An early look at 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim: Can Atlus continue its hot streak?

We take an early look at Atlus’ upcoming release, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. All the exciting gameplay and captivating storytelling that can be found in the early moments of the game. 

The hot streak that Atlus has been on in recent memory is comparable only to the streak that Rare went on in the late 90s/early 2000s.

Rare’s streak started with Diddy Kong Racing (technically the Donkey Kong Country games started Rare’s notoriety, but the streak started years later) and would see the creation of Goldeneye, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark, and both Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, two of my favorite games of all time. That streak defined not only Rare’s legacy, but also the Nintendo 64’s legacy as well.

Atlus has been on a very similar streak in recent years. Certainly their Shin Megami Tensei series has been a Japanese staple since the Super Famicon days, and the Persona series has been a cult classic among JRPG fans and anime game fans alike since it arrived on the first Playstation. In 2016, Atlus released Persona 5, a title that brought players and fans to the company that may have never even heard of the Japanese company otherwise.

However, in 2020 (North American Release dates), Atlus has put out a series of great titles that have not only provided fans with countless hours of fun, but may have changed the face of multiple gaming genres completely. Persona 5 Royal has broken turned based combat for any other developer and redefined character development and storytelling the likes that the industry has not seen since Final Fantasy 6. Catherine: Full Body just confirmed what many series fans already knew: that action puzzle games has peaked with this gameplay.

With their next release, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Atlus not only continues that hot streak, but also continues to shake the gaming industry as it exists today.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a beautiful title that uses a unique storytelling method and equally unique gameplay to engage the player into a wonderful world and story. We got the wonderful opportunity to experience the title before it releases on September 22nd of this year, and in order to get readers excited for the release, we wanted to share our early experiences with the title.

The story is a crazy and wonderful experience that involves giant mechs, secret governmental conspiracies, time travel, aliens, and twists and turns at every level. It involves a very unique and diverse cast of characters, including the first officially non-binary character in Atlus’s game catalog. However, due to not wanting to spoil the game and keeping this article to the prologue of the game, we will not be going into the story.

SEGA’s 13 Sentinels - Aegis Rim

SEGA

The first impression players will have of this title is how beautiful it is.

Everything in this game outside of the combat screens is hand-drawn and it is all obviously made with heart. The backgrounds are interesting and help convey the beauty of Japan and traditional Japanese architecture, from the main streets and shops, to the unique design of Japanese schools. The character models, although not extremely detailed, pop on the darker backgrounds and are unique enough for quick recognition and distinguishing who was who.

The UI communicates every detail clearly and quickly to players, and where this maybe a small and uninteresting detail to some, it is important. For how often the players will be looking a few select menus, quickly and clearly communicating to the player helps the game from getting confusing and moving players along.

The music in this title matches the scenes it plays in perfectly: adventurous and mysterious scenes are accompanied by music that feels incomplete and mystical, while the battles are paired with high intensity music that sounds futuristic and appropriate for a battle between giant mechs and dangerous aliens. Sure, it is not the kind of soundtrack you blast in the car (I still only really listen to Persona 5 Royal‘s soundtrack on car rides, with occasional burst of the music or 36 Questions and Hamilton) but it perfectly matches the tone of the game and helps keep the player involved with the scenes.

The voice acting is also remarkable and distinct for each character, which is impressive for a title with as large a cast as this one has. The voice actors clearly received wonderful direction and were thoroughly invested and interested in their characters and their development. I am typically quiet picky about voice acting (acting in general, really) but I was happily surprised by these performances.

However, the most important and interesting part of this title is undeniably the gameplay. The gameplay can be broken into two sections, the combat and the exploration.

SEGA

Early in the game, the player will spend most of their time in the exploration sections, which is where most of the storytelling and world building happens. This is where the player can talk to the characters, learn information, and try and piece together the story. These segments also provide slow pace and great opportunities for players to breath.

During these segments, the player will work on expanding their knowledge of keywords and events in the “Cloud Sync”. These words can be learned through dialogue and exploring the environments, and then used to get further dialogue and information which unlocks further keywords and knowledge. This often made me feel like a detective, and the writers were great at giving you just enough information to make you think you maybe close to understanding everything, while you were still far from the real revelations.

When the players are not in the adventure segments, they are locked into a hectic, fast paced, real time combat system.

These real time battle put the characters in giant mech suits, charged with defending certain locations and taking out waves of attacking aliens.

Each character has a unique mech suit, each designed for a different type of combat. Some are long range strikers with lasers that could level cities, others are missile firing machines that eliminate choke points, while others still prefer to get dirty and use their fists. These different lineups and loadouts make each encounter unique and makes the player think about maneuvering and placement, while also focusing on attacking and protecting.

These battles communicate loads of information very clearly and concisely, which is something that almost every real time battle system ever has failed at. The UIs are great, the visuals are simple yet understandable, and the feedback loop makes every decision feel exactly how I imagine it would look in real life.

The game is wild fun, and the mystery that takes place throughout is extremely interesting and reminds me of some of my favorite stories. For pete’s sake, the game even directly name drops and reference many of my favorite pieces of literature, like War of the Worlds.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim comes out on September 22nd for Playstation 4, and I highly suggest checking it out! Not convinced? Well keep your eyes open for my full review that will drop around release day!