Visual Novels are something I’ve been enjoying more and more over time. I’ve got a few of them on my list, but I was lucky enough to be given this game as a gift from a friend. He didn’t care for it but figured I would. Turns out he was right and this one was a god damn ride from start to finish. Was it a good one though? Well after the cut, let’s dive into 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim and find out.
Even though this is a visual novel, there is actually a real gameplay component to it, so like with my other video game reviews, I’m going to divide this post into two sections: Gameplay and Story.
Taking nods from Fire Emblem and other tactical game, Aegis Rim’s gameplay portion consists of using the several mechs (or sentinels) to defeat the waves upon waves of Kaiju (or Deimos). Using a total of seven mechs per map, you place them on a tactical strategy board and attempt to either eliminate or defend. You buy upgrades, mix and match equipment, and try to get a higher ranking by killing more and surviving longer.
Now I’ll admit, I played on the easy difficulty (I cared more about the story), and at first, I wasn’t that impressed with it. Having experienced so many of the Fire Emblem series, what was on display in Aegis Rim is far more paired down and hollow. There just isn’t enough depth and once you discovered the best weapons and loadouts, most of everything falls apart easily. That I suppose was to be expected, as it is not the focus of this game. But after a while and digging more into the story I found myself becoming more and more invested in the gameplay.
I think a lot of that can be credited to the fact that Aegis Rim makes the gameplay fall in line with the themes and setting of the story. While some might scoff at the way the gameplay is shown, I loved the fact that it all resembled a futuristic battle screen with all the lines, symbols and icons you’d expect out of something like Gundam, Galactic Heroes, or Macross. Something about watching a bunch of missiles fly across the screen and blow up a bunch of icons feels damn satisfying.
Alright…how can I sum up Aegis Rim’s story.
Well….it’s probably a bit of this
And some of this.
And finally some of this.
Now if I had to put something that wasn’t a video. I would say that Aegis Rim’s story is ambitious, very ambitious. A love child between The Matrix and the 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica. This is a wide, vast and sprawling narrative that has many twists, turns and mysteries that leave no stone unturned, yet one that sometimes feels weighed down by its own ambition. With thirteen characters, each with their own story arcs, it can sometimes feel like no one is getting enough attention, and certain characters do feel more important than others. Furthermore with the non-linear narrative, it can be difficult to remember everything that happens, especially when so much of it is interconnected.
Thankfully Aegis Rim is able to make most of work. There is a great sense of scope in following the text, and seeing things that take part in one story show up in another feels rewarding. There were times when I was yelling at the screen, completely shocked at what just happened. Wondering with amazement how everything would tie together and if the story would stick its landing. I would be invested in one character thinking the story couldn’t get any better and then another character would just pull me in. I was left with questions after questions, so much so that I had to listen to someone explain it, a knock against the series for sure, but a credit to how fucking invested it makes you. This is a story that no western company would dare to make, or one that would have been far more restraint in doing so. If it feels like I’m being vague, it’s because this is a story that doesn’t need to be spoiled. Instead it deserves to be watched and judged on your own merits.
I should also mention that the art style is absolutely gorgeous. Like if anything, play the game for that, holy shit.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim isn’t a story for everyone. Some will be lost in the complicated plot, others will be turned off by the bare bones gameplay. Yet for those who decided to stick with it, they will find an expansive, deep and compelling science fiction story that rewards the viewer for paying attention, and a gameplay cycle that is damn addiction once you get into the nitty gritty. I picked this game up not thinking I would ever finish it, and found myself sinking endless hours into trying to get it done. It’s probably not my favorite visual novel, but one I am really glad I played. Give it a look for yourself, and maybe you’ll find a science fiction story that you won’t be able to put down too.