2016 was by all accounts a pretty fantastic year for games. Unless you're me, because I barely played most of them. So many critically acclaimed games released this year that I just didn't get around to playing, or even buying. Games like DOOM, Inside, Uncharted 4, Hitman, The Witness, Superhot, Firewatch, The Last Guardian, Darkest Dungeon, Hyper Light Drifter, Salt & Sanctuary and a whole bunch of others I'm definitely forgetting. I didn't play a whole lot from this year, but what I did I enjoyed. Here are The Top 10 Games That Are Probably Perfectly Acceptable of 2016:

Street Fighter V

I'm just glad Urien has graced us with his presence once more.

If you know me at all, you'll know that I love me some Street Fighter. Sure, V didn't have a particularly successful launch, and sure, it was (and still is) missing quite a few features, modes and quality-of-life that you would expect out of a modern fighting game... but I still like it. I think (some character model clipping issues aside) that it's a really nice looking game, and I certainly enjoy playing it. I think that Capcom need to fix quite a few things, both in the core gameplay and the things surrounding it, but even in it's currently pretty barebones state, it's the game I've put the most amount of time into in 2016.

Overwatch

fuckin loot boxes HELP

Blizzard's latest was that game that reminded me that I still like first-person-shooters. After a few years of getting burnt out on the latest Call of Duty releases, and other similar, modern/near-future military shooters, along comes Overwatch to let me know that the shootan can still be fun. And boy, do I think Overwatch is fun. For a game where me play-time in hours is at three digits, the amount of time I've spent getting annoyed and salty is surprisingly low, especially so when I've payed most of that time solo. I also may have bought a few too many loot boxes...

 

Titanfall 2

Finally, I can be a pink lady-robot.

Hot on the heels of Overwatch is another FPS game to let me know that FPS games can still be awesome. Respawn's first attempt at making a post-Call of Duty shooter was very promising, but lacked a lot of that customisation that keeps you coming back for more. It also lacked a single-player campaign. Titanfall 2, does not, and Titanfall 2's single-player campaign is, perhaps one of the greatest single-player campaigns since these guys made a little game called Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The fact that the multiplayer is still really fantastic (albeit with a few little changes from the first game I'm not a huge fan of) and a bunch of visual customisation, Titfanfall 2 is absolutely the game Titanfall 1 should've been. I just hope it can maintain a healthy player population for more than a few months.

Dark Souls III

Never change, Dark Souls players.

I played a decent amount of Dark Souls. I didn't play it to completion, nor come close, but I put a solid chunk of time into it. I didn't play a decent amount of Dark Souls II, in fact I barely played any of that game. I played a lot of Bloodborne. It was one of my favourite games of last year, perhaps even my favourite. Dark Souls III, I played a decent amount of. I played it to completion. It's a game that has clearly come after Bloodborne, but still retains it's identity as Dark Souls. The combat isn't as fast and hectic as Bloodborne, but there are some hints of influence there. The way the game looks as well, with the environments very dense with detail also looks like something informed by FromSoft's previous game. I still think that Bloodborne is my favourite out of all these games, but DSIII is definitely a solid offering.

 

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Sage advice.

I adore this game. I adore it so much I wrote my first review in over three years about this game. VA-11 HALL-A is a visual novel through-and-through, but it's not something typical of the likes you see coming out of Japan. It isn't 400 hours long for one thing. There aren't any shoehorned in sex scenes for another. The plot is delightfully small in scope, dealing with a decently sized cast of well realised and fleshed out characters that feel somewhat like real people and not just vaguely anime-shaped pixels on your screen. The player choice is interestingly obtuse, though ultimately doesn't have a whole lot of effect on things. The retro-Snatcher-esque aesthetic is nice and the tunes are banging.

Stardew Valley

This screenshot isn't mine. My farm doesn't look this good.

Imagine that there was a guy who really liked Harvest Moon. He liked it so much, but he thought he could do better. Imagine this guy, dreaming of a Harvest Moon game where, not only can you farm, you can do a whole bunch of other stuff. Collecting wood, fishing, mining, hunting monsters, interacting with the locals and forming relationships with them. Well, imagine no longer, because that guy is real and Stardew Valley is that game what he made that is exactly what I just said. It wins the coveted Jeo Dot Me Oh Lemme Just Play One More Day Wait Now It's 6.30am What Award.

