After making headlines at the Japanese release last fall, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is finally ready to debut in the West on September 22nd, after some setbacks.
The title is produced by Atlus and developed by the guys from Vanillaware (Odin Sphere, Dragon’s Crown, to name two of their past works). Just the first glance is enough to immediately notice the graphic style son of the software house, between colors and tract of George Kamitani.
Yukiko Hirai and Emika Kida, as Kamitani, had to share the work with them, given the amount of work as director and writer of the game. An authorial work that makes 13 Sentinels a very personal game. The narrative is king, dominating the more playful side since it also presents itself as a real-time strategy.
So let’s get ready for a complex and complicated story that puts us in the shoes of a group of students who will have to deal with large robots (the Sentinels of the title), time travel, and several melodramas, so dear to the Japanese public.
The unraveling of this plot takes place through a series of scenarios in which we control the different characters, thirteen precisely, to be alternated (at our complete choice) with the combat phases onboard the robots, which take place with an isometric view in city environments on which displays a “virtual grid.” Let’s clarify it immediately between the two souls of the game; that of the story dominates, the combat phases are almost a contour.
The tale of 13 Sentinels takes place in three distinct timelines (although sometimes for a few moments you can get confused, with all those characters) whose main one is the one set in the 80s. The other two explore the past, during the Second World War and the near future, a few hundred years from now.
The 13 boys we control do not all belong to the same era, but they all share the same destiny, which sees them mentally controlling huge robots, as real chosen ones, and averting an alien invasion that threatens to bring planet Earth its knees. Collaborate through time to save humanity, the greatest responsibility in the hands of young boys: Kamitani certainly did not spare himself while writing 13 Sentinels, in terms of topics covered.
The narrative scenes are often of everyday life, and the player can control the characters by moving them to the locations to interact with objects or people. With a button, you access a sort of inventory that contains none other than the thoughts of the character we are using at that moment. Each thought offers new dialogue lines, as long as you select it and use it literally on our interlocutor.
Only by unlocking the right dialogues can you continue in the plot, often moving from place to place to carry out an investigation or even simply do some activity like eating ice cream. Much attention has been paid to the characters’ daily lives to make them more alive and credible. The result is perfect. It is easy to get attached to the protagonists, even if the non-linear plot could confuse you.
The prologue of the game amalgamates the narrative phases with those aboard the combat robots. Still, once the real story begins, you realize that the narrative section and the one where you face the clashes are very distinct. Occasionally the paths of the characters are interrupted, and to be able to continue, it is no longer enough to choose the right answers, but a certain battle must be fought.
In battle, six characters are controlled, based on who we have unlocked so far, by controlling their robot. Ranged rockets, atomic fists, healing powers, each Sentinel is equipped with unique attacks that can be expanded or enhanced with experience.
In the most classic Kaiju style, arenas are usually city scenarios, where the heroes and tons of foreign troops are arranged, including huge column ships to destroy. As a real-time strategist, we choose where to move the characters the enemy moves and attacks, forcing us to act rather quickly. As already mentioned, the fights are visually confusing, with a series of invasive light effects and a not always good camera.
The impression is, this, too, has already been said that the whole part dedicated to strategic battles is almost a contour to the narrative part. Having taken note of this, the thing can also go well. The important thing is to be aware that what you are going to play is a big adventure at crossroads where now and then you have some clash on giant robots.
However, the battles are quite short – they stretch towards the final stages – and fun. There is also a rating system that prompts you to replay them. The dialogue exchanges between characters vary based on how a battle is progressing or who we have fielded, which prompts you to try different combinations.
The Archive is the real third side of 13 Sentinels’ coin. As you progress through the game, a huge amount of data is accumulated that can be consulted, an entire virtual archive with a percentage of completion in both modes. It is essential to put an order in the complex multi-narrative-linear game.
Surely not for everyone, since it is almost mandatory to consult it to understand everything (and even more), more than optional, it can be defined as collateral. 13 Sentinels is a particular project. Still, if you are looking for a narrative adventure in which to get lost, embellished with animations made in Vanillaware, this is the one for you.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a kind of two-faced Janus of gaming, two heads, two identities. The predominant part is the best. The narrative one, between crossroads, choices, objects to collect an intertwining of timelines and characters, embellished with the distinctive look of Vanillaware games. The other side of the coin is much more standard, and it’s that of real-time strategic combat. It is a little confusing visually.
It offers several exciting options, thanks to the number of usable characters, but it is mandatory to venture into the higher difficulty levels to see some depth emerge. It is still fun to face the battles, since they are never too long, and the narrative worthily balances the less convincing parts. The overall experience is intriguing, although not for everyone.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
An excellent textual adventure, with a deep and articulated story. The strategic part could be improved, but it remains a fun outline at the heart of the title, clearly the narrative part.
- Good 0%