Despite what the box and blurbs might tell you, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim isn’t really a game about piloting giant robots. I mean, sure, you do fight off massive swarms of building-sized creatures hellbent on total destruction in an alternate-universe 1980s Japan at some points. But these seemingly model-kit-ready metal combat suits are just a plot device, a cog in the story. In actuality, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a character drama: a twisting, turning sci-fi epic jumping through time and dimensions as it follows the lives of its numerous teen protagonists. Missiles, Gatling guns, and armor-crushing metal fistcuffs are merely a side event to the everyday drama of highschoolers who find themselves unwilling pawns in a bigger game with the fate of the world at stake. And you know what? That’s great. Once the narrative of 13 Sentinels sinks its hooks into you, you want nothing more than to go along for the ride up until the very climax.
13 Sentinels is a unique, genre-mixing experiment. It takes elements of point-and-click adventure games, visual novels, real-time strategy games, and tower defense games, mixing them together to create an experience that’s quite unlike anything else out there. Things get rolling when young Japanese highschooler Juro Kurabe is called upon to fight a horde of alien invaders in 1985, only for the story to flash back to earlier that year, then over to young soldiers in 1945 wartime-era Japan, then to two schoolgirls witnessing a crisis in the year 2025. You immediately meet a huge cast of characters across different eras, learning that there is one constant: the existence of Sentinels, massive human-piloted robot weapons who exist to protect the world from otherworldly monsters.
The game is split into three parts: a Remembrance mode where you uncover the story piece by piece, a Destruction mode where you use giant Sentinel mechs to protect the city from invasion, and an Analysis mode that collects all of the information and story scenes you have discovered through gameplay. Remembrance is presented as an episodic series where you explore and interact with various environments and characters to advance the plot. Destruction, in contrast, is an overhead-view strategy segment where you use the Sentinels to defend a critical underground access point from invading forces.