Initial release date: November 28, 2019 (PS4)/April 12, 2022 (Nintendo Switch)
Composer: Hitoshi Sakimoto
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Publishers: Atlus, Atlus USA
Genres: Adventure game, Real-time strategy
"Review Code Provided By Sega Atlus"
VanillaWare have a track record of creating visually breathtaking games with gameplay that accentuates how amazing the game looks with a lot of depth and replay value. They’ve made so many amazing games from action adventure, action RPG, and dungeon crawlers and yet here we are with VanillaWare diving into another genre or rather I should say genres with their new game 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. 13 Sentinels is a game that mixes a visual novel with mystery solving and a hybrid Real Time Strategy mixed with Turn Based battles to create an experience that is unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time. With a strong track record of superb games that are critically acclaimed, the question remains if the VanillaWare can knock its out of the park an umpteenth time? Let’s find out!
I have no idea how I’m going to explain the game’s story is incredibly difficult as the story involves a lot of things from Kaiju, Aliens, Mechs, Time Travel, Dimension Travel, and angsty teenagers. The game starts in the year 1985 and features several highschool students who are living their day to day lives until the arrival of Kaiju.
The story consists of 13 teenagers who will end up having to defend humanity from an army of monsters and mechs invading Earth. Naturally, each of them pilots their own massive robots called Sentinels capable of going face-to-face with mankind's mysterious new enemy.
I’m leaving the story at that because there’s so much to dive into that you need to experience yourself.
13 Sentinels is a mix of several different genres in that it it floats between being a Tactical RPG taking place across a grid based arena, a Turn Based RPG where you wait for your turn gauge to fill and can move about the battlefield and use attacks that drain your magic like gauge called EP, a visual novel that unfolds a deep and complex plot, and finally a mystery game of searching environments for more clues as to what’s going on in the world.
With so many gameplay styles mixed into this title, I think it need to break down each one starting off first with the visual novel aspect of the game which is about 90% of what you’ll be experiencing in this game. When you start the game you’ll kick it off with exploring around as one of the many students you’ll be floating between as each student has their own story and perspective and while majority of the time the characters will be talking to one another there will be instances where you have the opportunity to press X to continue talking to them or pressing Triangle which will initiate the thoughts of your selected character.
When the thoughts of your character are selected you will be able to use the Dpad to move about their various thoughts and either press Triangle again and they will ponder on either things said or mentioned to them or items they may have picked up or observed giving more context to the situation. You also have the option of pressing X at these times to either investigate more or hand an item over to another character or inspecting it further.
There are certain things in the environments you roam around in that you can interact with and will have a prompt over them when you are near them. You can walk by just moving the left analogue stick or run by pressing the Circle Button.
When in your Aegis, you’ll be on the battlefield in what can first appear as a RTS or tactical style game with its grid based layout and while it is indeed RTS it is also a Turn Based RPG as each character has a gauge that builds up similar to how in most Final Fantasy games you have the ATB system or Active Time Battle gauge that’ll allow you to select whether you will move about the field, defend, or select one of several attacks both ranged and close ranged based on the character and their Aegis.
In battles you have conditions needed to win the battle being either to clear the stage of all enemies, or maintaining a point for a period of time, or protecting a base in a tower defense style manner.
If you are at all familiar with VanillaWare games like Dragon’s Crown, Odin Sphere, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, or GrimGrimoire; then you’ll know to expect superb art and animation for everything in the game.
Each character has a tremendous amount of detail drawn in them from their clothes to their hair and more. The way each character moves is so beautiful as each movement is all hand drawn and looks incredible. The environments are hand drawn and so beautifully done and sway and move and react to whats going on in the game.
During battles, the environment looks like have a Tron like grid look to them with various lines and vectors and whatnot. Not really a lot to say here other than it looks good.
The audio in the game is superb with the choice when you first star the game of either playing the game in English or Japanese with either choice you go with having superb voice acting with a lot of voices you’re sure to recognize.
When it comes to the OST I have to say that everything sounds good even if the music doesn’t have anything that just strikes you as that stand out tune. When roaming around areas the music has a nice ambience about it.
Honestly the only downsides to this game is trying to keep up with each of the 13 characters stories and all the terminology and time travel stuff but then again that could just be my ADHD at play and not a real issue.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a game with a lot going for it with its superb story, engaging and relatable characters, breath taking visuals and artstyle, fantastic battles, and a excellent voice cast all to make this one of the sleeper hits of 2020. If you have a PS4 then YOU NEED to add this game to your collection as there is simply no reason not to play this game!