13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Switch Version is a Captivating Sci-Fi Epic

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Switch Preview

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim’s Switch version is a great port of a truly great game. I know we’re all getting a bit tired of remakes, remasters, and ports at the moment, but give this title a chance. There may be nothing new under the sun, but old story beats and character archetypes can still feel new when they’re used this well. Plus, the game demands that players put the puzzle pieces together themselves, and that puts a whole new spin on everything.

In short, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a time travel story, which makes it complicated by default. Developer Vanillaware decided to get around this by incorporating its labyrinthine plot into the gameplay. This is easily the best decision they could’ve made and it brings a sense of vibrant life to what could’ve been a confusing mess. I mean, it’s still confusing, but now I care about figuring out what’s really happening. And if 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim’s storytelling has one strength, it’s that it makes you care.

Get in the Robot

Juro crashes his mecha in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: in an alternate 1980s, a Japanese city is under attack by enormous monsters. A group of teenagers must use gigantic robots called Sentinels to defend it. However, the situation is far more complicated than it first appears. To truly understand what’s happening to them, you must play through all 13 of their stories. The journey will take you from the past to the distant future and everywhere in between. To save the world, you must understand the true nature of this conflict. And trust me, that’s gonna be an ordeal in itself.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an anachronistic story that’s part high school drama, part sci-fi fight for survival. This results in a very compelling narrative, though if you dislike anime you’ll probably have some trouble getting through the high school sections. Fortunately, the time travel and giant robot plot kick into gear very quickly. By which I mean, this game drops you right into the action with a kaiju attack already underway. One of the game’s 13 protagonists hops into a Sentinel to fight it. Unfortunately, she has no idea what she’s doing, and the kaiju won’t wait to let her figure it out. The high stakes make an otherwise standard tutorial quite thrilling. Especially when it becomes clear that her fellow pilots know much more than she does.

13 Sentinels, 13 Stories

Shu and Yuki meet in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim a triumph of non-linear storytelling. It’s an epic sci-fi adventure, it’s a time travel conspiracy thriller, and it’s even a romance. Above all else, it’s a coming-of-age story for 13 very different teenagers from very different walks of life. And it’s full of nods to classic sci-fi properties that feel very heartfelt. The cast includes a number of ordinary high school students from various time periods, hardened delinquents, time-traveling operatives from the future, an amnesiac with a gun, and even a displaced young soldier from 1944. Of course, it’s not the 1944 players may be familiar with. In short, this is the kind of story you usually find in a sprawling multi-season anime tucked neatly into one Switch game.

There are lots of snappy dialogue and pop culture references, but the characters’ relationships still manage to seem real and compelling. Each individual character has their own web of confused and turbulent bonds. These connections are gradually revealed, explored, and tested over the course of the story. Furthermore, each protagonist has their own priorities and their own driving motivations. Some of them also know much more than others. This becomes very clear when they start coming into conflict with each other.

Ei's Thought Cloud in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.

Mechanically, the game alternates between 2D adventure game segments and top-down RTS mecha battles, both of which translate well to Switch. In the 2D sections, players interact with other characters, solve puzzles, and gather information you can use to figure out the game’s mysteries. In the 3D sections, they fight for their lives against alien invaders. Specifically, the RTS sections require you to guide Sentinel pilots into battle to defend the Terminals. These high-priority targets could lead to the destruction of the city if they fall, which would mean game over.

Alternate Timeline Mayhem

You can choose between Casual, Normal, and Intense difficulty levels. However, this specifically applies to the battle sequences. The adventure sequences remain relatively straightforward–just check every area for clues and go over every idea in Thought Cloud. There’s also an entire Analysis mode just for reviewing events and lore, which is really useful. Buying Mystery Files with Mystery Points can help you piece together what’s happening in real-time. And it makes you feel like a detective.

Prologue text of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.

The adventure game sections have the soft lighting and blurry colors of watercolor paintings, while the character designs are distinctly anime. The result is equal parts realistic and highly stylized. It makes 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim feel very surreal and dreamlike. Meanwhile, the RTS sections feature a harsh and futuristic art design that turns the dream into a nightmare. Each character’s animations are distinct and charming. The soundtrack features a mix of soothing tunes straight out of a slice of life anime and ominous, discordant tracks suitable for a warzone. Either way, it’s incredibly atmospheric. The game is fully voiced and offers both Japanese and English audio.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a very Japanese story, both in the sense that it draws inspiration from classic anime and in the sense that it addresses strong themes from a very Japanese perspective. This has its upsides and its downsides. On one hand, it’s very immersive. On the other hand, one of the protagonists is a temporally displaced World War 2 child soldier. People who are sensitive to the way Japan tends to talk about World War 2 may want to steer clear.

All in all, if you liked Persona 5’s social commentary but wished it had more mecha—and more 80s goodness—you’ll probably like this game. Just be prepared to take notes and make your own conspiracy board.

***Switch code provided by the publisher***