13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review

I’m one of those irritating people who have to guess what’s going to happen in a book, movie, or game while the story is still unfolding. I annoy my endless friends and family by loudly declaring my predictions endlessly and I’m not even sorry. While I love being able to brag about correctly guessing a plot, nothing beats the feeling of being surprised by a good twist you didn’t see coming.

Despite my best guesses, I found it impossible to predict where things were going in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. The game follows 13 teenagers through different time periods who all share a common thread – they discover they can pilot large Sentinel mechs to defend the world against the invading kaiju known as Deimos. As the story progresses, you begin to peel back the layers of the game’s many events and characters, realizing that this isn’t just another plain mech vs alien storyline.

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The narrative is non-linear and goes back and forth between different timelines and between the 13 protagonists. Events often overlap from different points of view, so after playing a certain scene as a character, you can switch to another that appeared in the same instance and see what happened from their point of view. The narrative is already intricate in the jumbled way it’s delivered, but on top of that the central mystery is a convoluted web of different elements that’s only really unraveled once you’ve fully completed the game.


13 natsuno sentinels with BJ

13 Sentinels is full of references and nods to classic sci-fi movies, manga, and anime, some of which are openly discussed or alluded to by the characters, while others are reflected in events that unfold throughout throughout the game. Even if you’re not the biggest sci-fi fan, you’ll no doubt recognize a few of them and it’s interesting to see how they’re used to advance the plot and provide some herrings compelling reds through each individual character arc.

One of the most distinctive features of 13 Sentinels is its beautiful hand-drawn art that Vanillaware has become famous for with Odin Sphere and Dragon’s Crown. Although the game uses side-scrolling 2D environments, it creates a sense of depth by using different layers and the impressive lighting effects create unforgettable scenes ranging from sprawling 80s cityscapes to burning villages in the middle of the Second World War. The visual aesthetic is ripe with surprises that I’d be silly to spoil it here, but this game going places.

The game is divided into three different modes: the side-scrolling visual novel sections Remembrance, the Destruction RTS battle sequences, and finally, the Analysis mode, which lets you relive past events and delve deeper into the lore of the world. To start, you switch between visual novel sections and combat at regular intervals, but once you’ve completed the prologue, you can choose which mode you want to play, as well as which character route you want to explore based on that. of which might be your favorite.


13 Sentinel characters hiding from Deimos

Some protagonist paths are more interesting than others, but the less exciting ones still gave deeper insight into the characters I was more invested in while pushing the overall plot forward. It wasn’t a chore to complete, but I definitely left the most boring characters until the last possible moment. I usually found myself following the one that intrigued me the most until it crossed paths with a more interesting character/event that caught my attention, which would then rotate me to follow another route where I would rinse and repeat.

Although the events are fairly linear and you cannot affect the outcome of the story, you can take slight detours for additional scenes. For example, choosing the “wrong” choice may require you to repeat a certain section in order to achieve the desired result, but you will see additional dialogs or events in the process. There were some parts where I was a little puzzled and it took me a little while to figure out how to progress, which largely meant figuring out who to talk to and in what order to complete the memory properly or else I’d stay stuck in a time loop.


At certain intervals, you will be blocked from progressing further in certain Remembrance Routes and Destruction Battles, and you will be prompted to reach a certain milestone before continuing. This could be completing a set battle, seeing a certain remembrance event, or unlocking a specific number of Mystery Files – additional knowledge you can purchase from the menu with the points you’ve earned from skirmishes. destruction.


13 Sentinels Destruction game modes

I didn’t mind these obstacles to progress, as they served as a reminder not to get too carried away in the Souvenir sections. Switching between the two main modes breaks up the gameplay so you don’t get too tired of constantly doing the same thing. Destruction battles were a welcome distraction at times, though it’s sadly the weakest part of the game when all is said and done.


Destruction is basically a tower defense game where you have to defend a central terminal while beating wave upon wave of Deimos. You control your pilots on a 3D city map, employing different strategies to defend and attack as needed. You pick and choose which pilots to send into the field, all of whom have different roles, such as melee, long range, all-rounder, and more. Each character and their Sentinel can be upgraded with new abilities to further mix up the way you play too. Yet it’s so easy that such improvements often seem like an afterthought.

While the combat isn’t inherently bad, it’s just not terribly exciting and is easily overshadowed by the much more interesting Remembrance mode. It was nice to get in and out of battles to break up story segments, but combat really isn’t the main attraction here and would best be described as a palette cleanser between meals, or in this cases, story segments.


13 Sentinels Iori and Fluffy

I’m a big fan of Vanillaware games, but I’ve always preferred to play them by hand. Whether it’s an RPG or a beat ’em up, its library has always felt better in the palm of my hand. When 13 Sentinels originally launched in 2019 for the PS4, I sorely missed having a PSVita version to play on the go, but with the port to Switch, I finally feel like the balance has been restored.

You can play it docked if you prefer, and either way the game looks great, but you can’t beat the feeling of having an exciting new world at your fingertips wherever you are. Vanillaware handled the port perfectly; there were no jerky frame rate drops and the graphics still look great, which is really all you can ask for when you’re downgrading to lower-end hardware.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim has found its perfect home on the Nintendo Switch with its blend of two genres that work best when handheld: visual novel and RTS. I ended up carrying my Switch with me for days because 13 Sentinels was like a good book that I couldn’t put down. Beautiful hand-drawn graphics and an intricately layered storyline come together to create a love letter to classic sci-fi.


13 Sentinels Overhaul Map

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