I love Vanillaware games! True story: Odin Sphere Leifthrasir was the first Platinum trophy I unlocked on PS4. You couldn’t tear me away from that game; it was all I did for days on end until I cleared it. Everything about it was magic, from the beautiful design to the engaging combat and enticing story. Here I am, four years later and head over heels for the studio’s latest endeavor. A grand sci-fi tale filled with mechs and kaiju and that same wonderful art style wrapping it all together like the world’s most comfortable blanket.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review – Adventures Through Time
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is the story of thirteen young adults tasked with piloting specialized mecha to save the world from an invading force. It’s never exactly linear and some events require experiencing a few times over in order to see the whole tale. There’s time travel, dimensional travel, and other interesting subplots at play, making this the most interesting story I have had the honor of playing all year.
Remembrance mode focuses on the storytelling and investigation aspect of the game. Here you progress through scenes, interacting with a handful of other main characters and listening to nearby chatter for key words. Several scenes have multiple outcomes and it is possible to be “stuck” on one character’s story if a necessary key phrase hasn’t been picked up yet. For example, I’m currently playing through as many of the other pilots’ stories as I can since I seem to be stuck with Iori. Pretty sure I need to trigger an event with someone else in order to move her particular story along. Clearing certain check points adds more pilots to this roster. Sometimes this is also necessary to progress someone else’s story.
The Thought Cloud lets your selected character review items they have on hand or contemplate new phrases. From here you can also show items to others or select a topic to speak about. Or maybe you just want to eat some yakisoba pan. There are missable items, but don’t worry. If there is a branch in a story segment that you didn’t explore, you can revisit it! Pressing the Square button during the segment will show you any branches and potential keywords you may need.
Vanillaware’s writing staff deserve awards for crafting intricately and expertly woven stories for our thirteen heroes plus the supporting cast. With threads that bounce all over time, I imagine there was an awful lot of red yarn and push pins decorating someone’s walls.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review – Birthday Suit Battles
The battlefield is no place for unnecessary accessories. Our heroes shed their clothing to pilot their mechs completely naked. Why? I don’t know. I haven’t discovered that nugget of plot just yet. But that does not impede their abilities on the field. With mechs spanning four generations, you face off against waves of space invading kaiju. It’s up to you to pick the best team for the job. Each generation of Sentinel has pros and cons; where one model is lighter and more agile, the beefier models are slower and better to defend the Aegis point. Some are great for anti-air attacks, others better suited for brawling.
Missions can have multiple sets of objectives. Some will grant bestow a new memory if you ensure you deploy with a particular pilot. There are bonus objectives for completing a mission in a set amount of time or for minimal damage to the city and/or Sentinels. Aiming to clear all of these is one of the best ways to unlock more memories and key words to flesh out the story.
Battle is presented top-down overlooking city blocks. Streets are visible and the only paths available to move your ground units along. Aerial units can ignore these routes and fly in direct lines. You may choose to Move your unit, perform an Action, Repair your Sentinel, or Defend on each unit’s turn. Regardless of which option you select, there is a cooldown timer in between actions. Actions include your attacks and use of special abilities and consume EP. When your EP is running low, Defending will help replenish some EP. If your Sentinel has taken too much damage and needs Repair, move your unit away from the encroaching kaiju. Your pilot will leave the mech to heal and you can recall to battle when its ready. Be careful though. Your pilots can be killed when outside of their Sentinels.
And let’s not forget about upgrading our mechs! 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim does not disappoint on this front. With new and improved Kaiju storming the city, it is extremely important to upgrade your mechs. You know those Meta Chips you’ve been earning at the end of battles and viewing new story threads? Spend them on the Battle Preparation screen. Not only can you upgrade your Sentinels, but the Meta System, too. Upgrading that opens more options as well as AOE (Area of Effect) skills from the Aegis point.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review – These Archived Lives
With a story as intricate and complex as this, visiting the Archive is very beneficial. You can replay completed scenarios to refresh your memory on past events. This is also where you’ll use Mystery Points earned from battle to unlock new information. With a game as layered as this, visiting the archive will help you keep things straight.
It’s important to note that I played 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim with Japanese voice over and subtitles. Due to restrictions with COVID-19, the English dub had some recording hiccups but it will be made available with a Day One patch when the game releases on September 22, 2020. I prefer most of my Japanese studio games this way, but I am interested in hearing how the English works out, all things considered.
You know a game has consumed your life when it seeps into your dreams. That’s exactly what happened to me. I’m seeing Triangles floating atop heads and planning strategy in my sleep. Not the worst way to sleep but also not the most relaxing. I’m craving yakisoba pan all the time. No other games exist while you’re playing 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. Don’t even bother trying to play anything else. Your brain simply won’t let you.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4 console. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.