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13 Sentinels: I'll Be Back to the Future War of the Worlds

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is the latest game from Vanillaware. It is also nothing like their previous games!

Essentially, it is a visual novel/adventure game with RTS battles. The story plays out in an extremely, extremely non-linear fashion, as you try to piece together what the hell is even happening with these 13 high schoolers who are apparently piloting giant mecha against invading kaiju in the future, but also time traveling around each other and possibly jumping in and out of alternate timelines maybe??? I dunno, I've been playing for 8 hours and still don't know how all these 13 kids end up piloting mecha in the far future.

Of those 8 hours, I've fought 1 battle beyond the tutorial and the rest of that time has been spent exploring the story. This game's story is dense. It also wears its sci-fi influences on its sleeve and wants you to be in on it. I'm a total sucker for this kitchen sink approach and it really does throw everything at the wall. You might think that means it's a huge mess, but the sheer mystery and intrigue happening is incredibly fun to puzzle out.

"Okay, I know it's Vanillaware so: how horny is it?"

There's a very trope-y older woman nurse character who has some bouncy breasts (and also later is shown in a full-body black leather cat suit). In addition to that, there are portraits of every character while they're in the cockpit of a Sentinel. One of the "conceits" in this story is that the pilot of a Sentinel can't wear clothes in the cockpit (naturally??), so this means all of the female characters are given pretty suggestive poses in their cockpit portraits, while they're already naked. So there's that. But also, the teenagers are sensibly written and are not even slightly acting like horny anime teens. Which does make the less-overt-compared-to-past-Vanillaware sexualization stick out even more, because the writing itself really is not horny at all, and when sexuality is brought up at all, it's executed at an appropriate level of "shy teenagers acting shy and naive about sex."

tl;dr: Do you like sci-fi stories and anime and anime sci-fi stories? You might just enjoy this here game!
 
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demi

(She/Her)
I'm twenty-someodd hours in and just blown away at the caliber of game they have created. The tutorial for the battle stuff is long, but honestly I needed it: I'm not much of an RTS person, so having multiple trial battles really helped me get the gist of things. By the time they I got to the battles where they kind of "turn you loose", I felt like I was prepared for the challenges (so far, "Intense", their hard setting, has been pretty manageable, just like previous Vanillaware "Hard" modes such as Leifthrasir's). Anyway, I'm not usually grabbed by sci-fi but I can't get enough of this game. I didn't think the battles were gonna be too interesting but I'm just having so much fun. I particularly enjoy the progression systems that they have provided, though I only just unlocked Sentinel-specific model upgrades. I love every one of these characters. I was so hoping Vanillaware would return to more choreographed, thoughtful, scene writing, and they've delivered it in spades. The story's definitely bigger than my head is tho, and I can already feel the strain on my retention capacity...

Also, the music has greatly contributed to my experience of some of the particularly unnerving / creepy story scenes. There's no way Manabu Namiki didn't do the composition / arrangement for the post-battle victories, it's right at home in a CAVE shmup lol!
 
I beat it already! It's pretty great.

There were several times where I put off playing a character's story because they didn't seem very interesting, but then they ended up being so compelling I couldn't stop playing them until the game forced me to do something else. They did a really good job making everyone's story feel unique. They also do a really good job teasing all the big twists. Nothing comes completely out of left field, and I had most of the stuff figured out well before the game made it all explicit.

The battles were maybe a little too skewed towards just alpha-striking everything immediately, even on Intense. There's a lot of utility/defensive skills and equipment, and I just never really found them to be very useful. I used the Metaskill to give everyone a shield exactly once, and used some anti-missile stuff or EMP once or twice a mission, but otherwise it was all blasting or placing turrets/interceptors to blast for me every turn. Never took any terminal damage, never took more than ~10% city damage, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times any Sentinels took more than some minor chip damage. I never broke my battle chain either. It was fun working around the limitations that brought, though I did have to replay a few missions for character-based optional objectives when I couldn't field them because of BOL.
 

spines

behold my godlike
(she/her, or something)
Also, the music has greatly contributed to my experience of some of the particularly unnerving / creepy story scenes. There's no way Manabu Namiki didn't do the composition / arrangement for the post-battle victories, it's right at home in a CAVE shmup lol!
since i've only been hearing the game audio occasionally so far my current impressions given this are: 1) the sound design in this game is bonkers good 2) it's always very weird to hear namiki music outside of a shmup (i love you though trauma center utk2*) 3) the combat songs are very stressful to hear while concentrating hard at mahjong

