Sukeban Games’ VA-11 Hall-A launched in mid-2016 and quickly became the year’s hottest indie release. Taking place in a cyberpunk dystopia, the game merged bartending gameplay with visual novel storytelling, giving players a world that served as both a love letter to ’90s Japanese PC-88 visual novels as well as animes such as Ghost in the Shell and Bubblegum Crisis. And now, over a year later, the game’s PlayStation Vita release is coming out this month.
VA-11 Hall-A’s PlayStation Vita port releases on Nov. 14 for $14.99. The Vita version, handled by development studio Wolfgame, is compatible with PlayStation TV and also has a physical distribution through Limited Run Games. Wolfgame published an announcement trailer for the Vita version earlier today, which features a band playing the game’s soundtrack.
Dot Esports reached out to Wolfgame’s Wolfgang Wozniak to talk about the port’s launch and its challenges. The game’s entire interface needed to be reworked in order to make it work properly on the Vita, Wozniak explained, and because VA-11 Hall-A’s retail release used GameMaker Studio, engine creator YoYo Games had to create a custom branch just to get the Vita version working properly.
But why release on Vita? Even though Sony is moving away from the handheld market, Wozniak knows that the game’s audience just so happens to be on the Vita.
“Anyone that has seen what games are currently being released for the Vita will notice very quickly that a majority of the games are either RPG, adventure or visual novels from Japan,” Wozniak told Dot Esports. “VA-11 Hall-A is unique in the sense that it is from Venezuela but evokes the classic NEC PC-9801’s inherent look and feel. The art style is what drew me, and I’m sure a lot of other fans—especially in Japan—to the game.”
In fact, Wozniak noticed that the game’s Japanese audience is particularly large. While promoting the game at Bitsummit and Tokyo Game Show, he noticed mostly men in their mid-to-late 20s checked out the game. But he also found that some of VA-11 Hall-A’s “most diehard Japanese fans” were queer women.
“We were one of the top-selling games on our platform for Amazon.co.jp—and VA-11 Hall-A is one of the best-selling games at a store called 1983,” Wozniak said. “It seems like demand is higher for this title than other indie games coming from the West. I think a lot of it does have to do with the art direction.”
As for whether VA-11 Hall-A will come to Nintendo Switch, there’s some complications involved. While Wozniak would love to bring the game to the Nintendo console, both Sukeban and Nintendo of America would have to approve the game, and Game Maker Studio would have to work properly on the Switch. Furthermore, Wozniak thinks Nintendo of America is too concerned with keeping mature titles off the console, so the game might not get approved for release.
“The biggest challenge here [is] Nintendo of America’s approval requirements and desires,” Wozniak said. “We have another game that contains a mature situation where two people talk about [it] in a very kind and patient way… the concept was not approved because they are not currently looking for mature titles.”
So for now, don’t expect VA-11 Hall-A to land on the Switch any time soon. In the meantime, the game is available now for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and VA-11 Hall-A’s PlayStation Vita launch lands on Nov. 14.