Atlus really excels with games that pit teenagers against Armageddon, and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim from developer Vanillaware is yet another fantastic exemplar of that. The game is intentionally enigmatic at the beginning, being told from 13 different perspectives over five different eras, and that makes a bit hard to really get hooked on at the start, but if you stick with the game long enough for a single narrative to start to coalesce, you end up with a fantastic story full of plot twists, intrigue, and mysteries that don't get fully revealed until the very end.
Without going into enough detail to spoil anything, the game starts with invasions by kaiju that apparently possess the ability to travel through time, destroying one version of the same city after another in different period across time. Built to combat these kaiju are the Sentinels, giant robots that certain people can pilot. Each of the 13 characters from whose perspectives the story is told is one of those certain people (hence the title), and over the course of the story, they awaken to their potential as Sentinel pilots. I know that, just from that synopsis, it sounds *very* stereotypically anime, but like a Russian nesting doll, each time you think you've figured out what's going on, you discover that there's another layer beneath that complicates your understanding of the story and contradicts the revelations you've experienced. It's a wild trip that really challenges your understanding of reality and reinvents itself multiple times throughout the story.
13 Sentinels is main divided into two main sections, Remembrance and Destruction. Remembrance is principally a visual novel although not totally kinetic like Muv-Luv or When They Cry; you can walk around to a certain extent although the game limits that pretty strictly based on what's going on, and there's some very light puzzle solving needed to progress. There are some mild branching paths as well, but this isn't done in a player-choice way since you need to play through all of the paths to progress; it's more just different parts of that story segment. Destruction, on the other hand, is an over the top real-time strategy combat mode where you control the Sentinels in battles against the kaiju. Destruction has some RPG elements as you can accumulate "Meta-Chips" that can be spent to unlock and upgrade Sentinel weapons, unlock major combat abilities, and upgrade Sentinel stats. You'll end up bouncing back and forth between the two as there are progression requirements that need to be filled once you hit a certain point; you'll need to do a certain amount in Destruction to unlock the next part of a character's path in Remembrance or vice versa.
Because of how the storytelling is done, my interest in the game was kind of like putting a car in neutral at the top of a hill; at first, it will start rolling super slowly and just creep along, but soon there's enough momentum built up that gravity takes hold, and the car starts to roll faster and faster. That's how I was here. I was absolutely not captivated by the story for the first couple hours as I just felt lost and in the deep end, so to speak, with no clue what was going on. As I stuck with it, though, and the pieces started to fall into place, it became wildly addicting, and I just had to know what happened next and what mystery was going to be solved with the next Remembrance section. I like it when games immediately hook me, but if that's not going to happen, this is slow-but-increasingly-intense burn is definitely the way to go.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a hell of an experience, and it's definitely one that I strongly recommend. It's very anime, so if that style isn't your cup of tea, this might not be for you, but if you either like or don't mind the anime style and enjoy a good mystery that gets slowly unraveled bit by bit over time, this is absolutely a game to check out. Being an Atlus published title, it will probably rise in price physically, but if you can either find a good price on it physically or don't mind digital downloads, this is definitely a solid game that you don't want to miss.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.