 

 

Pokémon Sun/Moon

POPPLIO DA BEST

You know me. I love Pokémon. A new set of Pokémon games came out, so of course it's going to be on this list. Sun and Moon shake up the formula of these game in the most dramatic way since... well, ever. I mean, you're still a little kid who gets a pokémon from the local professor or whatever and leaves home to go on a journey collecting pokémon and making friends and fighting trainers and stealing their money and all that shit but the overall structure just isn't quite the same as it always is. Pokémon gyms are gone, replaced now with the Island Challenge (the region in these games is a set of islands modelled after Hawaii) where you have to undergo and pass a bunch of trials which consist of a variety of things ranging from different minigames to just "beat this strong pokémon". Sun and Moon shake things up enough to make things feel fresh but still familiar. Also the story, something you don't normally expect too much out of a Pokémon game, is pretty good. The characters are great. Lillie is a cutie.

Steins;Gate 0

Presented without context.

Seven years after the original visual novel, Steins;Gate 0, the first (and lets be honest, likely only) real sequel is out, and available in English in relatively short order no less! Steins;Gate was a time-travel story and so, the sequel, rather than being an arbitrary continuation of that story, takes place in another worldline (timeline, to grossly simplify things for the uninitiated) from the original, and details a lot of events that allow for the true ending to the original game to come to pass. I can't really go more detailed without spoiling some things, which I don't like to do in these posts, so I won't. I can say however, that if you were a fan of the original, you will undoubtedly enjoy this latest offering. I do have a few somewhat relatively small complaints, and I don't think it matches up to the, quite honestly, 10 out of 10 original game. But those were huge boots to fill, and 0 is still by-and-large, very great.

Guily Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-

what is even happening

Let me say this up front: I am terrible at Guilty Gear. Like, really bad. Capital G Garbage. It's a fighting game that's so far removed from what I'm used to playing (Street Fighter) in terms of movement, options available to you and just the general speed of the gameplay that it kind of overwhelms me. There's a lot to like though: The soundtrack is choc-a-bloc full of ridiculous J-metal; It looks fantastic, they way Arc uses 3D models to emulate sprites is a technical marvel; The character designs are nuts, and not just visually, but from a gameplay standpoint also: There's a character that's basically just a tower-defence game imported into a fighting game. There's another character that fights using pool balls; The single-player offering is plentiful, including a really good tutorial and a bunch of combo trials and missions to help you get a handle on the game. I'll never be as good at this and most anime fighters as I am at Street Fighter (and I'm not even that great at that), but it's hard to not like Guilty Gear. If I may be cliché for a moment: it oozes style.

Final Fantasy XV

YO LOOK AT THIS FROG

I'll admit, I haven't finished Square Enix's latest yet, probably not even close. However, in the 10 or so hours I've put into it so far, I've liked what I've seen, more so than most other modern Final Fantasies I've played. I have pretty much no idea what's going on in terms of actual plot because... the game doesn't really tell you. There's something to be said about the way it just kind of drops you into this large open world  with these 4 pretty likeable characters without really giving it a whole lot of context and letting you mostly just do your own thing. The world so far is fun to explore, and there's a looot of sidequests to keep you busy from just beelining the main story quest. The game does a really good job of showing off the personalities of it's main foursome through mostly natural-sounding and enjoyable banter between them as you go about doing your thing. The general consensus seems to be that the game takes a bit of a nose-dive in quality during one of the later chapters, but we'll see how that pans out. I'm only at chapter 4 at the moment, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the time I've spent with Noctis and his similarly silly-named buddies so far.

And so brings us to the end of 2016. Next year should be a fairly interesting one, what with the launch of a new Nintendo console and all. I wonder if I'll play enough to not struggle to put together a top 10 list.

Probably not.

Another year, another top 10 list. Another year of (almost) nothing else being posted on this blog. Curse you, crippling lack of motivation! Anyway, this is now the second of these posts I've done for anime, and the format remains unchanged from last year. These are the 10 Top Animes That I Think Are Completely Acceptable or Something and require only an airing or Japanese home-media release date in calendar year 2016 to be eligible for this list and they are in no particular order. 行きましょう!