*i remember thinking for several hours "huh, i wonder who this is, it doesn't sound like meguro..." and then this song came on and i knew i didn't even have to look it up
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
At the rate I'm playing this game, I'm gonna have to do a whole lot of battles in a row. Because I just want to keep playing the story and eventually it's gonna lock enough of the character stories behind battle completion. But holy shit there's just so much going on with the plot I can't help myself.
 

falz

(He/Him)
Just wrapped up the game and got the plat for good measure. It was great? Apparently, no one bought this game and it makes me sad. People are into mechs... people like anime... people like crazy sci-fi shenanigans. Its got all that in spades as well as some cogent/resonant points to make. This one ranks alongside Odin Sphere, if not higher for me.

I've heard some complaints about the battle system, but I suppose those things I've heard such as it being too easy and repetitive didn't really apply to me. I quickly found a nice rhythm balancing the story and RTS portions. I played story until I couldn't progress, then switched over and did an entire area (ten battles), then switched back, repeat, repeat. The difficulty level of 'Intense' felt great and I stuck with that as I made sure to complete all the mission objectives and S rank before continuing. As someone relatively new to the RTS genre, I found them challenging and required me to use most of the tools at my disposal. The final battle had me rethink my entire strategy and attempt it with multiple team compositions until I found something that worked. Afterwards I found I was totally impressed by the experience.
 
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Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
Apparently, no one bought this game and it makes me sad. People are into mechs... people like anime... people like crazy sci-fi shenanigans. Its got all that in spades as well as some cogent/resonant points to make.

I was potentially interested but couldn't get past all the exploitative shots of high schoolers. It's a shame.
 

falz

(He/Him)
Oh yeah, not gonna lie that stuff was aggravating. Consuming a lot of media from Japan (and kinda in general) I've developed the potentially not good ability to compartmentalize some of this stuff away from my overall opinion of something. But for sure there is a small part of this game that is George Kamitani's male gaze directed at 16 year old women. If you had any fears that it would get worse, I could say that it doesn't past anything you see your first hour of playing.
 

fanboymaster

(He/Him)
I'd probably grab this on Switch but a 50 hour (by many accounts, and it's Vanillaware so I believe them) VN/Strategy game on a console I can't flip on that casually sounds like a recipe for not finishing.
 

falz

(He/Him)
My playthrough was 43 hours. That's getting the platinum trophy and at a somewhat slower pace playing with my partner. I'd say its more like 32-37 hours for the average playthrough. Still not inconsequential, for sure.

Oh yeah, before picking the game up I for sure googled "13 sentinels Switch release" and from what I got back it sounds like there are absolutely no plans to do anything with this game post PS4 release.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
I'd probably grab this on Switch but a 50 hour (by many accounts, and it's Vanillaware so I believe them) VN/Strategy game on a console I can't flip on that casually sounds like a recipe for not finishing.
I’m in a similar boat, though if it did come out on the Switch, I suspect it would be part of larger port selection with the remixed Odin Sphere, Muramasa plus DLC, add Dragon’s Crown, and I’m more inclined to get those first.
 
Are there news/rumors about Vanillaware games on Switch, or is this just something people are hoping for?

I am also hoping for it, but other than Muramasa originally being a Wii game it seems like maybe they have some deal (or, at least, some kind of a relationship) with Sony?
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I was potentially interested but couldn't get past all the exploitative shots of high schoolers. It's a shame.

Oh yeah, not gonna lie that stuff was aggravating. Consuming a lot of media from Japan (and kinda in general) I've developed the potentially not good ability to compartmentalize some of this stuff away from my overall opinion of something. But for sure there is a small part of this game that is George Kamitani's male gaze directed at 16 year old women. If you had any fears that it would get worse, I could say that it doesn't past anything you see your first hour of playing.
Just to be clear I'm not personally missing some of this stuff: you guys are mostly talking about the still shots of the teenagers while they're in the cockpits of the Sentinels, right? With lots of suggestive poses and uh, they're all naked? I probably should edit my OP to mention this...
 

Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
Not even just the cockpit scenes...











