Time keeps slipping, slipping, slipping
Back in August, I wrote a preview for Vanillaware 13 guards: Aegis Reem Which focused on the introduction to the full adventure. In my post, I said I made several notes to keep track of everyone in the game and the years they traveled from to get to Japan around 1985.
Most of those observations turned out to be useless. It was really a waste of paper, because no matter how close I was to attention in that introduction, to what extent I studied the review guide that Atlus sent me, nothing could prepare me for what this game was in store.
13 guards: Aegis Reem (Playstation 4)
Released: September 22, 2020
MSRP: $ 59.99
13 guards: Aegis Reem It is a game that loves to keep the player guessing. He wants people to keep asking questions as he slowly removes their layers and blinds you with pressing new riddles. This is a dense piece of soft science fiction, with multiple motivations and interpersonal relationships to explore across a range of eras that include World War II, the 1980s, and the future of the future.
Most of the game is set in the year 1985 and follows a group of high school-age teens, most of them in Sakura High School. Up front, the campaign actually starts near its end. The giant kaiju is attacking the city and these thirteen heroes must team up together in their guards to destroy the monsters and save the city. You meet all the central characters in these business hours and discover their initial motivations. Before anything though, each section of the story starts with a quick fight in the game’s battle mode that introduces you to the ins and outs of its unique system.
Once past the introduction, 13 guards Divided into two different experiences. There’s Remembrance, which is a narration-focused adventure mode where you’ll spend most of your time. Then there is Destruction, which contains the various battles you fight against invading Kaigo. Both divided sections feed into each other as you advance in one section, as the other section opens.
Wanting to get the most out of this lovely Vanillaware art direction, I dip vertically into memory, bounce from character to character, and slow plot unfolding. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting lost during the opening hours of the combo. Not only do you have many characters to play with – you won’t unlock all 13 characters until later in the game – but their stories don’t necessarily work together. You might see one character’s scene early in the game, only to see it again from another character’s perspective hours later. Not only that, but some characters have multiple names, and there are dream sequences that may predict events in the future or even in the past.
If it is written written, it is a story 13 guards: Aegis Reem It will easily be one of the best science fiction stories games have ever given us. But by dividing it in a non-linear fashion, there is a greater reward for those players who pay close attention to the dialogue and the actions of these characters. Shuffling the pieces around adds an element of surprise and allows the book to offer twists that might not have been possible if this story were a straight line. This is a very moving story, a follow-up until 2:00 am-read-subtitles-because-you-of-the-curse-caliber of storytelling. It might be intricately complicated, but it’s this complexity that enriches the overall experience in so few ways other games can manage.
It also has a beauty that some of the other games can match. This distinct Vanillaware artistic trend has reached new levels of detail in its elegant recreation in Japan in the 1980s. The settings are great, and his use of light and color enriches what would otherwise be dull gray buildings. Some areas are steeped in the pink colors of sunsets or glow with neon green, and many spots around this city hold my breath. This is the best art Vanillaware has ever done, although if you are really into fan service for developer previous titles, know there’s very little of that in the game.
Some of this artistic trend carries over to destruction, although very little. Each of the kaiju has the more detailed illustrations you’ll see when you first introduce it, and every attack you can outfit your guards with has delicious little animations that show what they look like. Unfortunately, you don’t get any of that in the heat of battle. Both Sentinels and Kejo are represented by simple block graphics that, while not visually stunning, are the types of arcade games that will not be uncommon when this game is set.
The destruction is divided into different areas of the city, each requiring the completion of multiple battles. You’ll be able to access all 13 characters as you advance, but you can only enter six characters in battle at once. The remaining guards guard the Shepherds, which is the ultimate goal of every battle: to protect the Shepherd or game over. Before each fight, you will choose the characters you want to participate in the fight, and there are four different generations of rangers to keep in mind. First generation Rangers rely on the ground, have heavy armored vehicles, and cause massive damage. Guardians of the 2nd and 3rd generation are also limited to the ground, but they have useful attacks and support skills against a variety of enemies. Generation IV Rangers can fly and are ideal for eliminating huge flocks of flying kaigo, but they have much lower HP than other options.
At the end of each battle, you’ll earn a rank based on how you’ve protected the city, sponsorships, and guards. You’ll also see how exhausted each character is from the battle, forcing you to rotate your squad routinely. Each successful battle will get you dead chips, as well as complete Memorial story sections. These chips are used to boost your guards with new and stronger attacks, and your terminal, which gives you access to effects that can change the course of the battle. Your characters also level up separately from Meta Chips, unlocking new abilities that can encourage you to experiment with your team’s builds. Each battle also has a set of unique challenges associated with it which, if completed, earn you additional rewards.
While the narration isn’t afraid to throw players in a loop, the battles of destruction are pretty straightforward. Attack the Kaiju and you kill them. While there are different types of kaiju to deal with, and each has its own weaknesses, strengths, and functions, it isn’t too difficult to have the perfect team for every situation.
These fights play a similar role to a real-time strategy game, but the battle pauses every time one of your guards can take action. This gives you a chance to properly analyze the battlefield, check where the next set of kaiju will drop, and make any changes in your strategy that are justified. Frankly, I didn’t need much time to strategize until I got to the final section of the fights. Usually, these battles are fast-paced, intense, and very fun, but don’t offer much challenge or a steady difficulty curve. There is a harder difficulty available for whoever really wants it, but you can also make it easier if you just want to focus on the story.
And honestly, I don’t blame anyone who makes these fights easy so they can just walk around and go back to memory. It’s easily the strongest half of this bundle, and if I have any complaints about it 13 guards, The structure Vanillaware chose for this game, separating story from action, lacks cohesion. The pre-battle and post-battle dialogues allude to some of what is revealed in the narrative – as well as spoiling future plot points at times – but because these battles are not woven directly into the story, they often feel like an unwanted deviation from a much higher memory. And simply captivating.
Had Vanillaware coined a title in which story and action intertwined flawlessly, we’d look at the greatest game the developer has ever made, without a doubt. Unfortunately, that’s not what this game is, and although what’s in here is cool, it’s surprising to see how close it is. 13 guards: Aegis Reem It reached perfection.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
13 guards: Aegis Reem Reviewed by CJ Andriessen
An impressive effort with some noticeable issues holding it back. Not everyone will be astonished, but it is well worth your time and money.
How to register: Destructoid Review Handbook