13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Live Gameplay Explains Battle System, Story
Everything Atlus and Vanillware revealed about 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim during the game's first live gameplay stream.
After revealing 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim‘s Japanese release date with a new trailer, Atlus held today the very first stream for the sci-fi visual-novel like game form Vanillaware, revealing plenty of new details and live gameplay.
The first part of the stream during the first two hours was game journalist Mafia Kajita and sci-fi writer Koji Watanabe playing the Prologue demo, so nothing new happened. The main course happened two hours in when they were joined by the seiyuu Tomomi Isano, Takayuki Ishii and Kaoru Sakura. They revealed new story elements and 13th Sentinels: Aegis Rim‘s battle system.
Before the first live gameplay sequence started, stream MC Tomomi Isano explained how 13 Sentinels is still in development so it’s important to note certain elements will change. Most notably, the gameplay shown wasn’t voiced. However, in the final game, everything but the inner thoughts of the character we’re currently controlling is voiced.
Later on in the stream, Takayuki Ishii and Kaoru Sakura confirmed they both didn’t record all of their characters’ voices yet, explaining why the gameplay sequences weren’t voiced. This is quite exceptional, as usually, dubbing is done very early in Japanese games’ development, which seems to indicate 13th Sentinel had a chaotic development.
The first gameplay sequence showed new gameplay set in Natsuno Minami’s story, sometime after her prologue. The gameplay sequence was live played by Natsuno’s seiyuu Kaoru Sakura. I suggest checking the protagonists’ introduction trailer to remember who is who.
As the gameplay sequence started, we got a glimpse of 13 Sentinels‘ main menu, which is divided between 3 modes: “Adventure”, “Archives,” and “Battle”. They haven’t explained the modes, but we can easily guess. “Adventure” is the main story. “Archives” should allow us to review event scenes and check characters’ profiles. And “Battle” probably lets us redo battles we’ve experienced in the main story.
On the protagonist select screen, each protagonist’ story has its own completion rate too. It seems Battle mode can also be accessed from there. There’s also a story chart, which will probably let us see how each protagonist’ story intertwines.
There’s also a “Mystery Files” menu, which was actually confirmed to the Library mode, except listed under another name in this screen for some reason. Various elements get added to it as we progress in each protagonist’ story, and it seems certain elements need specific conditions to be unlocked with points.
Minami is a high school girl from 1985. She’s part of the track&field club and almost always wears the bloomers used by her club. One day she found a small robot from the future named BJ. BJ is apparently an alien robot trying to help humans, and he was riding the 17th Sentinel, one of the mecha fighting against the Deimos, the giant aliens robots things trying to destroy the Earth in various eras.
It’s worth mentioning during the stream they talked about how bloomers were something used during a very short time period in Japanese schools, and how having a character wearing bloomers makes her immediately stand out in a time-travel story, as the others will realize she’s definitely not from the same era. Basically, they explained how Natsuno’s not only wearing bloomers for sexual fanservice but how it also fits the story.
The gameplay sequence starts as Natsuno goes to the track&field club’s locker room, and finds BJ out. He wants her to accompany him to the Gate as he’s trying to find the 17th Sentinel he was riding. But school isn’t over yet, and Natsuno’s angry that BJ didn’t stay hidden in her locker. Someone could have found him, especially the Men in Black looking for them.
Natsuno then gathers her thoughts with the Cloud Sync system, where characters can reflect on various story elements they’ve learned, and interact with the environment. Certain elements can also trigger flashbacks of previous scenes, which you can choose to watch or skip. Using the Cloud Sync basically makes you learn more and progress the story.
When Natsuno comes back to the locker room later on, BJ got out of the locker again, but in box form, so her clubmates didn’t realize it’s an alien robot, and think it’s some UFO toy Natsuno bought as everyone knows she’s into the occult.
