13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Review: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Carrying on from my preview, I’ve been revisiting 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on the Nintendo Switch. It’s easily my favourite Vanillaware title and boasts some twisty-turvy, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey sci-fi shenanigans I found to be engaging, if not sometimes on the nose. How does the narrative hold up after two years? Well, I’m still entertained and the case you’ll meet is expansive but also well written with standout performances to boot.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is not the game I was expecting. I’ve played most Vanillaware games over the years and the studio has a certain style to them. Paired with the gorgeous visuals from founder George Kamitani, Vanillaware is a rarity in the gaming industry because it is one of the few studios making 2D experiences today. If you ever wanted to see a gorgeous storybook unfold on your screen, look no further than the Osaka-based studio.

I’m still wrapping my head around the entirety of what this game is all about. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a game unlike any other I’ve played. There’s so much going on and so many threads to keep track of but ultimately, the experience is absolutely essential to not only those of you interested in this game but to anyone who wants a narrative that won’t treat you like a juvenile.

Up until the end of the prologue, I was able to keep up and understand the scenarios because you can’t really do much but continue into the next storyline. You pick your character, follow their path, take on some Kaiju and proceed into the next story thread. After a few hours, I was used to this and was ready to continue following things in a certain way. However, after the prologue ends, things open up and you’re free to explore the story you want to follow and even tackle the strategic battles against the Kaiju attacking the city.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is Vanillaware at its best

Things kick off in Tokyo in 1985, a central location throughout the story and where many of the teenage protagonists reside. Of course, these teenagers are not your regular bunch and power the massive Sentinels that protect the Earth. Many of the students attend Sakura High School and a lot of time is spent exploring the campus and surrounding areas of the city.

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Once the prologue is over, Vanillaware splits the game into three sections, and it allows you to tackle the game in whatever way you wish. The first part is Remembrance and it’s the narrative piece of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Destruction is where you’ll be able to freely engage against the Kaiju threat found in the game. These battles are highly strategic and the general idea behind the gameplay is to defend the city. You’ll pick up to six Sentinels to lead the charge against the enemy threat and defend the Terminal within the city. As you play, you’ll gain access to more skills and stronger abilities. The difficulty ramps up further into the game and it is a challenging mode, to say the least. The final piece of the game is Analysis and one of the most important pieces of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. It is here you can keep track of everything you’ve learned throughout the game, it is the best way to stay informed of everything you’ve completed.

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Overstimulating scenarios

I spent a lot of time in Remembrance since I not only adored the art direction but the soundtrack and getting to the core of the story. There’s a lot to love about the narrative the experience is a slow burn, but one worth every minute. Threads are intertwined, so you can only play certain storylines once getting to the end of another character’s arc. Not every character is available right from the start but those that weave together do make an impact. And because there are so many characters, you’ll have to engage in the Destruction component to unlock more of the story, luckily, there is an easy mode if you want to press through.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Continuing on, the main cast is wonderful. Each character is strong and everyone is important to the narrative. The voice actors deliver astounding performances and while many prefer subtitles to a traditional dub, the English voice actors deliver enticing performances across the board. And when paired with the most visually stunning game Vanillawear has ever launched, the experience is unparalleled to bigger titles, more realistic titles. I cannot stress enough how beautiful this game looks in motion, it is clearly a labour of love from the studio but it lives and dies in the Remembrance phase of the game.

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With the Switch now entering its fifth year in the market, we know what the console can do and what it can’t do. I wasn’t too worried about how 13 Sentinels would handle it because it’s not a video game that requires a lot of power to perform well. During my preview period and well into the review period I had very few issues with how the game was handled. Playing on the OLED Model the character models pop on screen and it’s like watching a storybook unfold in many cutscenes. Performance while docked is good too, and I can’t say I ran into any slowdown if any during playtesting. This is a solid port of a wonderful game and it truly makes 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim feel definitive on the Switch.

Verdict

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is one of the most exciting titles from Vanillaware. It’s a rich, complex story that delivers one of the most exciting sci-fi stories I’ve ever experienced. I felt intellectually rewarded by following the narrative to the finish line, feeling completely satisfied by the entire experience. That said, the combat system isn’t a high point and will likely turn some people away but it is worth pushing through to get to the good bits of story and character development. Furthermore, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim doesn’t overstay its welcome and I completed my playthrough in roughly 40 hours. I can’t stress enough how close to perfect this game is, if only the combat was nearly as good as the story.

[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: Switch