It's been a lot.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I would note specifically one of the main promotional visuals for the game being a line-up of the cast displaying some form of digitized markings on their bodies, and uniformly it's the girls who are posed and have that mark placed on them in a way that communicates a tantalizing leer, while the boys are just like, hand-modeling, with one salacious ankle flash. It doesn't put its best foot forward with any of this stuff, and the subjects being real-worldish teenagers makes the usual Kamitani sexualization more fraught than other contexts in the past might have, even if by varying standards it's less overt with some of it.

EDIT: yep
 

Seven

Enters, pursued by a bear
(he/him)
Vanillaware is one of my favorite developers, but I skipped this game since I don't have a PS4 and see no reason to buy a console just for one game. I'm hoping Atlus will pull a Catherine: Full Body with this one and port it to the Switch.

Honestly I would love to see Switch ports for all of Vanillaware's games. Playing Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Muramasa Rebirth, and Dragon's Crown on the Vita was great and I felt that the pick-up-and-play aspect of portables helped to ease the somewhat repetitive nature of their games that tends to be a common complaint.
 

falz

(He/Him)
That larger sample image is not in the game, but yeah if we wanna put the kibosh on Kamitani's work on this forum let's go
 

Kishi

Little Waves
(They/Them)
Staff member
Moderator
I know. It's the background for a PS4 theme used to promote the game, for people to have that on their Home screen at all times.

I agree with @Peklo that it's a problem with this work in particular because the characters are unequivocally schoolchildren in a relatable setting.
 

Paul le Fou

Pickle Bus Owns Tulip Town
(He)
you guys are mostly talking about the still shots of the teenagers while they're in the cockpits of the Sentinels, right? With lots of suggestive poses and uh, they're all naked? I probably should edit my OP to mention this...
That gives a very different impression than what's in the OP, yes
 

falz

(He/Him)
Honestly I would love to see Switch ports for all of Vanillaware's games. Playing Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, Muramasa Rebirth, and Dragon's Crown on the Vita was great and I felt that the pick-up-and-play aspect of portables helped to ease the somewhat repetitive nature of their games that tends to be a common complaint.
Yeah, that's the dream scenario :) . Though, I'm not sure how well they're doing after this one! Wondering how much we will see from Vanillaware in the future, period. 13 Sentinels was delayed so many times and ended up being such a flop that it puts it all into question. Sucks because its such a fantastic game.
 

falz

(He/Him)
Its been fun slowly seeing more and more people I follow playing and enjoying 13 Sentinels. At USGamer, Katy reviewed and enjoyed it and later on Nadia Oxford became a big fan. Vinny on the Beastcast just mentioned he started it and likes it. The Sable developer started it and enjoys it. This game wasn't successful, but maybe there is hope that word of mouth spreads and people start to really notice it over time.
 
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madhair60

Video games
lmao at the OP saying the game is surprisingly not that horny then detailing that the mech pilots are all naked and in suggestive poses

like what would be more horny than that in the vanillaware catalogue, i'm serious

edit: sorry, i see this has been discussed already
 

falz

(He/Him)
Yeah, kind of a shame how that's dominating a lot of the discourse, not that I'm blaming anyone besides Vanillaware itself for including that stuff. I just like seeing posts like this and this!
 

Paul le Fou

Pickle Bus Owns Tulip Town
(He)
I started playing this and I'm enjoying it! The complete separation between battle and story modes is a little off - I'm not really sure how to approach it. I kinda liked how things were interlaced in the introduction chapter, but then you lose the brain overload and such. I was trying to balance out my party members but I think it might be better to exhaust 6 then exhaust another 6, which would give enough time to recover... I'll have to mess with it more next time.

Similarly, with the story chapters, I've been bouncing around doing different characters to keep them around similar completion percentages... but I wonder if doing one at a time might be better. I've also recently realized that sometimes you go back and do the same starting point and the content can actually differ, so I might pick one or two and follow them as far as I can (or at least exhaust available branches) before moving on to the next. I guess. I'll just mess around by my own whims, I guess! So much content, just kind of dumped at your feet so freely!
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I finished this off earlier this month. I enjoyed it overall. The salacious factor was... surprisingly muted, despite a lot of the artwork here. I do have to say, though, that I felt like the 25-30 hours it took could have been trimmed slightly. At first, I enjoyed the adventure segments more, but there weren't many big reveals left towards the end of me finishing off the few characters left, so it felt like I could move on.

