Despite what the box and blurbs might tell you, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim isn’t really a game about piloting giant robots. I mean, sure, you fight massive swarms of building-sized creatures bent on total destruction in an alternate universe of 1980s Japan at certain points. But these seemingly model-ready metal battlesuits are just a plot device, a cog in the story. In reality, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a character drama: a twisting, revolving sci-fi epic that spans time and dimensions while following the lives of its many teenage protagonists. Missiles, Gatling guns and armor-crushing metal handcuffs are just a side event to the daily drama of high school kids who find themselves unwitting pawns in a larger game with the fate of the world at stake. And you know what? It’s awesome. Once the tale of 13 Sentinels has you immersed, you want nothing more than to follow the ride to the climax.
13 Sentinels is a unique genre-blending experience. It takes elements from point-and-click adventure games, visual novels, real-time strategy games, and tower defense games, blending them together to create an experience unlike anything else. Things change when young Japanese high school student Juro Kurabe is called upon to fight off a horde of alien invaders in 1985, only for the story to jump back to earlier that year and then to young soldiers in Japan’s war-era. 1945, then to two schoolgirls witnessing a crisis in 2025. You immediately encounter a large number of characters across different eras, learning that there is one constant: the existence of Sentinels, massive robotic weapons piloted by the humans who exist to protect the world from otherworldly monsters.
The game is divided into three parts: a Memory mode where you discover the story piece by piece, a Destruction mode where you use giant Sentinel mechs to protect the city from invasion, and an Analysis mode which collects all the information and the story scenes you discovered through the gameplay. Remembrance is presented as an episodic series where you explore and interact with various environments and characters to advance the plot. Destruction, on the other hand, is an overhead strategy segment where you use the Sentinels to defend a critical underground access point from invading forces.
Remembrance’s story sequences take up the good majority of the game’s gameplay. through the perspectives of several actors. The gameplay is pretty basic: you can walk around to talk to other characters, stand up to observe the environment, and examine particular objects in an area. Sometimes keywords will be added to a character’s “thought cloud”, which acts as an inventory of items; you can ruminate on topics via self-talk, bring up thought cloud topics to others, or use physical objects. Progress happens when you hit the right dialogue or action.
You only control one character at a time, but you can switch between stories as you see fit, although you may find yourself left out of a character’s path until you’ve done so. significant progress in other people’s stories and robot battles. The non-linear, non-chronological storytelling presents you with many mysteries and questions that you must piece together to get a bigger picture of what’s really going on – and how to save it all from absolute ruin.
13 Sentinels does a great job of telling an engaging story from multiple angles; not only does it all fit together, but the characters have distinct and well-defined backgrounds and personalities to avoid confusing the audience. Each of these 13 characters’ individual adventures is a treat to unravel as more and more significant events, revelations, and romantic entanglements are revealed.
There’s Juro, a nerd who loves obscure sci-fi B movies and hangs out with his best friend after school. He shares a class with Iori, a clumsy girl who keeps falling asleep during school because terrifying dreams keep her awake at night. Meanwhile, resident UFO conspirator Natsuno may have just discovered the secret of a time-traveling alien civilization in the girls’ locker room. She just met Keitaro, a guy who seems to have been feisty here from wartime Japan, and who might have a thing for her too. Shu is a spoiled brat who has a thing for the school’s tough girl, Yuki, who is too busy investigating the school’s mysteries to care about her advances. But why is Ryoko blindfolded, constantly watched, and gradually losing her mind? And why does Megumi hear a talking cat ordering her to attack her classmates?
This is just a sampling of the many character mini-dramas you see throughout the game, as these children’s ordinary lives are turned upside down and a huge, reality-altering mystery unfolds. Ultimately, however, the story works because the drama of the individual characters is done so well, with each character’s story playing a key role in the larger, overarching sci-fi plot.
It also helps that the story sequences of 13 Sentinels are fantastic to watch. Developer Vanillaware is known for its vibrant and colorful 2D artwork in games like Odin Sphere and Dragon’s Crown. While 13 Sentinels mostly takes place in a more “real” setting than these fantasy-based games, the beauty of Vanillaware’s 2D artwork is still on full display. The environments are filled with little details that really make them come alive, from the drunken squatters at the entrance to the train station to the crumbling, shaking foundations of crumbling buildings in apocalyptic futures barely standing among the husks of dead invaders. The character animation is excellent too, with many of the characters exhibiting fun little facial and body quirks that bring out elements of their personality.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the story segments, however, is that they’re significantly more enjoyable than the real-time strategy part, where the gigantic Sentinels are supposed to really shine. The Destruction portion of the game is a mix of quasi-RTS and tower defense mechanics: you command up to six individual Sentinel units in a usually timed battle to protect a defensive node from a long enemy attack. Each unit has a specialized role (like melee, support, flight, etc.) and offensive and defensive skills, which can be individually upgraded to your liking through “meta-chips” earned in battle and by completing missions. story episodes. If you eliminate all enemies or manage to hold the fort for a certain amount of time, you win.
These battles certainly have their moments. It’s hugely satisfying to plan a strategy and watch it unfold – or decide to go HAM with your best weapon and watch a few dozen enemy drones explode simultaneously in a flurry of fireworks (which are enough to slow down a standard PS4 model down). Eventually, however, the game stops introducing interesting new threats, making those strategy elements less exciting as you progress. The great 2D visuals and animations are also replaced by a bland, blocky 3D map that isn’t as pleasing to the eye for long periods of time. While there’s a fair amount of inter-character banter and key story reveal before and after these fight sequences, you can’t help but think that they can often be a hindrance to enjoying the toughest parts. most interesting in the history of the game, especially since the cleanup. certain enemy waves in Destruction are required to unlock parts of the story in Remembrance.
For Switch gamers, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim made the transition to Nintendo’s semi-portable platform with very few compromises. Everything from the PlayStation 4 original is there and looks great: the adventure scenes and 2D cutscenes look just as gorgeous as ever, and for the most part the 3D strategy sections suffer only a slight visual and performance impact. compared to the original. There’s a slight slowdown during the 2D sections where there’s a lot going on on screen, though you probably won’t even notice the difference unless you’ve played the PS4 version a lot. The Switch version includes additional weapon options for each of the Sentinel robotic units: these are nice additions, but hardly a game-changer given that the stock weapon spread was more than enough to complete the game. Overall, it’s a superb port well worth picking up if you haven’t played this amazing title yet or want to relive the thrilling saga.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with 13 Sentinels is that part of the game is simply Well while the majority is exceptional. The stories of these children and their giant robots absolutely consumed me during my playtime, and even now I ruminate over certain plot points, events, and relationships, wondering if I should scour the archives to see what I missed . I don’t think I’ll ever forget my time in the world of the 13 Sentinels, and I doubt you will either.