There are a lot of struggles that developers unfortunately face. How do they improve a great product, where can they innovate, where is this all moving towards but one of the biggest is expectations. Unfortunately, this has been an ongoing issue with Vanillaware. Their games all have a stunning art style, meaning they need to maintain that same unique look or fear or consumers losing interest, with several of their notable games having the same brawler gameplay style. Despite these challenges, instead of going down this path again, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim decides to bring their art to the world of visual novels. Given the quality of their stories in the past, or at least with Odin Sphere, it is enticing enough to find it interesting, but will it be enough to stand out?
At its core, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim sounds like something you’d immediately think was an anime over an extremely stylish visual novel. Here you have 13 seemingly normal teenagers who have can pilot large robots, referred to simply as a sentinel, that need to defeat large creatures that threaten to destroy the city. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to Evangelion, at least in core progression, as a lot of the story is centered around the interactions around the conflict instead of the actual end result.
For better or worse, the story is told in a non-linear fashion that unfortunately has the same flaws you’d expect from a story like this. Initially, the 13 characters each have their own quirks, elements and ultimately offer some kind of contribution to the story. Where things go off the rails isn’t the volume, though it can be a bit overwhelming for some, but rather, as more information is known, it’s easier to connect the dots.
Unlike stories that build to an obvious climatic finish, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim slowly gives you the pieces required to figure out where this is all building towards. Eventually, all the set pieces move into place and it’s fairly obvious what is going to happen, not that it still isn’t interesting. It just takes away from the buildup and, given the slow start, it can be a rough combo that isn’t helped much by gameplay.
Like every game from Vanillaware, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is simply stunning. A lot of attention to detail was given and it feels like a bright and vibrant world to explore. Where things really stand out, something a lot of games and anime series fall behind is giving everything a sense of character. There are rusty poles, grass growing on the sidewalk, characters have quirky designs, even pointless background characters feel less like generic guy number 20, and instead of a real person who is living their own adventure. And, as you interact with everything, it makes the adventure engaging, even if it is closer to really a point and click game.
Most sections come down to really figuring out what is being asked and you’re essentially told to walk around and interact with people a specific way. This can be rather bland, especially if you’re not used to what is being asked, but it gets easier as you figure out the quirks. Often times you’ll be told exactly what to do or need to push a button at a specific spot that it’s more trial and error than anything else. Still, it makes for an interesting story that is conveyed in an interesting manner.
Between the story, segments are tactical RPG stages. These are far from the most unique or interesting element and instead, work in a way you’d expect. Find enemies, plan your attack, and stay alive. A big element to staying alive is knowing the best attack for a given situation, though there isn’t much to lose in the event you lose. Not to mention, the overall difficulty isn’t high enough to hold anyone back.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review – Verdict
For the most part, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an amazing looking game that tells a rather interesting story. It follows an interesting arc that unfortunately will lead to a rather easy to figure out a conclusion. Gameplay relies largely on point to click elements and a rather fundamental strategy RPG, which might be a dealbreaker for some, but it is worth it if you like anime/manga series like this. It might not be perfect but the fundamental elements are there to make it interesting enough to, if nothing else, give it a serious look.
[Editor’s Note: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]