Flying Witch

COMFY

I love me some comfy, slice-of-life shows and Flying Witch is one of the comfiest shows I've ever had the pleasure of watching. Makoto Kowata, our protagonist, is a professional witch in training, and has come, along with her black cat Chito, to Aomori to live with her cousins and study up on whatever it is witches do. A show where every single character is a joy to watch, with standouts being Makoto's adorable young cousin Chinatsu, Makoto's older sister Akane, and Inukai, who got really really drunk and ate some sweets which turn her into a dog during daytime. As well as the great, relaxed moments you'd expect from the slice-of-life genre, the show's comedy is also top-notch, with an impeccable sense of timing, and the way the show subtly marries it's supernatural elements with the more mundane, everyday life stuff works really well.

Sweetness & Lightning

Tsumugi is precious

Kouhei Inuzuka is a high-school teacher, who, after the death of his wife, now lives alone with his preschool-aged daughter, Tsumugi. Her mother was the cook of the house, so lately, the Inuzuka family have been living mostly off of ready meals. After deciding he wants to give his daughter a good meal for once, the two find themselves at a small family restaurant owned by the mother of Kotori Iida, one of Inuzuka's high-school students. What follows is a show about the three of them (and occasionally a couple of other friends) learning to cook a good meal and eat it together. Though I feel the show falls into the trap of getting a little formulaic at times, there's a lot to like here. Tsumugi is adorable (helped in no small part by being voiced by an actual child), and the show throws in some melancholic moments that I admit caught me off guard. Sweetness & Lightning is up there with Bunny Drop as shows that might make you want to consider become a father (you know, if I had someone to do that with...).

Mob Psycho 100

"This is one of Reigen's special moves, where he dropkicks an esper as hard as he can."

Last year brought us One Punch Man, an adaptation of the manga written by an artist who goes by the pseudonym ONE. This year brings us Mob Psycho 100, ONE's serialised manga, adapted by the prolific studio Bones. If you enjoyed OPM, you'll likely enjoy MP100, as I feel it does a better job at creating an interesting story and characters, while still maintaining a good sense of comedy. One Punch Man is the manga that ONE writes as a hobby... a mangaka for fun, much like the titular character. Mob Psycho 100, however, is ONE's actual job... and it shows. Bones also does an incredible job at adapting ONE's eh... unique artstyle into something that just looks sublime when in motion.

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

Waifu-bait of the year.

Re:ZERO is the story of Subaru Natsuki, who finds himself suddenly transported into an alternative, game-like, fantasy world, because of reasons. Soon after entering this world, he meets a half-elf girl named Emilia, whom he immediately takes a liking to and decides to help her recover something that was recently stolen from her. At the end of this small quest, the two of them are brutally murdered.

And then Subaru wakes up, back where he originally started. He discovers he has a unique ability to essentially travel back to a pre-determined point in time, memories/knowledge intact, but can only invoke this power by dying. The show does some interesting things, delving into the effect that constantly dying and reviving can have on that person's mind, as well as doing interesting things with the tropes often found in these "isekai" (alternate-world) shows. Subaru, our main character, isn't particularly likeable, but they do some great stuff with his character later on in the show that helps justify it, and there are plenty of other, immediately likeable characters in his place. Re:ZERO also contains what might be my favourite single episode of an anime from this year. It isn't quite the faultless, 10/10, anime-of-the-year-all-years that some of the fanbase were hyping it up as during its airing, but it's definitely an interesting show, and I look forward to watching more if future seasons are greenlit.

ERASED

I couldn't find an interesting screenshot, so here's a picture of best girl.

ERASED or, in my opinion, the much more interesting Japanese title Boku dake ga Inai Machi (The Town Where Only I am Missing) introduces us to 29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma, who will inexplicably find himself time leaping back a few minutes whenever a fatal accident is about to occur, a strange power he's used to save multiple people's lives. However, someone close to him gets murdered, and being suspected of doing it himself, Satoru funds himself sent back 18 years, to 1998. It's here that he realises the murder in the present may be connected to the abduction and killing of his classmate Kayo Hinazuki. And so unfolds the story of Satoru trying to discover what really happened all those years ago, as well as prevent the death of his classmate. ERASED is probably one of the shows this year that would probably work well among western audiences that aren't familiar with anime. It isn't laden with cliche anime tropes, and tells a plot that honestly wouldn't be out of place in a western TV show or Hollywood movie. The conclusion feels a tad rushed in my opinion, but overall, ERASED is a pretty fantastic show that is well worth watching.

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless

Tanaka's life in a single image.

