13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 04.06.2022

Review for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on Nintendo Switch

After its original release on PlayStation 4 in 2020, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim has made its way to the Nintendo Switch. Developed by Vanillaware - the prestigious studio behind Odin Sphere Leifthrasir and Dragon's Crown, 13 Sentinels had a high bar to hurdle. The PS4 version, in Cubed3's estimation, lived up to its developer's pedigree - it was lauded as "an excellent, unique, niche title" in that version's review. How fares it on the Switch, then?

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an experience unlike any other. The sci-fi setting and mind-bending story are beautifully realised and highly compelling, with a truly unique and scintillating execution that serves to elevate the experience above the sum of its parts.

This is a title that feels tailormade for Nintendo's hybrid console. Consisting of 13 intersecting stories that run in an episodic format, as well as short RTS battle sections that last between 5-15 minutes each, it's ideal for bitesize gaming on the fly - but addictive enough to warrant longer stints as well.

The 13 narratives in question each pertain to one of the title's chief protagonists. For those unfamiliar with this uniquely structured experience, 13 Sentinels is split into three gameplay modes: Remembrance, Destruction and Analysis, each with a singular flavour. Playing through Remembrance and Destruction modes will, in turn, unlock progression in the other mode, incentivising switching between the two. Still, there's a lot of control over which mode players can choose at any given time, with only important story events locking progress at certain intervals.

Screenshot for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on Nintendo Switch

Analysis mode, on the other hand, is a codex of sorts where information acquired in the other two modes is categorised for players to revisit, providing the opportunity to learn more about the characters and events in the main story. It's little more than an exposition dump, but it has its uses for refreshing players' minds if details about the wild story are forgotten (which we wouldn't blame you for - this is one meaty, intricate tale).

Remembrance mode takes up the majority of the experience's runtime. It's a narrative-heavy experience that unfolds in a visual novel-like telling, wherein each of the 13 protagonists is controlled in turn. The premise is fairly basic - your chosen character walks around talking to other characters, triggering the next line of exposition or story moment. The execution, however simple it may be, is beautiful.

Visually, 13 Sentinels shares much in common with Vanillaware's other titles. The world and characters are gorgeously brought to life with lovingly rendered 2.5D environments and fantastic animation. Each of the 13 characters has their own movement style that perfectly captures and reflects their personalities, from the way they walk to their thinking pose when using the Thought Cloud - an "inventory wheel" of sorts in which the controlled character's thoughts are categorised, before being used in dialogue or to trigger flashback sequences.

The non-linear story of 13 Sentinels is worth going in blind to enjoy to its fullest. Almost against the odds, the narrative deftly balances the experience of playing as 13 distinct protagonists. All of them are unique and charming enough on their own that they come together to form a cohesive cast; by the time you're introduced to all 13 of them, it doesn't feel like that large a group because of how well they're brought in - and how well they balance each other out.

Screenshot for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on Nintendo Switch

Each character attends the same high school in a quaint Japanese city precinct, and each encounters mysterious sci-fi-esque anomalies that make them question their perception of reality. That's all that can be said without revealing too much, but suffice it to say that 13 Sentinels possesses one of the most riveting, mind-bending stories known to this genre. Remembrance mode does an excellent job of keeping you engaged and wanting to find out what happens next.

Destruction mode, 13 Sentinels' combat mode, is a different beast. It's an RTS experience that sees you pilot up to 6 Sentinels - this title's versions of mecha piloted by each of the 13 characters - per battle, and go head-to-head with the robotic baddies of this world. Each level requires you to defend a specific point on the map until either the time limit runs out or all the enemies have been defeated.

It's a far cry from Remembrance mode, both stylistically and when it comes to overall enjoyment. Its lack of variety and limited visual feedback means it quickly becomes bland, overstaying its welcome across the almost-40 battles you'll have to undertake to see the story through to its completion.

To complicate matters further, Remembrance mode and Destruction mode require completing in tandem; venture too far in either and you'll need to spend significant time in the other mode to unlock the next section. All this isn't to say that Destruction mode is bad; it's functional enough, but nowhere near deep enough for it to be considered a full-bodied RTS experience.

There's some character progression at least - as you take each Sentinel into battle, they'll level up and you'll unlock new perks and abilities for them. They can be individually upgraded and kitted out with their own abilities, giving the player a fair amount of control when it comes to structuring their assault team as they see fit. This doesn't make the battles feel any less same-ish, though, with a bland, flattened visual representation of the action being the only evidence of the massive battles unfolding onscreen.

Screenshot for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on Nintendo Switch

On a brighter note, 13 Sentinels is a gem when it comes to technical performance. Performance on the Switch is buttery-smooth, both docked and handheld. There are virtually no load times, putting it exactly on par with its PS4 counterpart. Granted, it's not quite a technically demanding title, but it's still great to see absolute parity between the Switch and the superior hardware of the PS4.

Now, being a Japanese title, you may wonder about the quality of the English localisation and voice acting. For those who prefer Japanese titles in their native English, it's a pleasure to confirm that 13 Sentinels features excellent English voice acting and localisation - truly one of the best you'll find in any translated piece of media. To make the pleasurable accessibility even sweeter, both Japanese and English voiceovers can be switched seamlessly during gameplay as well, so you're never locked into one or the other - even between lines of dialogue.

On the whole, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is as much a mixed bag on the Switch as it was on the PlayStation 4. Technically, though, it runs excellently on this console, so for those who've been wanting to pick it up on this platform, it's a no-brainer.

Screenshot for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Despite its subpar Destruction mode, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a delight. The story will captivate the minds of those interested in pulpy sci-fi adventures, and the gorgeous art style and compelling script are enough to warrant putting up with some tedious RTS battle sequences. On the whole, this is a title easy to recommend for those who enjoy sci-fi and visual novels, as the strengths of 13 Sentinels more than makeup for its weaknesses.

Developer

Vanillaware

Publisher

Atlus

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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