13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim reborn on Nintendo Switch | Review

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim reborn on Nintendo Switch | Review

13 Sentinels

In spite of the disastrous socio-health situation, 2020 was certainly a positive year in terms of videogame releases. To alleviate the discomfort of isolation we had titles such as Persona 5 Royal, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima, Hades and Demon's Souls . This abundance has undoubtedly contributed to the release of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, a title that was not already accompanied by a particularly widespread hype.

And to say that the title has literally received an avalanche of positive reviews (including ours). Not only that, it has also been publicly praised by several important developers such as Masahiro Sakurai, creator of Kirby and Super Smash Bros., and Taro Yoko, author of the Nier series, who have spent flattering words for the latest Vanillaware effort.

Certain of the value of the work of the team led by George Kamitani, Atlus has therefore decided to try to give new luster to the title with this conversion for Nintendo Switch. If you have missed the opportunity to play it on PS4, you therefore have a second chance to remedy it, given that, as our initial test had already anticipated, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim reconfirms itself as an authentic pearl not to be underestimated.

The story takes place mainly in 1985, but unfolds in different temporal moments, from the last years of the Second World War to 2085. The protagonists are 13 young people who share a common destiny: to be called to defend the Japan and the entire Earth from the attack of mysterious "kaiju" called Deimos, enormous technological monsters of unknown origin whose purpose seems to be indiscriminate destruction, and which can only be countered aboard the giant combat mecha called Sentinel. Not all the characters, however, are aware of the complexity of the situation, of how many of them are involved in the conflict and of the "temporal" scope in which it extends.

In the first hours of the game one inevitably finds oneself confused in front of these apparently fragmentary and convulsive fragments of history, which will give rise to multiple questions more about the protagonists themselves than about the looming threat. Going forward we understand that the sense of gradual understanding is desired by the authors, who in this way are able to give us effective twists and moments of pleasant realization. Following the story of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is like composing a puzzle: initially you are disoriented and slow in the first steps, then as each piece finds its place and its meaning, the overall vision becomes more and more visible and there he finds himself enthralled in its completion.

The charm of the story certainly lies in its complexity and inter-dependence of the protagonists. Each character is not only called to save the world, but fights to reconcile their desires and their inner purpose in life.

Despite being portrayed in Vanillaware's classic horizontal progression style, they are moments totally action-free and purely narrative. These are the pieces of the puzzle we mentioned, chapters to be completed that will gradually unlock others for other characters, which will gradually form a network of connections.

Despite their simplicity, it is in these narrative segments that most of the charm of the game is found, also thanks to the extraordinary artistic sector that accompanies it. Vanillaware has always stood out for its high quality and richly detailed two-dimensional graphic style and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is undoubtedly his most visually spectacular work. Each scenario looks like an interactive artwork and the movements of the characters are graced by fluid and expressive animations.

The fascinating soundtrack by the master Hitoshi Sakimoto contributes to the particular dramatic and crepuscular atmosphere, whom we know for having contributed to the previous works of Vanillaware, but also to numerous other titles like Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII, Valkyria Chronicles etc. Even the dubbing, both Japanese and English, stands at good levels and manages to convey the emotions and peculiarities of each protagonist.

Fortunately, to support the Story mode, and its complexity, there is another section of the encyclopedic game used to collect and organize the information collected during the adventure. A sort of internal Wiki, so to speak. In addition to character and object descriptions, this is where you can find virtually all of the puzzle pieces in place, organize your ideas, and potentially pick up the thread if you stay away from the game for a long time.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim_20210213161127 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is not purely a visual novel, but also reserves its dose of action. Another modality diametrically opposite to that of history, in fact, requires us to overcome various missions to defend Japan from the attack of the Deimos. In this mode, the game mixes real-time strategy, tower defense and a twist of turn-based RPG.

Within very minimal looking maps we will have to face the numerous kaiju units that try to get close to terminals to be defended at all costs. It is possible to deploy a maximum of six Sentinels, each with its own combat specialization, which we will therefore have to organize in an optimal way to face the types of enemies to be countered. The movements of the units on the map are automatic and are interrupted only when our turn comes; in that case time will freeze allowing us to conveniently choose the next action from the menu. If you are familiar with Final Fantasy, it is a kind of ATB system.

In turn, we can instruct the Sentinels to attack with various abilities or move around the map. Depending on the special ability to be used, various XP points will be consumed, which can be restored by knocking down enemies or remaining in defensive mode, which however will force the Sentinel to immobility.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim_20210109205910 As it is easy to guess, it's all a game of optimization of turns, spaces and times. Between battles it is also possible to upgrade the mechs with bonuses and new abilities, such as barriers or EMPs.

If you are afraid that you are not familiar enough with strategic games, you should know that the game is unlikely to show a particularly austere difficulty. Which frankly is good, given that the graphic rendering of these fights cannot be said to be particularly exciting. Both controlled and enemy units are depicted with vague silhouettes that leave a lot to be desired in style and personality, and that let our imagination feed on the pleasing animations illustrating the attack menu options.

This lack of recognition does not help especially in the advanced stages of the game, when the battles can get excited and confused.

The original title on PS4 was certainly not onerous in technical terms and this allowed an absolutely faithful conversion on Nintendo Switch. Both in docked and portable mode 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim retains its very special charm, focusing everything on exceptional art direction and its minimal aesthetic. While the battles won't exactly make your eyes pop, it is in the narrative sessions that you can appreciate the extraordinary care and visual detail that Vanillaware artists have infused into their world in crisis.

Considering that George Kamitani's original project included more content, which was cut due to lack of time and budget, we are only sorry not to have found anything new in this new version.

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