Tanaka is, as the title would suggest, an incredibly listless young man. He enjoys nothing more than lying about doing nothing. His hobbies are sleeping. The show follows Tanaka, his best bro, Ohta, as well as a few other friends and characters that are steadily introduced in their relatively uneventful daily lives at school and beyond. For a show whose protagonist is a guy who would gladly do nothing more than sit around all day doing nothing, it does a good job of staying pretty engaging throughout, thanks in no small part to it's wonderful cast of characters. There's the tiny, adorable and incredibly energetic Miyano, who for some reason greatly admires Tanaka's listlessness and wants him to make her his apprentice. There's Echizen, the abrasive tomboy who really likes cute things. There's the incredibly popular and attractive Shiraishi who goes through great effort to hide the fact she's a normally plain and boring looking girl. It's also a nice looking show, with a focus on a softer, pastel colour palette, obviously tying in with the whole relaxed nature of the show.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Also my favourite opening animation from this year.

Yotarou, a former yakuza has just gotten out of prison. He isn't interested in returning to that life though: he wants to become a rakugo performer. Rakugo is a traditional form of Japanese comedic entertainment, where a performer sits on a stage and, using nothing more than their voice and a couple of generic props, tells a funny story, often long, and featuring multiple characters. Whilst in prison, Yotarou was inspired by the performances of Yakumo Yuurakutei, and begs him to make Yotarou his apprentice. Yakumo eventually gives in. Under Yakumo's care is a young woman named Konatsu, whose deceased father, Sukeroku Yuurakutei, was another performer, and Yakumo's best friend and rival. The rest of the series takes place in the past, telling the story of how Yakumo and Sukeroku met, and became rakugo stars. A truly fantastic period drama, the show is probably my favourite of the entire year. Fantastically developed characters, incredible performances by the voice actors, and just an overall well-told story. It ends with us returning to the present, with the second half airing in early 2017, which I await with bated breath.

Persona 3 The Movie #4: Winter of Rebirth

"The Arcana is the means by which all is revealed."

The conclusion to the anime adaptation of one of my favourite video games of all time. Although I would need to probably marathon through them again to be 100% sure, I think this final movie my be my favourite of the four. There's a section of the film where the cast have, for lack of a better term, lost their way, and it's just dripping with atmosphere, dominated by oppressive colour palettes. I love me some atmosphere. Plus the fact it's the conclusion to a pretty great story. Although the film series as a whole suffers from the same thing most video game adaptations do (that is, a lot of stuff not being included), since you're compressing an almost 100 hour game into 4 90 minute films, it's still an overall great experience.

 

KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!

Explosions are pretty dope.

As mentioned earlier, alternate-world (or isekai) anime are all the rage lately, and KonoSuba is another one of those. But the thing that sets it apart is that it's a comedy, through and through. Our protagonist, Satou Kazuma, is a high-school-aged NEET, who on his way back from buying a new game, dies a pathetic and hilarious death. He then meets the (rather obnoxious) goddess Aqua, who gives him the choice of either continuing on to heaven, or reincarnating in an alternate-fantasy world, with the choice of any item to take with him. So he chooses the fantasy-world, and chooses to bring Aqua with him, dragging her off her throne. Turns out, Aqua isn't very useful in this world, her only magic abilities limited to water-based party-tricks. Their party eventually grows to include Megumin, a young arch-wizard who loves explosions so much so knows only the most powerful explosion magic... which incapacitates her for the rest of the day when she casts it, and Darkness, a crusader and massive masochist, who dreams of being ravaged by men and monsters alike. It also turns out the fantasy-world isn't quite as cushy as it might be in games, as Kazuma and Aqua find out, having to sleep in the stables and struggling to make living expenses. Comedy is obviously very subjective, but KonoSuba hits all the right marks for me, a show that gleefully plays around with the fantasy tropes so common in other shows and games.

New Game!

If only real game studios had cute girls hanging around in their undies.

And we end my top 10 with a 100%, bona fide show abut cute girls doing cute things. Aoba Suzukaze is fresh out of high-school and is now working at Eaglejump, the company that made an RPG she loved when she was still in grade school. She quickly finds herself working as a character artist, making 3D models of NPCs for the studio's newest RPG. Comparison might be initially made to last year's Shirobako, however, those two shows have very little in common. You're not going to learn anything meaningful or genuine about working in game development from New Game! Like I said, this is a show about cute girls and the cute things they do. And it has that in spades.

