As this is a visual novel the story is very important and is always the main focus in the game. So much so that talking too much about the game can spoil it for most. So you will notice me speaking about how the game story is delivered instead of the story itself. It is intentional and just a way to make sure I do not spoil the game at all.
Story As most cyberpunk settings and situations, pretty much everything is screwed. Corporations ruling everything with an iron fist, civilians being tracked on everything they do down to the most menial things, and a group that is behind the curtain, making sure to tug the strings and pull the situation right in the way the want it.
But of course, as we are just a humble bartender, this is not our story. We serve drinks and keep lonely or stressed patrons company and let them vent at the end of a long day. And that, is how this game unfolds the story that gives you a small glimpse into the world of VA-11 HALL-A
Graphics The visuals are very much a callback or homage if you will back to the old days of the PC-98 systems (which I admit I have limited experience with) with its very bright and anime style aesthetic, throwing in the scanline filter and bam you have gone back in time. The visuals to me are so convincing in what they do I could see this running on old school systems back in the day. Which, with some crt monitors around here and some adapters has given me some ideas.
A lot of games run into that issue of sometimes characters blend together, or you just kinda group them into one, but another point for this visually is with this style, they made such a unique looking world they all of the characters are instantly recognizable to me, and in a visual novel where characters come and go, that is VERY important.
Sound Actual sound effects can be a little limited, but that is fine. It makes sense in this regard since 99.9% of the time you are talking or just mixing drinks. But the sound does stand out in the music choices. Not only is it a nice fitting score for the game, before every shift you can choose what music you put in the tracklist allowing you to have your own vetted soundtrack unique to your tastes. It doesn't seem like much, but being able to actively set the mood for the day (as far as I could tell it was just aesthetic) made the world feel more immersive.
GamePlay This is the part of the game that in words, can be hard to explain. The game does not operate normally, even for a visual novel. You see, as a bartender you listen, cater to the patrons needs, and call it a day right? well, kinda? See, the way this game handles the story is that you can push the story any way you want, with just a drink. without spoiling the game let me explain. Say a customer comes in, feeling blue she is quiet about what is wrong but asks for a sweet drink. Maybe you can make her one of those grenadine and coke type drinks, non-alcoholic, just what she wanted. Or, you can add some alcohol and maybe it perks her up a little and she opens up a little, allowing your character to talk to her and offer some kinda of advice on the situation. There is no dialogue choices here. Just....drink choices? It is a odd way to advance a story but it creates so many paths and it is so much fun.
There are moments where you can use your paycheck to buy things where you are outside the bar, but again (see Reviewer Note) trying not to give up too much.
Learning Curve Once you understand the controls on mixing the drinks and that you don't always have to follow the drink orders exactly. I didn't have any more issues. There are more things you can do outside of the bar, but again, easy to grasp. It is a very easy to pick up game.
Replay Value This bar has much to see, and with just a ingredient change influencing conversations and story flow. I would urge more than one sit.
Overall While I absolutely loved the game, and will be back serving drinks again, I can see how it could turn some players off with how it plays taking away dialogue choices. But, I can see it drawing people in seeing how sometimes you can influence a situation with just a friendly drink and a attentive ear.