13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Switch Review – A Sci-Fi That’s Just as Great on a Handheld

    Title: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
    Developer: Vanillaware, ATLUS
    Release Date: April 12, 2022
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: SEGA
    Genre: Adventure, Simulation, Strategy

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a game developed by Vanillaware that mixes adventure and real-time strategy portions. With this unique combination of styles and a strong narrative, it celebrates sci-fi as a whole. SEGA released it worldwide on the PS4 in 2020, but now it comes to the Switch for the portable experience the Vita was supposed to have.

The story revolves around thirteen main characters who will eventually have to fight using machines known as Sentinels. In a non-linear fashion, each protagonist’s story features multiple chapters where they face some unique situations.

In a way, it’s possible to say each character has a gimmick in their narrative. For instance, Shinonome depends on pills to be able to concentrate, Natsuno always has to pick up BJ in the locker room, and some of Iori’s choices are what food to have with her friends after school. Depending on the case, they can be a little repetitive at times.

As players explore the possibilities in each scenario, they will dig into the hidden truths of 13 Sentinels‘ narrative. At first, it might all seem like a jumbled mess, as the story throws several different sci-fi elements at the player. However, it’s a fascinating tale that shows admirable passion for science fiction, using multiple popular references while still making them tie together in a thought-provoking experience.

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These story bits presented in an adventure format have the distinctive trademark of lush 2D settings and beautifully animated characters. Robust illumination and visual effects make for vibrant areas with remarkable ambiance. It feels like a painting in motion as players interact with objects and characters and move to other places.

13 Sentinels‘ story chapters also feature a thought cloud with multiple keywords. By using those, the character recaps what they know about the subject. They also function as a sort of item which you can use to interact with other characters to advance the story.

Specific restrictions lock some chapters, including having completed stories from other characters, unlocking Mystery Files, or battling. As mentioned before, the other side of the game is strategy mech combat. Movements follow a real-time format, but the attack menu will pause the battle temporarily.

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There are four generations of sentinels, each of which has different advantages for combat. The first generation is the melee specialist, and the third focuses on ranged attacks. Second-gen balances both ranges, and the more modern fourth-gen can support other machines and fly fast through the areas.

Each character is assigned to one sentinel, and players have to choose up to six sentinels for battle against the kaiju. Before entering combat, players can read a short message about what enemies are the map’s focus. This is an excellent way to learn if you should focus on melee or ranged attacks, for instance.

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Every battle is ranked according to performance. Mystery files are unlocked by getting an S rank and completing extra missions such as controlling only four characters or having a specific one in that battle. For players focused on the story, there’s a casual difficulty option. On the other hand, those who want a challenge can enjoy the Intense mode.

Battles will give characters some experience, and leveling up will allow them to unlock unique abilities. However, fighting on the sentinel will increase the Brain Overload meter. Once it’s filled, the character will be unable to participate in the next battle unless they recover. The ideal way of handling it is to change characters constantly, which also improves the score multiplier.

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Players will also get meta-chips in battle, a currency necessary for upgrades. These include: adding new skills to the terminal such as healing characters, adding new weapons to the sentinels and upgrading them, and even enhancing their base stats. These improvements will mean an arsenal of great melee and ranged possibilities to deal with armored enemies, aerial fortresses, and whatever else the game throws at the groups.

13 Sentinels‘ battles can provide many particles, sometimes impacting performance. This issue was even true for the PS4 version, so it was one aspect to be wary of for the Switch version. However, while I did notice some framerate drops during my time with the game, I have to say they did not impact my experience significantly.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

The Switch version of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim was a fantastic experience for me from start to finish. I’m glad to say the game runs smoothly on handheld mode, allowing its extraordinary, unique experience to shine. Especially considering how the experience is cut into shorter bursts, this is one of those games that feel perfect for the portable experience.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on Switch is just as great of an instant classic as it was on PS4. While the new content (extra weapons) is essentially insignificant, if you haven’t played the game yet, this new version is a great chance to fall in love with this one-of-a-kind work from Vanillaware and Atlus.

Score:
9/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.