I'm kind of a fan of Vanillaware games since the PS2. They have a nice art style and all of them have been different. Maybe just Dragon's Crown was a bit of a disappointment because of the strange anatomy in the character designs but, the co-op was fun at least. Not many games with co-op these days.
Anyway, I saw their latest game 13 Sentinels and looks like it was going to be better than Dragon's Crown. Since I wasn't in a hurry I ended up waiting for the local release. I think this is VW's first attempt at a sci-fi setting.
So Kaijus (monsters) suddenly appear in the city. Juro Kurabe and some of his classmates find themselves having the same "dream" of piloting giant machines to fight them off but soon discover they are of their experiences from the future. The "Kaijus" otherwise known as the "Deimos" are trying to access a mainframe computer known as the Aegis. Now our young heroes from different eras must now pilot the Sentinels to help fend off the D-Force of enemies.
Sounds kiiind of familiar but it's actually really good. The game's split into a story adventure and battle part. During the adventure part you play through as one of the 13 characters making decisions as you chat. Walking around the 2D screen can take some getting used to. Most of it is straight forward as you only need to pick a keyword and read to progress. Then you repeat the same scene again and you can advance to the next branch of their storyline. VW has even kindly given you a flowchart that gives you some hints as to how to unlock other paths too and you can also fast forward text you've already read similar to visual novels.
There's very little puzzle solving apart from for two characters which was a bit confusing as you really can get stuck in a loop. However, because a lot of the starting points are re-used you end up getting a feeling of deja vu even though it's not different timelines you're experiencing but, there's just enough change to keep you interested and the story does get better as it goes.
It's also the reason why you end up spending most of your time in adventure mode. I ended up playing through Area 1 then just going through as much of the characters stories as I could so I didn't have to switch back again. Wasn't until 73% before I had to return to battles again.
Other than your familiar high school mecha pilots, it's actually filled with a lot more Anime cliches but also hommage and references to 80s/90s classic sci-fi stories so if you're fan of those you'll find yourself grinning as they keep appearing. The intertwined character stories isn't anything new since VW did this with Odin Sphere too.
Very little time is spent in battle mode but it's quite fun. Layout wise it resembles the grids you usually see in SRPGs like Super Robot Wars or Fire Emblem but without the attack cutscenes. The actual gameplay is more like Final Fantasy's ATB system where everything moves until you're ready to give a command. Your goal is to defend one of the Aegis' terminals by destroying all the Deimos quickly. You have your usual different unit types, a sort of ultimate skill you can use only once etc. It's kind of arcade fun as you unleash attacks while literally being swarmed by the enemy.
The learning curve isn't steep. After playing through the prologue tutorial (which is actually fun itself which is rare) the rest is quite easy to figure out.
As with most of their games the artwork is great. Usually I speed through text in a game I know nothing about (this one I didn't read or watch) but the art and music direction is so good, you're kind of relaxed enough to take your time admiring the scenery as you read the text.
Art is so vibrant every little detail in the background is animated. You can just pause at a screen and watch all the things happening like a bird flying by, a train running by or the twinkle of a light in a building. And of course, it wouldn't be a VW game without mouth-watering food art.
It's also got fan service of course which why the PEGI rating has "sex" in it. Your usual bounciness, revealing hour glass character designs and dirty jokes. That said like Odin Sphere it's quite heavy on romance too.
As far as Japanese voice acting is concerned Anime fans amongst you will probably recognise Jun Fukuyama's Lelouch voice from Code Geass right away. Sound effects are great and really shows if you have a sub-woofer with all the explosions and giant mecha moving around. It's got a great soundtrack too although quite a lot of the are a bit too high tempo or creepy techno sounding to be listened to as some background music while working.
You can think of this as a sci-fi version of Odin Sphere, rich in story but with turn-based combat or if you've played Super Robot Wars, you can think of it as Odin Sphere x arcade fun SRW. If you enjoyed Odin Sphere you'll surely enjoy this. Bare in mind I'd say only 1/4 of this are made of battles while the rest is just story reading but it's a great sci-fi story full of twists. Hopefully we'll get to see an Anime adaptation of it in the same way Valkyrie Chronicles did keeping its art style. Until then you'll just have to play this game. A fun 23 hours game and an easy platinum with a surprising story full of unique characters to boot.
- Arcade style SRPG gameplay.
- Great story direction (once it starts piecing together).
- Can fast forward already read text.
- Beautiful artwork and style.
- Very lively animated scenery.
Not So Good
- You go through many loops to progress.
- Great story but can feel awfully long.
- More time could be allocated to battle mode.