus hour games at once.