N1RV Ann-A is another fine slice of cyberpunk bartender action


Waifu Drinking Simulator

VA-11 Hall-A was quite the surprise when it released a few years back. Visual novels aren’t new by any means, but this plucky little title combined a cyberpunk aesthetic with a very introspective story that made for some gripping drama. The gameplay aspect may have been secondary to everything else, but the quality of the writing made for an experience that spoke to people on a very profound level. It also had a bunch of waifus, so that didn’t hurt.

In its follow-up to Jill Stingray’s adventure, Sukeban Games is playing things a bit safe. N1RV Ann-A is, for better or worse, basically the same game as VA-11 Hall-A, just with some more visual polish and an expanded drink menu. It also features a bar patron that writes erotic fiction about a mom going down on her unruly son. Talk about an ice breaker.

N1RV Ann-A

The demo playable on the PAX East floor is a single scenario with the aforementioned erotica writer. Her name is Parka and she actually doesn’t consider herself an erotic writer. For her, she’s more about not trying to limit her writing, exploring topics that fall outside of the realm of the comfortable. Sadly, the internet doesn’t see it that way and they’ve branded her harshly as many things.

Your main character, Sam, slowly gets Parka to open up over an evening of mixing drinks for her. The woman says she’s not a fan of alcohol in any capacity, so you’ll actually need to make her drinks without everyone’s favorite poison. I suppose you could liquor her up a bit, but I tried sticking to the script since I’m a boy scout (and boring as hell). If you have any familiarity with VA-11 Hall-A, then the menu screen in N1RV Ann-A will throw you for a loop.

How everything is laid out is greatly expanded from VA-11 Hall-A. The list of possible drinks has expanded, so the menu looks more like the actual printed list from the bar. Small descriptions for how each drink was created are present along with the ingredient list (which is viewable at all times while mixing). Next, your menu for selecting ingredients isn’t based on colors, but small pictures for each tonic you’ll be throwing into the mixer. Vodka, orange juice, ice, grenadine, cranberry juice, liqueur: it can be intimidating as hell to scroll through the three pages worth of choices when you first start.

N1RV Ann-A

As well as sporting more options, the amount of things you can throw into a drink has increased. I didn’t test out the actual limit, but I did end the demo by creating a drink with 20 different additives. That didn’t even come close to maxing out the bar, either. You can probably create some lethal drinks in the final game, though I’m probably thinking a little too practically.

Apart from those noticeable changes, everything else felt exactly like VA-11 Hall-A. There isn’t a whole lot you can do with that formula, apart from maybe adding timed events for certain guests. The point of the original title wasn’t to be an ultra-taxing or difficult adventure but tell the story of a girl struggling with a break-up that thrusts herself into a busy job to distract herself. It conveyed that with a ton of style, a groovy soundtrack, and a colorful cast of characters. No matter what walk of life you come from, there was something to identify with in VA-11 Hall-A.

So while I may be a tiny bit disappointed that N1RV Ann-A isn’t changing up the formula, I’ve also only played maybe 12 minutes of the game. This was a super-early build that was sporting a bunch of grammatical errors. What do you want from something that is so early in development? VA-11 Hall-A came out with nary a typo in sight, so I have no reason to believe that Ysbyrd and Sukeban will leave in those issues in. I also don’t think N1RV Ann-A is going to be literally the same thing, just with new people.

N1RV Ann-A

Even if it is, can you really complain with writing like this? The style is so enticing and the characters so relatable that I found myself wondering what happened with Parka’s online persona. Did her fans come to her defense? Did people learn to look deeper at the material present? Was the story of a mom making sexual advances on her son some kind of reflecting of Parka’s life? I’ll have to wait for the final version to find that all out.

N1RV Ann-A will be coming to PC (via Steam), PS4, and Switch sometime in 2020. Ysbyrd told me they are aiming for summer, though nothing is set in stone.