13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a blend of genres, as it is a JRPG, side-scrolling visual novel, and top-down tactical shooter for the PS4. From the development team at Vanillaware and publisher Atlus, 13 Sentinels’ ambitious storytelling and gameplay mechanics pay off in a big way. It manages to take the multiple genres and create an experience that will appeal to fans of JRPGs, visual novels, shooters, and more by creating an enthralling experience with a captivating cast of characters.
While games continue to push the boundaries of realism with enhanced graphics and immersive gameplay, there is merit in staying true to what can make games great: escapism. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim pulls on those escapist strings beautifully as the 2D art and side-scrolling adventure transports players into a world that feels completely removed from our own.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim takes place across multiple timelines and multiple generations, as time travel plays heavily into the story. The player will take control of an impressive 13 protagonists across the course of the game. These 13 protagonists each have unique backstories and reasons for being a part of the action. However, what makes 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim such a compelling story is how interwoven each protagonist’s story is with one another.
There are three game modes in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim: Remembrance, Destruction, and Analysis. Each of these modes is important to the story and are required to progress the plot.
Remembrance is the visual novel portion of the game. Set with the gorgeous artwork Vanillaware fans have come to love, this portion is the 2D side-scrolling story in which players unravel the mystery behind the 13 protagonists’ backgrounds and why the Deimos (extra-terrestrial Kaijus) are hellbent on destroying Earth. Remembrance follows classic JRPG tropes as most characters are the typical attractive high schooler miscast as a socially awkward outcast. However, the strength of the writing is so strong that whatever misgivings I had about the premise washed away by the end of the first Prologue chapter.
Remembrance is truly where 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim shines, as the story is a gripping tale that serves as an ode to the science fiction genre. As a good portion of the early game is set in the mid 80s, a few of the protagonists are obsessed with sci fi movies, and talk about them to great lengths. Especially two of the protagonists, Juro Kurabe and Natsuno Minami. Each of these characters pines for the chance to be a part of their favorite film genre (kaiju movies like War of the Worlds for Kurabe and alien adventure movies like E.T. for Minami).
During each chapter in the Prologue, players will begin to discover that Kurabe’s and Minami’s dreams come true. The main characters become intertwined with a time-travelling plot centered around saving the planet from a race of kaijus, called Deimos.
To destroy these Deimos and save the world, players enter battle mechs, called Sentinels. This is where the second gameplay mode, Destruction, comes into play. Destruction is a top-down tactical shooter in which the Sentinels fight against Deimos to protect cities from being destroyed. The RTS mechanics are well done, bordering on simple, but service the storyline in a meaningful way.
Each Sentinel the player pilots has different strengths and weaknesses. As the story progresses, the real strategy is centered around building a team that fits best against the enemy’s strategy.
Destruction mode shines when players are given the opportunity to perform Actions. Actions are how the Sentinels unleash attacks against the Deimos. The battle animation when Actions are performed is some of the best looking artwork I’ve seen in awhile. This helps break up the occasional monotony in Destruction mode, as seasoned RTS players may find the repetitive nature of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim mundane.
Finally, the last game mode in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is Analysis. As the name suggests, Analysis is a mode in which players can uncover new terms and learn background information imperative to the plot. These terms and plot points can be uncovered by accruing Mystery Points. The fastest way to get Mystery Points is by completing missions in Destruction Mode and achieving special objectives. These objectives can range from obtaining S-ranks on missions to completing battles with certain lineups. While Analysis can seem unimportant, it holds two purposes. The first, is advancing the plot. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is not short on plot twists. Those twists and turns can lead to confusion, and some of the information gained in Analysis will help clear that up. The other purpose is the challenge it provides in Destruction mode. As Destruction missions can be easy to complete, the increased intrigue of completing it under duress makes it a more fun and difficult experience.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a wonderful blend of some of the most classic elements in gaming and storytelling alike. Vanillaware masterfully embodies the high notes of JRPG storylines and couples it with a sci-fi story that would appeal to any fan of the sci-fi genre. The tactical shooter and RTS gameplay left some to be desired, however, it is still an engaging combat system that does not feel totally out of place.
Overall, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim goes down as an instant classic and absolute home run from the teams at Vanllaware and Atlus. Do not miss a chance to join in on the kaiju action, gorgeous artwork, and entrancing sci-fi adventure.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is out now for the PS4.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
- Rating - 9/109/10
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a wonderful blend of some of the most classic elements in gaming and storytelling alike. Vanillaware masterfully embodies the high notes of JRPG storylines and couples it with a sci fi story that would appeal to any fan of the sci fi genre. The tactical shooter and RTS gameplay left some to be desired, however it is still an engaging combat system that does not feel totally out of place.