13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM: REVIEW

 The games of the Japanese studio Vanillaware cannot be confused with anything - the visual style chosen by the team is too recognizable. Beautiful artwork with adorable characters, smooth, mesmerizing animation and stunning backdrops that immerse you in the atmosphere from the first seconds - all this is preserved in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim , a long-awaited new product for Vanillaware fans . But everything else in the game bears little resemblance to what the company was doing earlier. This is the most ambitious, non-standard and large-scale project for the studio, which can easily be called the best in its portfolio.


Anxious wait

Apart from the reissue and remakes, the last release of the studio was Dragon's Crown in 2013. Since then, the developers have tackled 13 Sentinels and ran into a host of problems in the process. It turned out to be difficult to realize all the ideas - this is a story game with 13 main characters, an unusual universe, time travel and many references to sci-fi books and films. A lot of attention is paid to the story and dialogue, and the narrative is broken down into dozens of small episodes. Fortunately, as you progress through the intricate and detailed storyline, it becomes more and more understandable.

In prologue 13 Sentinels gradually introduces the player to most of the characters. Boyfriend Juro is a fan of old sci-fi movies about alien invasions and huge robots. Girl Iori constantly sees strange dreams, because of which her regime is violated and she constantly falls asleep right in the classroom. Later we meet a soldier from the 40s suffering from fugitive amnesia, an athlete who believes in "green men" - all the characters are completely different, and you can imagine how difficult it was for the writers to write them all into one huge story.

13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM: REVIEW

There is no main character here - all the main characters are given equal attention. As soon as the prologue for one of the teenagers is completed, he gets into the hero selection menu - if you want, you can continue his story. Or you will learn shocking details about someone by going through the story for another character - you can switch to a neighboring character and find out more details. But often the game limits the number of options - it will not be possible to immediately see from beginning to end the entire path of the chosen protagonist.

If the plot can be described with the words "Teenagers control large robots and fight monsters", then later this short phrase is overgrown with dozens of additional words and terms. Robots are called Sentinels, monsters are called kaiju. In dialogues, teleportations, nanomachines, clones, robots, terminals are constantly mentioned - in general, a jumble of everything that science fiction has offered for hundreds of years. And since the characters are mostly young and attend school at school, romance, falling in love, awkward attempts to meet and other delights of youth are not complete.

13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM: REVIEW

All this works in an amazing way. Not a single character is annoying - even though it is a soldier from the era of the Second World War, surprised at the frank outfits of girls in physical education, even a pugnacious guy, even whispering girlfriends - everyone has such interesting stories that following their lives is insanely exciting. Observing their reactions during the leaps between eras, finding out their true purpose, being surprised at unexpected turns (of which there are in abundance here) does not get bored during all 30 hours. At first, you can get confused about the names because of the huge amount of information, but, like in the Yakuza series , where I also constantly suffer from this, at some point you start to get used to it.

Conversations on different topics

If in past Vanillaware games an emphasis was placed on action, here everything is arranged differently. Much of 13 Sentinels resembles a side-view adventure with visual novel elements. We walk around the location, interact with objects, communicate with people - nothing else really. The words and phrases heard in the dialogues are entered into the "thought cloud" of each individual character - you can open it, click on the selected word and hear what the hero thinks about this. Sometimes phrases from the cloud need to be applied to people you meet in a particular episode in order to continue a conversation with them.

13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM: REVIEW

There is practically no place to get stuck here, except in a couple of moments, and there are no puzzles - the main puzzle will be history. In addition, unlike some other visual novels, there is only one ending here, it is just that you have to get to it in an unusual way. Sometimes a short episode will consist of successive events, and sometimes a fork will appear - on the first passage, talk to the person on the left, and on the second, address the hero on the right. But usually you don't have to think about it - the game itself leads by the handle.

Get into the robot!

Another important part of 13 Sentinels is the combat episodes in which a squad of teenagers in Sentinels fight kaiju. At the beginning of the passage, you come across them in each prologue, getting to know the characters. Then the battles are transferred to a separate menu, and you can not touch them for a very, very long time. At the same time, they are still necessary for the complete passage of the game - at some point you will be asked to reach a certain wave in order to continue the story of this or that hero.

In these episodes, the beauty of the visual style almost completely disappears, except for the portraits of the guys sitting in Sentinels. The game begins to look like Frozen Synapse and other schematic strategies - here is a city with houses, here is a base that needs to be protected, here are opponents painted in bright colors. The gameplay is similar to a tower defense, where instead of turrets - your heroes, whom you give orders. Sentinels fall into four categories: some are good for long-range combat, others can deal massive melee damage, and so on.

Over time, more and more options are unlocked: for robots, you buy new abilities and improve them, making your missiles and machine guns much more powerful, and after ten completed waves you can invest the earned points in the characteristics of Sentinels - to increase attack power, speed and everything else. In addition, robots earn new levels depending on how active they were, and over time they acquire unique passive skills - someone becomes stronger if allies are far from him, while someone's parameters increase depending on the number of opponents on map.

The main problem with combat episodes is that they don't seem to be of the same quality against the background of the main story. It's more of a bonus entertainment, an opportunity to take a short break from the plot and do something else. The difficulty here is not high - I completed all the battles at an intermediate level and never saw that at least one of my pilots was close to death. New opponents appear often enough so that the monotony does not torment. There are enemies that explode after death, which can be pushed closer to their comrades; there are flying kaiju falling to the ground from our electromagnetic pulse of

Interest add bonus tests, for the successful completion of which additional materials will be unlocked in the menu, revealing details about the 13 Sentinels universe... The game constantly offers some conditions: either you must choose the specified character, then go in a squad of four teenagers instead of six, then complete the task in 60 or even 50 seconds - time stops when choosing an attack, so it's not so difficult.

13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM: REVIEW

However, there is no depth in these battles, and in pumping too. The plan is always the same: you go through missions, get points for them, spend them on improving the abilities of robots depending on their classes (you enhance missiles with some, increase melee damage with others) and complete the following tasks without any problems, repeating all the same before last wave. The battles do not take too much time, they are easy to go through and in some cases are even exciting, but I can easily understand those to whom they seem superfluous.

All dialogues and monologues of the characters are beautifully voiced - on the day of release, a package with English dubbing appeared, which is surprisingly not so bad. But I would still recommend the Japanese version. If only because one of the heroines was delightfully voiced by the same actress as Ryuko Matoi in Kill la Kill .

13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM: REVIEW

In an interview, director and screenwriter NieR: Automata Yoko Taro (Yoko Taro) called studio Vanillaware Japanese national treasure and hoped that she would "never cease to release the game." It's hard to disagree with him - this team knows how to surprise with projects that not only attract with a beautiful picture, but turn out to be something much deeper. In 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, there is especially a lot of depth - the strategic action sequences are not impressive, but everything else remains in the memory for a long time and causes an acute desire to discuss the plot twists and turns with someone.

Pros:recognizable visual style with beautifully drawn and animated characters; charming characters who find themselves in unique situations that are very interesting to watch; a sci-fi story filled with details; unusual storytelling style with division into episodes, which perfectly suits a confusing and intriguing plot; varied soundtrack.

Cons: the episodes with battles are not as high quality and beautiful as the main story.

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