Relive the sci-fi masterpiece
A sign of a good piece of entertainment, whether it’s a movie, a TV show, an album, or a video game, is how long it sticks in your mind after you’re done experiencing that very first time. I’m sure we all have films and songs we love that manage to sneak their way into your thoughts even when you’re not trying to reminisce. For me, Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” will pop into my head at random, putting a stop to whatever it is I’m doing at the moment so I can go find her live performance of it on YouTube. With movies, I can never seem to get The Florida Project out of my brain. For games, well…there are a lot of them that sneak in from time to time. But for the past two years, it’s mainly been one game that’s been camping out on my frontal lobe: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. That’s been particularly true for the past few days as I’ve been giving the 13 Sentinels Switch port a whirl.
Originally released for the PlayStation 4, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a beautiful, gripping sci-fi mystery set across a variety of different time periods in Japan. The game follows 13 characters through a sprawling narrative that delves into the past and future as they attempt to thwart a kaiju attack while learning the truth behind everything that is happening in their world. Following a lengthy tutorial that introduces most of the central cast and explains how the action works in the real-time battles work, players a given a certain level of freedom on how to proceed through the game. You can dive into the Remembrance half of the title, learning about the characters and their circumstances. Or you can get straight into the action with the Destruction half of the game, which pits you against a ceaseless army of kaiju invaders.
There is a lot to follow with the game, and a lot of characters you’re going to have to remember. If you manage to make it through to the very end, you’ll be treated to one of the best sci-fi stories in the last 20 years of gaming. I said that back when I reviewed 13 Sentinels back in 2020 and the sentiment stands today.
Since late last week, I’ve been revisiting the world of 13 Sentinels with the Switch port. Obviously, a couple of days isn’t enough to fully complete the game a second time, but I have made it far enough to the campaign once more to get a good idea of what sacrifices Atlus and Vanillaware had to make to get this game running on Switch. The good news is, there seem to be very few sacrifices needed, and if you never played the original, you probably won’t notice them.
For the Remembrance half of the 13 Sentinels Switch port, there really isn’t much to say. That Vanillaware art direction is still hopelessly gorgeous, whether I’m viewing it on my big screen or on the Switch itself. I’m a bit jealous of those who’ve picked up the OLED model because I have an OLED PlayStation Vita and all Vanillaware games look stunning on the thing. All of my attempts at a side-by-side comparison between the Switch port and the original PS4 version failed to produce any dramatic differences, but I’m sure there are far more talented people online who’ll be able to spot any changes.
As for Destruction, it’s pretty clear that graphical alterations were made to keep the game running as smoothly as possible. And to be clear, 13 Sentinels does run pretty damn smooth on Switch. There are maybe one or two battles I’ve experienced so far that saw slowdown so brief it barely registered. Looking at the PS4 and Switch versions side-by-side, it’s pretty evident what Vanillaware had to remove to make sure that was the case.
Namely, some of the visual effects of the PS4 version are gone. The battles in that game had a graphical overlay that made it seem as though you were watching them on an old CRT television. While the rounded shape of that CRT is still here, the visual filters that mimic the fuzziness of an ’80s monitor are gone. What’s left is a more clean-looking city that feels slightly flatter than before. There are other small changes, including a reduced draw distance outside the battle area of the map, but most of the personality is retained. The buildings still grow and shrink as if the city is a living, breathing thing and all the heroes and monsters on the map are represented by little glowing voxels with plenty of particle effects.
The smoothness of the 13 Sentinels Switch port extends to the handheld mode as well, which is how I spent most of my time with the game. That’s something of a rarity for me, but in this case, I wanted to spend every waking minute I could with the game, so that meant trucking it around with me wherever I went. While handheld mode does appear to run at a lower resolution than when playing with your Switch docked, it’s not really that much of a downgrade (if it even is one). I’m about 55% of the way through the game on Switch, and it’s truly impressive to see how well Vanillaware and Atlus optimized this game for the hardware.
Of course, being only 55% of the way through means I’ve yet to experience some of the late-game battles that did prove to be pretty taxing on my PS4. It also means I haven’t seen the full scope of the new armaments exclusive to the Switch version of the game. It’ll be interesting to see if the changes made to the Destruction side of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim will be enough to circumvent any serious instances of slowdown. I’m sure I’ll find out in due time, but if you’re curious now, actual reviews of the 13 Sentinels Switch port should be available for you to peruse. If you do end up picking up the game, I would suggest switching the voices over to Japanese. I’m not saying the English VO is bad, but I think the Japanese voice actors do a better job of capturing the essence of these characters.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim launches April 12, 2022, on Nintendo Switch.
[This port report is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]