The battles were pretty fun. They reminded me a bit of a fusion between Growlanser and Faselei!, although with the added "tower defense" portion to the proceedings. It wasn't terribly difficult on normal, as I managed to S-Rank every mission my first go except for the penultimate mission, which took me two quick restarts and a near win before getting through (and with the S-Rank).

Overall, I'd say it was very good... but I did find myself often wishing that a) it wasn't a Japanese school setting and b) there was more interactivity in the adventure segments.
 

Paul le Fou

Pickle Bus Owns Tulip Town
(He)
I'm about 31% into the story section according to the mode-select screen and jesus christ, they are throwing literally everything at the wall. I love how absolutely bonkers it is, and I've gotten great enjoyment out of explaining it to my girlfriend and just listening how absurd it all sounds, yet it may all still fit together.

I love how it wears its influences on its sleeve and gets deep into homage. We have the obvious Godzilla, War of the Worlds, ET and Terminator references so far, plus what appears to be at least a nod to Madoka Magica, and god knows what else; I'm probably missing some Japanese TV/movies as well, or maybe it's just the familiar tropes.

I called the "School nurse is future girl" based on their hair about one chapter before it was suggested then confirmed, and started hunting for other adult versions of selves. At this point I assume literally everyone who isn't one of the 13 teenagers is a future-self, clone, robot, AI, or combination of the above, of one of the 13. Ida, the SIU guy, seems like he'd be Amiguchi (who identified himself as Ida in the dreams), but he doesn't really look like him. It could be Renya, though we also have old-Renya as the 2188 Shikishima president, so... who knows! I also saw the "kaiju" twist coming a ways off, because all the kaiju were clearly construction vehicles, and characters even commented specifically on it.

But one thing I really appreciate about the game is that they tease out revelations, then don't keep them secret for a long time while you're rolling your eyes saying "Come on, it's obvious that she's Morimura!" They give you hints, then respect you as audience enough to confirm it and move on to the next thing. I love it when media does this - season 1 of Dark on Netflix was fantastic about this - because it's better for keeping me as an audience interested and giving me more to puzzle over, while not trying to make out like something pretty clear is a great mystery and making the characters look like idiots (and treating the audience as such too).

So we have a hijacked terraforming process, time travel, time loops, other planets, (is the loop a time loop or a repeating cycle of events, or both? Is the time travel actually time travel at all, or space travel??), nanomachines that can erase/download memories, people turned into AIs, implanted simulated personalities, outright androids, nano-viruses, the underground UFO (also probably not actually alien, or is it?), a guy(?) possessing a robot that looks like his own grandma but in the future, and more. And a talking cat. Again, it can only be called totally bonkers and I'm so here for it.

Only thing is that disconnect between the story and the battles. There's so much more visual novel/story content than battle, and the balance seems really askew still. Ah well.
 

demi

(She/Her)
So glad you're enjoying it! It's a wild ride from beginning to end. Although it's a bit different, the choice of either progressing in battles or story chapters is also uniquely compelling. At first I had a balance, but then I just got totally sucked into the story-telling / adventure component... and had a bunch of battles waiting for me at the end. Fortunately, I liked the battles quite a bit: I felt like they were good at conveying what kinds of tactics they were testing early in each encounter, while still allowing enough wiggle room for a variety of strategies to succeed. Because of it, I've been kind of inspired to check out GrimGrimoire again, which I haven't played since it's initial release on the PS2, but I digress.

I really wonder what a player's experience of the story would be like if they focused heavy on the battling front-side? Because of when the encounters occur in relationship to the story events, the bits of dialogue throughout could accent the mystery of the story that much more! And they don't explain much during battles ofc, but it just adds so much to the "... and how did we get here??" element.

It's all put together in such a neat way which creates all this variance in the order that any player takes in the information. It's so cool.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is the latest game from Vanillaware. It is also nothing like their previous games!

Essentially, it is a visual novel/adventure game with RTS battles. The story plays out in an extremely, extremely non-linear fashion, as you try to piece together what the hell is even happening with these 13 high schoolers

So wait, in what way is it unlike GrimGrimoire?

One of the "conceits" in this story is that the pilot of a Sentinel can't wear clothes in the cockpit (naturally??), so this means all of the female characters are given pretty suggestive poses in their cockpit portraits, while they're already naked.
Oh.
 
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