 

 

Honourable Mentions

There are a handful of other anime from this year that I watched and enjoyed, but just weren't quite up to the task of making the top 10. Amanchu! is a wonderfully sweet show from the director and mangaka that brought you the fantastic Aria series, Space Patrol Luluco is more fantastically unbridled nonsense from those lovable goofs at Studio TRIGGER, Orange has a lot going for it, but was ultimately let down by the two main characters being (in my opinion) the least interesting of the main cast and Food Wars! The Second Plate is more Food Wars, which is great, but it's only half the length of the first season and the pacing is kind of all over the place. Enjoyable, but doesn't quite make the cut. The first Kizumonogatari movie is really, really good, but as a movie, it just doesn't stand up on its own, since all it really does is set up the rest of the story.

There's also a handful of anime from this year that have my interest, or I was planning on watching, but haven't gotten around to, mostly from the Fall season: Sound! Euphonium 2 is the second season of my of favourites from last year, Drifters is a show from the same mangaka of Hellsing, and Gi(a)rlish Number seems to be a funny and incredibly cynical look at the anime industry.

And that's it for this years look at the animes I thought were alright this year. See you again in 2017!

VA-11 HALL-A isn't a visual novel, but saying that seems kind of silly, because it pretty much is. The reason I say it's not is because... well, it's not a novel. Aside from a few optional side things, VA-11 HALL-A's story is told through pure dialogue. I'm pretty sure something that consists purely of people talking can't be considered a novel, right? Prose doesn't work that way, right? Perhaps I'm wrong, who knows.

You know it's cyberpunk because there's an X in the year.

You know it's cyberpunk because there's an X in the year.

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action is a totally-not-visual-novel set in the very rough part of a cyberpunk city-state in the year 207X. You are Jill, a bartender who works in Hall A of the V-11 building, or "Valhalla" as it's most often referred to. You "mix drinks and change lives", as she puts it, by chatting to your patrons and concocting the drinks they ask you for.

The biggest draw of VA-11 HALL-A is the way in which is tells a comparatively small story. Valhalla feels like the sort of place you'd visit in a big budget, AAA cyberpunk action game, the kind with an epic, high-stakes, bombastic plot. Its customers the types of NPCs who repeat the same single line of dialogue whenever you approach them. You'd only be here at all because you need to speak to a specific character in order to receive some maguffin, or get some info that helps advance the plot, and then you'd never have a reason to return.

But VA-11 HALL-A isn't that. It's a small game that tells a small story consisting of what would be inconsequential characters. These characters do have a story, even if that story isn't quite on the same scale as say, Adam Jenson's or Cloud Strife's, but they're still interesting and a lot more grounded to boot. By being (totally not) a visual novel, the characters are the main draw and the game does a fantastic job of making them interesting and enjoyable, even the ones that only appear a handful of times. Each one has their own stuff going on, and you can help them in your own little way as a bartender would: by supplying them alcohol and listening to their woes. Jill herself also has her own share of guilts and anxieties, a past she'd rather not speak of. However, as you get to know your regulars, and as they get to know you, she'll begin to open up, willingly or not, about her troubles. You'll learn exactly why it is she works at a seedy downtown bar, spending most of her free time sitting bored at home with her cat, reading the in-universe equivalent of 4chan and the Daily Mail.

Of course, characters aren't much if their dialogue isn't up to the task. Fortunately, for a game that consists almost entirely of dialogue, it's pretty stellar. There are times when it can feel a little... videogamey, for lack of a better term (such as when a character asks "hey, so I was wondering about such and such..." in order to segue into a particular topic, usually a character's backstory) but the majority of it feels naturalistic and, above all else, enjoyable. The game has its share of references and in-jokes: a couple of characters like to announce their presence with pro-wrestling quotes, and one character is straight up wearing that red jacket from Akira. The game doesn't rely on this though and does have it's own sense of humour, one that fairly often had me giggling to myself. These characters feel like people that know each other, and so, often joke around in a way that people that know each other often do.

Look at how rad this shiba is.

Look at how rad this shiba is.

