13 Sentinels, the newest game from Vanillaware, breaks the studio’s mold. Here’s what critics are saying about the unique title.
As attention shifts to the PlayStation 5, there are still some games left in the PlayStation 4’s lifespan. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is one of them. The recently launched game was developed by Vanillaware, makers of visually stunning 2D games like Odin Sphere and Dragon’s Crown.
Unlike Vanillaware’s previous efforts, 13 Sentinels isn’t a side-scrolling action-RPG in a fantasy setting. Instead, the game offers up a variety of gameplay styles, including real time strategy and tower defense, and tells a sci-fi story of mechs and kaiju. Critical feedback has been mostly positive, with many praising the story and art, which may help it break through a crowded field. Here’s what critics are saying about it.
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Joe Juba, Game Informer: “The bonkers story and gorgeous art are the main attractions in 13 Sentinels. It also has some tactical combat, but the game is primarily a visual novel about a group of teenagers who pilot giant armored suits called sentinels. They do this to save the world from an invasion of seemingly alien beasts, but the characters also deal with own personal drama along the way, navigating their relationships and desires in the midst of the looming crisis.”
George Yang, The Escapist: “What’s refreshing is Vanillaware’s approach to a visual novel. While most games in the genre usually just have players pressing one or two buttons to advance text, 13 Sentinels takes a similar approach to Danganronpa. You can control characters in 2D space and run around throughout the game’s different settings in Vanillaware’s signature gorgeous art style. Anyone who’s played the studio’s previous games such as Dragon’s Crown and Odin Sphere will once again stare in awe.”
Scott Baird, Screen Rant: “13 Sentinels is an incredible game, but it [is] also very niche. A narrative-heavy/strategy fusion that plays like an interactive mecha anime is not going to be to everyone’s taste, and it demands the player’s attention at all times. This isn’t a game that people can easily emote to while playing on stream, nor is it something that can be played with half an eye and half an ear while listening to podcasts. 13 Sentinels has a lot to offer, but it also requires a certain level of engagement from the player, and that might be too much to ask for some, especially with so many game releases in a given calendar year. It’s important to put that out there while recommending the game, as 13 Sentinels definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.”
Matt T.M. Kim, IGN: “Sure, I was a little disappointed when I found out I wouldn’t be taking part in awesomely animated 2D mech-vs-kaiju slug-fests, but these real-time tactical battles have their own unique visual flair, as well as a respectable amount of depth to them. Rather than focusing on the visual spectacle of mechs, Vanillaware chose to emphasize the city-wide scale scope of the fight. You’ll face literally hundreds of kaiju, and there is a specific kind of awe in wiping out entire portions of an enemy horde with a well-placed missile barrage.”
Josh Tolentino, Game Critics: “Getting the bigger picture of 13 Sentinels‘ narrative is less like watching a movie or reading a book, and more like assembling a massive jigsaw puzzle, consolidating little sections at a time and slowly filling in gaps until a detailed, final picture emerges. It’s a sort of storytelling that would only be possible in games.
As ever, all this happens against some of the best 2D visuals Vanillaware’s ever produced. Even since the days of Odin Sphere, the delicate animations and color of Vanillaware titles seemed to come from an alternate universe where 2D sprites dominated art styles well into the 3D era, and 13 Sentinels shows off a new level of that artistry.”
CJ Andriessen, Destructoid: “If it were told linearly, the story for 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim would easily be one of the best science-fiction stories gaming has given us. But by breaking it up in a non-linear fashion, there is a greater reward for those players who pay close attention to the dialogue and actions of these characters. Mixing its pieces around adds an element of surprise and allows the writers to offer up twists that might not have otherwise been possible if this story were a straight line. This is a seriously gripping narrative, a stay-up-until-2:00 am-reading-subtitles-because-you’re-so-damn-hooked caliber of storytelling. It may be intentionally complex, but it’s that complexity that enriches the overall experience in ways few other games can manage.”
Jenni Lada, Siliconera: “There’s also an exemplary use of space here. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is very much a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ game. That could mean not noticing another major character is someone in the background in another protagonist’s storyline. It’s about appreciating the way light plays off of characters to create space and distance. So even though Juro is talking to Megumi in her prologue chapter and he’s right there, the way he’s in the shadows and she’s in the sunlight emphasizes the change and difference between them. Vanillaware’s mise-en-scene, which is a fancy film way of saying the way it arranges characters and their environments, is extraordinary. The forced perspectives used on Sentinels and Kaiju especially emphasize the threat they pose and how ‘other’ they feel compared to a relatively normal cityscape.”
Heidi Kemps, GameSpot: “But ultimately, the biggest problem with 13 Sentinels is that a chunk of the game is merely good while the majority of it is outstanding. The stories of these kids and their giant robots absolutely consumed me during my playtime, and even now, I’m ruminating over certain plot points, events and relationships, wondering if I should go back through the archives to see what I’ve missed. I don’t think I’ll forget my time in the 13 Sentinels world, and I doubt you will, either.”
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