13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a love letter to sci-fi with jaw-dropping visuals.
Originally released on PS4 back in 2020, playing through 13 Sentinels a second time on Switch what really stood out to me is how ingeniously the game connects so many sub-genres and motifs into a cohesive overall experience. There are thirteen characters to get to know, each with their own sci-fi inspiration. Natsuno is essentially ET, Ei is a Jason Bourne-like thriller, Megumi is a dark twist on magical girl anime, and Tomi quickly goes from mystery to Terminator. 13 Sentinels uses those inspirations to subvert expectations and constantly pull the wool over the player’s eyes.
The Nintendo Switch version is the perfect way to experience this sci-fi epic. Atlus has done an impeccable job of porting the game to Nintendo Switch, as it doesn’t feel compromised in any way at all. 13 Sentinels looks especially gorgeous with the vibrant colors of the OLED model.
The game runs at a crisp frame rate the whole time, and I didn’t experience any slowdown whatsoever, even in the more hectic tactical battles. Apart from the stellar visuals, being able to play 13 Sentinels in handheld mode feels perfect, and the ability to jump in and jump out whenever makes the massive story feel much more approachable. Keep in mind, of course, that 13 Sentinels is the exact same game on Switch, and there’s very little in the way of new content. The only addition to this version is that each character gets a couple of extra weapons during the battle sections.
13 Sentinels is essentially broken up into two different gameplay styles, a visual novel-style adventure mode, and top-down real-time tactical battles. Outside of the beginning you can basically approach the character stories in any order you see fit, and it’s remarkable how well everything ties together in the end. The visual novel sections have a big emphasis on experimentation, as you’ll need to compile a variety of keywords in your “thought cloud.” These keywords can then be used in conversations and other contexts to find alternate routes and unlock more of a character’s story.
The story is what really keeps you invested in 13 Sentinels, and the game does a fantastic job of stringing along different mysteries throughout the entire experience. There’s constantly a sense of something “more” going on behind the scenes, and piecing everything together is a hugely satisfying experience.
The battle sections are still the weaker part of 13 Sentinels, but the good news is that the Switch’s small screen doesn’t make them feel unapproachable. You take up to six characters into battle, with the others serving as defenders for your main hub.
Each character fills a different role in combat; for example, Nenji Ogata is an up-close brawler, while Juro Kurabe is focused more on laying down support like turrets and disruptors. Each battle throws a variety of different Kaiju at you, and battles grow quite a bit more complex when you advance into the later stages of the game. Still, combat never feels quite as deep as it could be, and oftentimes it simply feels like something you have to get through to see the next story beat.
13 Sentinels is still one of the most unique gaming experiences of recent years, and the way the game’s disparate stories come together is truly something stunning. There are few games that manage to pay homage to so many other sci-fi series, while also doing something unique all its own, but 13 Sentinels manages it. The Nintendo Switch version is a stunning port that doesn’t make any compromises, and it’s the perfect sci-fi story for the handheld console.
Inverse played 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim on Nintendo Switch ahead of its April 12, 2022 release.
INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.