All the Ingredients for Confusion, Under a Gorgeous Coat of Paint
13 Sentinels is a story-heavy adventure game which could be best described as an interactive anime. With Vanillaware’s signature art style courtesy of sometimes-controversial creative director George Kamitani, 13 Sentinels tells a very complex story following the lives of 13 protagonists as they face extinction at the hands of an oncoming Kaiju threat.
I’ve experienced Vanillaware’s beautiful anime/renaissance painting art style mash-up before in their acclaimed title “Dragon’s Crown”, it was there that I first fell in love with the heavily stylised illustrative graphics and was keen to see what came next. Just over 7 years later, the Japanese developer’s next title made its way to the west in September of 2020.
With a much more toned-down, yet fitting art style, 13 Sentinels still succeeds in impressing me with the level of detail and effort that has gone into making thousands of digitally-painted assets, all well-animated and beautifully presented under an overlay of life-giving lighting effects.
13 Sentinels Aegis Rim Platinum Review
Thirteen Sides of the Same Coin
There are three game modes in 13 Sentinels, each of which help you to piece together and better understand the complex and heavily segmented story found throughout this 25-hour experience.
The first of these is known as “Remembrance” mode, through which you’ll get your heftiest helping of story-flakes. This visual novel mode has you exploring your surroundings and working through dialogue options to find clues and key words which will progress the narrative.
Throughout the campaign you will learn much about the 13 protagonists and their connection to the 13 Sentinels. These Sentinels are huge gundam-style mech, created to stave off an oncoming Kaiju invasion.
It’s an epic and gripping tale filled with so much mystery that I found myself often daydreaming at work, wondering what it all could mean and looking forward to returning to uncover more.
The story is served up in small five-to-ten-minute chunks specific to the character you select from the Remembrance menu. This is an interesting way to do things, but unfortunately makes things hard to follow/keep track of. This is the least of your worries, though, because the story elements make up the perfect recipe for a confusing storyline.
There are themes of memory loss, time travel, and cloning. Everything a writer could possibly need to confuse the hell out of the viewer. However, in the case of 13 Sentinels, it actually works really well. Uncovering the truth is a huge part of the motivation behind playing the game.
Each bite-sized chunk that you play through reveals just that little bit more about what is going on. You can see how far you’ve progressed a character’s story via percentages under each protagonist and will receive a trophy at 17% (the length of each prologue), 50%, and 100% completion for all 13 characters.
That’s a whopping 39 trophies which simply require you to progress the story! 100% completion requires replaying stages to discover every piece of information you can. Both so that you can progress the campaign and so that you can actually figure out what’s going on.
Elementary, My Dear Watson
The “Analysis” mode actually helps with the sense of confusion a great deal. There’s no way that across 13 protagonists in a 20+ hour campaign you are going to remember every little detail and get the full picture of what has happened, will happen, and is happening.
Sure, in the moment you will often throw your head back and exclaim “Ohhhhhhhh! I get it now!” However, in true anime fashion, there is a complete information overload with such a convoluted storyline that you’d probably need a quantum computer to untangle everything.
Analysis mode has an “Events” section, where every new piece of information you’ve uncovered about the story is listed in a conveniently chronological order. It tells you what year the events took place, who is involved, and what transpired. You can even use this menu to replay each event too, essentially playing through the game in chronological order if you wish to do so.
The other half of Analysis mode is the “Mystery Files” section. These Mystery Files are essentially collectibles, though you’ll have over half of them by simply completing the game, and the rest are bought with Mystery Points you can earn in Destruction Mode.
You will need to purchase all of them to reach 100% completion of Analysis mode. Luckily, it doesn’t require much. As I said, most of the files under the Mystery Files and Events menus will unlock naturally, and when I played through Destruction Mode to the end, I received more than enough Mystery Points for me to buy every purchasable Mystery File.
These files will tell you about key words in the story to give you context. It’s particularly good for westerners who might wonder what “Yakisoba Pan” and many other japan-specific things are. Additionally, it will explain new concepts and technologies which are specific to this story.
They do go a little over-the-top with this though and give you information that you may deem as unnecessary. Regardless, much of it is certainly interesting.
The Iron Giants
The actual mech-versus-kaiju gameplay doesn’t appear in Remembrance mode at all. This portion of the story is experienced through “Destruction” mode.
Destruction mode is an entirely different game with a whole new set of mechanics, gameplay, and graphics. In destruction mode you’ll find yourself commanding a strike team of up to 6 sentinels across the city, using their abilities to defeat hordes of Kaiju making their way to the Terminal, which you must defend.
The thing I find a little disappointing about this mode is how it works visually. Apart from an occasional drawing of what each Sentinel/Kaiju looks like, you don’t see them. When I select to cut down a thousand-foot-tall war-of-the-worlds-esque tripod with a massive energy-based Mech blade, it would be really cool to be able to see that.
Instead, each individual enemy and ally on the board is simply evoked via an icon. Attacks are presented as bright firework shows consisting of extremely flashy particle effects and so you don’t get to really see the action.
What I do like, though, is that each attack has its own mini animation visible from the attack selection menu which shows you what it would look like in the signature Vanillaware art style. These animations look great and are really quite impressive.
The gameplay in this mode combines RTS gameplay with turn-based combat, common in many japanese RPG titles. It’s actually a lot of fun. Despite being turn-based, the gameplay is very fast-paced and things can go sour far too quickly if you’re not constantly planning ahead and properly surveying the surrounding enemy waves.
On Casual difficulty, it’s a total breeze, and still remains fun thanks to the satisfaction factor of the gameplay. By simply playing through the Destruction mode’s 31 battles once on casual difficulty it is possible to get every trophy you need from this mode without breaking a sweat.
The only potentially difficult trophy in the entire game, however, exists in this mode. You can use the meta-chip currency to purchase upgrades and armaments for your team and in order to unlock a trophy called “Fully-Armed Meta-System” you will need to purchase every possible upgrade for the terminal, as well as all weaponry for each of the 13 sentinels.
Fortunately, by being aware of this trophy ahead of time, I knew to spend my meta-chips wisely, ensuring I was making smart purchases.
Thanks to this, I was able to incorporate the grind for this trophy into my Destruction mode gameplay without needing to resource-grind at the end of the game. By spending meta-chips only on upgrading abilities I would actually use, I made sure my team was still powerful enough to take me to the finale too.
All in all, even the miscellaneous trophies came to me naturally and I was able to earn the platinum trophy without any back-tracking or end-game grinding.
My approach was to simply play Remembrance mode until the game physically wouldn’t let me progress any protagonist’s story without playing Destruction mode. At that point, I’d play 10 levels of destruction mode, making sure to read the bonus objectives so that I could complete them all on my first attempt while also getting an S-rank rating for my efforts.
This is because there are trophies for completing all optional bonus objectives as well as earning an S-rank on 30 stages. This mode is so easy on Casual difficulty that there wasn’t a single instance where I didn’t manage to do that on my first attempt at each stage.
Other than that, I just made sure I was spending meta-chips and Mystery Points at every opportunity, thus solidifying my claim to the platinum.
13 Sentinels Aegis Rim Trophy Guide
Our 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim Trophy Guide will help you to enjoy the excellent story of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, without worrying that you might miss something along the way. Avoid backtracking and end-game cleanups by checking it out before you begin!
If you enjoyed reading this review, please do let us know, it means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted!
You can follow us on Twitter @GetPlat and Instagram @platget where we’ll be sharing updates, screenshots, upcoming reviews and general gripes about the games we’re working on so feel free to follow us or use it as another channel for feedback!