I’ve got a lot of love for VA-11 HALL-A, the first entry in the Cyberpunk Bartender Action universe from Venezuelan developers Sukeban Games. While the team hit a rough patch in the middle of 2019 dealing with life difficulties from every direction, 2020 has been shaping up to be bigger and better as they work full-steam ahead on their next Cyberpunk Bartender Action game N1RV Ann-A (pronounced Nirvana). While their new game isn’t a massive departure from the style and systems that made their debut release such a success, there are still changes and advancements in N1RV Ann-A that make life as a cyberpunk bartender even more entertaining.
It all starts with the new protagonist of N1RV Ann-A, Sam. In a lot of ways, she’s the antithesis of the smarmy and sarcastic VA-11 HALL-A protagonist Jill. Sam is bright and cheery and full of energy, oozing warm and welcoming bar-mom vibes that immediately melt away the icy edge of Olivia, the first patron to visit Sam’s bar during our PAX East demo. While Jill might have fed on the cynical nature of her clients and gotten down in the dirt with them on their issues, Sam strives to put a bright spin on every moment of the conversation and disarm her guests with tender, loving care.
The best part is that, as the player, you’re able to dictate how exactly Sam approaches certain moments of conversation in N1RV Ann-A. Multiple times throughout my conversation with Olivia, a cutesy portrait of Sam popped up on the screen with 3-4 different emotional options I could swing toward for my impending response. I could choose to respond to Olivia in a friendly way to ease her tension, or I could decide to give a flirty response that flustered her enough to make her forget about what was bothering her so much in the first place.
Of course, your job as the bartender of the N1RV Ann-A bar entails more than just friendly chit-chatting. Your patrons will request drinks from you throughout the game, and you’ll need to bust out your repertoire of available liquids and mix recipes to meet their varying demands. The new cocktail menu was incredibly daunting at first, replacing the five artificial beverage ingredients from the first game with 3 pages of real and incredibly varied mix ingredients. Everything from whiskey and beer to orange juice and milk is available for you to mix up, with even more ingredient slots available to you during each mix. I struggled a bit to find what I needed during my time with the demo, but I can tell that as you spend time at the bar in the full game, you’ll come to develop muscle memory of where each drink is located in the menu. The removal of time-sensitive shaking during cocktail mixes also relieves some of the more clunky aspects of the process, letting you seamlessly breeze through orders in a speedy fashion if you so choose.
While my time with N1RV Ann-A was brief, I came away from it even more excited for the next entry in the world of Cyberpunk Bartending Action than I already was. Sam is a huge departure from Jill, providing a warm and bubbly aura that frames the entire experience of the game in a new and refreshingly less cynical light. I’m excited to see how the rest of the cast of characters turn out once the full game launches sometime this year.