Friday, December 22, 2017

A few thoughts on VA-11 HALL-A (Vita) now that I've put nearly five hours into it

Besides Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, most of the games I've played in recent weeks and months try their best to sound, look, and even feel like ones that were released in the 1980s and 1990s.

Golf Story and even the Project Octopath Traveler demo for the Switch are two examples. The Vita port of Undertale, which I finally started a couple of weekends ago, is another. And then, of course, there are the just-hit-the-PlayStation-Store pair of 2064: Read Only Memories and Papers, Please. (OK, so I've yet to start those last two titles, but I'm planning to do so in short order.)

As successful as those games are at replicating their "retro" forebearers, VA-11 HALL-A outdoes all of them. How so? Find out by reading my impressions of this saucy, cyberpunk-y visual novel.

I adore the game's PC-98-esque graphics--I've loved the PC-98 "look" ever since I first traipsed across it many moons ago. (If you've never heard of the PC-98 before now, it's a lineup of Japanese 16-bit and 32-bit personal computers that dominated the domestic market in the 1980s and 1990s.) To see what I mean, check out this old NeoGAF thread, which is crammed full of luscious PC-98 game screenshots. Anyway, VA-11 HALL-A does magnificent job of looking like it was made during that era, and I couldn't be happier about it.

It has a glorious soundtrack--If I had to single out one aspect of VA-11 HALL-A as being head and shoulders above the rest, its soundtrack would be it. It's filled with the kind of music you want to listen to even when you're not playing the game. I don't know if it should be described as synthwave, synth-pop, ambient, or something else entirely, but it doesn't really matter. Calling it "blissful" is as spot-on as any other label you could slap on it. (The complete VA-11 HALL-A soundtrack is available on line, if you're curious.)

The story is surprisingly captivating--I honestly didn't expect to enjoy VA-11 HALL-A's story as much as I'm currently enjoying it. I expected it to be weird, and kind of wacky, too, but I didn't think it would be as interesting and even poignant as it is. As things stand, I never seem to tire of this game's nearly endless stream of text. I've rarely, if ever, said that about a visual novel before I tackled this one, which to me suggests VA-11 HALL-A is a pretty special example of the genre.

It seems I may be playing it incorrectly--Or at least too rigidly. Sadly, I didn't realize that until just the other day--which means I've been playing the game this way for more than four hours. Oh, well, I may as well continue along this current path until I reach VA-11 HALL-A's end credits. I'll do my best to approach my digital bartending duties as designer Christopher Ortiz seemingly intended during any subsequent playthroughs. Which means I won't be so robotic about always serving patrons what they say they want. (I thought that was the point, but it sounds like you're supposed to be creative in how you respond to customers' drink requests.)

Have you played some version of VA-11 HALL-A since it first released (for PC) back in 2016? If so, what are your impressions of it?

See also: a few thoughts on Golf Story, Super Mario Odyssey, and Yomawari: Night Alone

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Raise your hand (and leave a comment) if you want a copy of 2064: Read Only Memories for Vita

I recently interviewed MidBoss' Matt Conn about the just-released Vita version--as well as the upcoming Switch version--of 2064: Read Only Memories. (Keep an eye out for this one-on-one, by the way; I hope to publish it before the year wraps up.)

Shortly after he kindly answered my questions, Conn sent me four codes for 2064: Read Only Memories' Vita release.

Well, it's the time of year to give things to the people you love, so I'm giving these 2064: Read Only Memories codes to the folks who read (and especially comment on) this blog and push me to keep updating it.

All you have to do to win one of these codes is leave a comment (on this post) about why you're itching to play this version of the game. Oh, and leave that comment between now and midnight on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas day, I'll toss all of your names into a hat (really!) and the first four I pull out will get a 2064: Read Only Memories Vita code.

I'll announce the recipients here as well as on Facebook and Twitter that same day, so check out at least one of them on Dec. 25 to see if you're among the lucky winners!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Happy 6th anniversary, PS Vita!

I've got to admit I was a bit surprised to read, shortly after I woke up this morning, that today marks the sixth anniversary of the Vita's Japanese release.

It just doesn't seem like Sony's second handheld made its debut all the way back on Dec. 17, 2011, does it?

Granted, it's possible my perspective on the matter is a bit skewed because I took my sweet time in buying the company's PSP follow-up. In fact, I waited until early 2015 to get one--the beautiful "light pink and white" Vita only sold in Japan.

Although I can't quite say I prefer the Vita to its predecessor, nor can I say I prefer the Vita's library of games to the PSP's, I can say I'm a huge fan of the more recent portable and its extensive catalog all the same.

Hell, all you need to do is look at my lengthy "now playing" list--discussed in my last blog post--for proof.

Note: I stole this lovely photo from the official Japanese PlayStation Twitter account

For even more proof, consider that both Undertale and VA-11 HALL-A will be included in my upcoming "favorite games of 2017" write-up. Romancing SaGa 2 may sneak in under the wire, too, though I need a bit more time with it before I make a decision one way or the other.

And then there's the fact that a couple of weeks ago I bought boxed copies of two Japan-only Vita releases I've had my eye on for ages--SaGa: Scarlet Grace and Yuusha Shisu (aka Hero Must Die).

Given all of the above, I doubt I'll toss my Vita aside anytime soon. On the contrary, I expect to play it nearly as much as I play my Switch (and even my many 3DSes) in 2018 thanks not only to all the great titles that were published for the system this year but all the ones I picked up--and have yet to play--previously, too.

Are any of you still showing your Vita some love? If so, which games are you playing on it these days? And do you think you'll continue to use the system next year and beyond?