Next, we learned 13 Sentinels has some kind of stealth gameplay as well. Basically, in the case of Natsuno’s story, whenever she moves, the player needs to properly hide BJ in her bag. They didn’t get caught so we didn’t see what happens, but if someone like the Men In Black see BJ out of the bag, it’s either a game over or some kind of story route change. This generated some pretty funny moments on stream: seeing the sequences weren’t voiced, Kaoru Sakura voiced Natsuno live, and Takayuki Ishii did the voice for BJ. Each time she forgot to pick up BJ, Ishii was like “Natsuno put me in your bag Natsuno put me in your bag ” with a robotic voice.
After school, Natsuno and BJ go to the temple, where a time-traveling gate is located. There, players need to put BJ out of the bag so he can open the gate. You can then choose where to time travel to, with each era being called by a Sector, Sector 1 being the farthest future. However, it seems which era you can time-travel to is mostly scripted: BJ analyzes Sector 1 and says the Sentinel isn’t there. When we pick Sector 2, he mentions the aliens are currently attacking that era, 2065, so it’s dangerous to go there. In the end, the only choice really available is Sector 5, 1945.
They mentioned, however, we’ll later on have more liberty to select where to time-travel to, meaning there are different story routes even in a same protagonist’ story.
When in 1945, Natsuno and BJ go to her school as it’s seemingly near the Sentinel is. Natsuno is excited at first and chats about how she’d like to go see her father, which should be 3 years old at the time and at her grandmother’s place, but mentions how she shouldn’t do anything careless as it might change the future. This hints at further story embranchments depending on the actions of the player.
We also learned more story elements, with a scene where one of the protagonists, Renya Gouto, tells a certain character to drink a special drug. That character is also a time-traveler and is actually Natsuno’s teacher in the future. Long story short, it isn’t the case of Natsuno, but most characters who time travel in 13th Sentinels seem to lose their memories from the other eras as they’re made to drink that drug. Usually, they see their memories form other eras in their dreams, but drinking the drug, which is also incredibly painful, makes them forget these dreams and their memories. It seems like it’s one of the technologies from the future, which also includes being able to change someone’s personality completely. And Renya, who is from the future, seems to be in charge of erasing people’s memories with that drug when they aren’t any more related to the plan to save the world from the aliens.
Natsuno and BJ end up finding the Sentinel in a military hangar, but it’s the 19th Sentinel while BJ is looking for the 17th Sentinel. The 19th Sentinel isn’t his but one of his comrades’, so he can’t use it. And to make it worse it seems all of BJ’s comrades are dead. We also learn that another one of the protagonists, Keitarou Miura, is the one now using the 19h Sentinel, as it got modified. Which is weird as BJ mentions they shouldn’t have been able to do that with 1945 technology. Mafia Kajita also mentioned how it probably got modified to be used in the war Japan is currently in, meaning the game’s story has a human Vs aliens theme but also humans Vs humans, Sentinel Vs Sentinel.
When going back to the temple, a mysterious individual, seemingly from the future like BJ, ends up changing the Gate’s password, so Natsuno can’t go back to her own era before 74hours and 24minutes, the time needed for BJ to decipher the new password. The gameplay sequence ends as it rejoins a scene we’ve seen in the prologue demo.
Next, we saw more gameplay, this time in Takatoshi Hijiyama’s story, set sometime after his prologue. The sequence was played by Takatoshi’s seiyuu Takayuki Ishii.
Takatoshi is a protagonist from 1945. In his story prologue, he ends up falling in love with a certain girl called Okino, but is disappointed when it turns out Okino is actually a boy who crossdresses. Now they became friends and also live together. Takatoshi and Okino are also partners in time-travel. Takatoshi also really likes to eat yakisoba pan.
Takatoshi goes to school and meets up with Okino, currently in crossdressing mode and feeding a cat. Next, Takatoshi goes to the school cafeteria and buys a yakisoba pan, which reminds him of a time when he was time traveling to 1985, March, and was starving. He was saved by Megumi Yukishiji back then, but when they met again “later” back in 1945, she didn’t recognize him.