Spending so much time chatting to and getting to know these characters also means getting attached to them. Feeling thrilled when a particular character shows their face at the bar because you're excited to spend time with them, or rolling your eyes and sighing when another shows up because you don't fancy listening to their shit, feels rewarding. Especially when those thoughts mirror those of Jill herself. The characters are the stars of the show here and each feel like they have something to offer, even if it is just being the slightly rude patron who only visits the bar on occasion. The cast of characters is also pretty unique, from the physically 13-year-old, but mentally 24-year-old sex-worker robot girl who takes an adorably large amount of giddy pride in her work, to the talking dog who wears sunglasses and a Hawaiian shirt. Yes, you read that correctly. His name is Rad Shiba. He's pretty alright. There was only a single character that felt out of place and thankfully they don't get too much screen-time so they didn't sour the experience too much.

Interestingly, for a game so focused on dialogue, there aren't actually any dialogue choices. There is still player choice however, and this is where the gameplay comes into... play. Jill is a bartender after all, and her job consists of more than chatting with patrons. In the far off cyberpunk future of the 2070s, alcoholic drinks are cocktails of fake future cyberpunk chemicals. All the drinks you can serve customers are made up of a mixture of Adelhyde, Bronson Extract, Powdered Delta, Flanergide and Karmotrine. Various combinations of these ingredients as well as occasionally ageing, blending and/or serving them on the rocks make up every drink. There's no real challenge to the actual making of drinks, though that comes in the form of making sure you actually serve the correct drink. Folks aren't going to always be explicit, perhaps instead asking you for "something classy" or "the usual". Making sure all your patrons are happy by the end of your shift will net you bonus pay, which helps to ensure that Jill has enough money to pay her bills. Karmotrine is the alcoholic component of these cocktails, and many drink recipes list it as optional, and this is where the bulk of player choice comes into play. For such drinks, you can opt to not include alcohol at all, or load up as much booze as the game will allow. A customer might be a little more loose-lipped if you get them drunk quicker, or they might end up going home earlier due to not being able to handle their booze. You could also take a turn for the amoral by choosing to serve alcohol to the minor that managed to find her way to this back-alley bar.

It's definitely an interesting way to deal with player choice, especially in the type of game that almost unanimously relies on simple dialogue options. It makes it feel much more... natural. When presented with dialogue options, knowing what you're able to say ahead of time, you can make educated guesses as to what the "correct" choice to make is. But with creating drinks, it's a lot more subtle but still has results. You can't always be sure what will happen when you make your "choice", much like real life!

Outside of the mixing booze and chatting up customers that encompasses the majority of the game, there's also small sections each day of Jill hanging out at her apartment, and you can do a handful of minor activities. You can head to the shop and purchase little trinkets (such as posters, old video games, a Megachristmas tree...) which will stop her from becoming too distracted and affecting her performance at work. There are also a couple of sites mentioned before that you can browse on your phone: The Augmented Eye, a news outlet that primarily deals with celeb gossip and other such asinine topics, Danger/u/, analogous to 4chan, and the blog of a local robot pop-idol. Here you can read about the various goings-on in this dystopian world, topics that will occasionally be brushed upon in conversation with your friends and customers at work. It's a good way to do some subtle worldbuilding, as well as reinforce the idea that VA-11 HALL-A is a small, inconsequential side-story in a much larger epic.

Visually, the game definitely has a striking look to it, wearing its clear influences on its sleeve. A 90s/early-00s retro-anime aesthetic, and great pixel art reminiscent of Hideo Kojima's Snatcher and Policenauts or many other Japanese adventure games from that time. Along with the blue, purple and pink colour palette and the incredible soundtrack create an atmosphere unlike any other game I've played recently. The soundtrack, aside from being excellent, is also utilised in an somewhat interesting way. Being a bar, VA-11 HALL-A of course has a jukebox which, at the start of your day and after your mid-shift break, you can fill up with songs from the soundtrack to play sequentially or randomly throughout your day serving drinks and making small talk. This is how you will experience the majority of the surprisingly large catalogue of songs, so it pays to switch it up.

All in all, VA-11 HALL-A is a small, intimate story featuring unimportant, but charming characters that feels like it's something happening way behind and off to the side of something much bigger and grander, but ultimately irrelevant. And it's this feeling of inconsequentiality that makes VA-11 HALL-A's story so fresh and enjoyable. Despite all I've said, it's pretty much a visual novel and even if visual novels aren't for you, you should probably give it a try. It's much shorter than most Japanese examples of the genre, clocking in for me at around 8 hours. I'm of the opinion that there's a game of every genre for everyone, and maybe this is that visual novel for you? Regardless, it's undoubtedly one of my favourite gaming experiences of the year.