Next, Takatoshi meets with Okino again, who is now dressed as a boy. It’s interesting to note that now that we see him dressed as a boy, we can see Okino was the mysterious boy who appeared in Natsuno’s story. Okino teases Takatoshi about how he would have probably preferred seeing him dressed as a girl again. Takatoshi asks him if he wants half of his yakisoba pan. Okino says he’s not hungry but notes how nice Takatoshi is.
The scene skips to a few years in the future, seemingly after a time-travel. Okino leaves their place, saying he’s gonna grab something to eat at the convenience store. He asks what does Takatoshi wants, a yakisoba pan obviously. However, when Okino leaves, Takatoshi ends up meeting with Megumi, who suddenly shoots him with some kind of drug. The gameplay sequence ends then.
Lastly, it’s worth noting each story chapter seems to end with an “Adventure Result” screen. The gameplay feed was cut before we could actually see what the screen looks like, but it might be a results screen showing what kind of actions and choices the player took in the chapter, further hinting at different routes and choices possible in a single protagonist’ story.
Next, we got to see battle gameplay, revealing 13th Sentinels: Aegis Rim’s battle system for the first time. Overall, it’s a huge mix of Tower Defense and turn-based Tactical RPG.
Again, they noted how the game is still in development so some things might be different in the final version. They also mentioned that all lines of dialogues during the battle gameplay they showed is something George Kamitani prepared himself for the stream. Basically, the battle they showed probably won’t be in the final game, and it was only an example to explain the battle system.
13th Sentinels: Aegis Rim‘ battles first start with a team select menu, where we need to pick up to 6 characters, the “Attack Team”, who we’ll sortie among the 13 protagonists. The others will be on standby in the “Defense Team”. The Defense Team is in charge of defending the Terminal, and the more people you have on it, the higher the Defense Team/ the Terminal’s HP will be. Meaning you can choose to have either very high attack power by deploying 6 units, or deploying less and having a Defense Team with higher HP.
During battles, the Deimos aka the giant aliens are attacking “Terminals”, and the Sentinels piloted by the protagonists must protect those Terminals. Seeing the gameplay sequence wasn’t fully voiced, Mafia Kajita, Tomomi Isano, Takayuki Ishii and Kaoru Sakura each played a character, which made the scene surreal and pretty funny.
There are different types of Deimos that are attacking in waves. Each Deimos have different particularities. For example, this G. Moler type is strong against long-ranged attacks, but weak against close-ranged attacks.
On their turn, each Sentinel can move, attack, or do special actions like repairing units or “Charge”, which restores EP points. They didn’t mention if it’s possible to change units during the battle between the Attack Team and the Defense Team, but it might be possible as we see all the others of the Defense Team gathered around the Terminal.
Most actions necessitate EP points to be used. Each Sentinel has multiple different actions, with each attack having different range and specificities. Some can also put up an energy shield or place mines. There are enemy debuff effects too. Both the Sentinels we control and the Deimos who are attacking are using the same routes to move around, represented by blue lines on the map. Certain Deimos are airborne and can move anywhere.
Each action also has a certain WT (Wait Time), the higher it is, the longer the unit will need to wait to act again. The number of hits each attack does and how much damage each hit does is also displayed.
It’s also worth noting that there is friendly fire. When Natsuno uses Missile Rain (the missile attack with huuuge range) she ends up damaging her allies a bit. The same happens right after when Megumi launches some mines.
You can also use ultimate attacks by accessing the “Meta Menu” with the triangle button when the meta gauge is full. The gauge fills when you destroy enemies. Most of these ultimate attacks are only usable once per battle, but they are extremely powerful and can clear the whole screen, like a Danmaku’s Smart-Bomb.
There’s also a Battle Results screen after each battle, showing the damage dealt and the damage received by each character. Characters can level up too, meaning there’s a character raising element too and they can probably learn new abilities. The character who contributed the most also gets the VP title which grants them more experience.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim launches on November 29 in Japan exclusively on PS4. The game was announced in the west but has no release date.
Vanillaware is also working on a brand new Fantasy-themed game.