For the rest of the best in 2020, head here.
#2: 13 Sentinels – Aegis Rim
On the surface, the plot of this PS4 exclusive seems typical and bears a ton of anime tropes. Kids on mechas, giant monsters called kaijus invading planet Earth, short skirts and long legs, well-endowed school nurses. Once you’ve reached your very first plot swerve in about 6 hours or so on the game’s story mode, you’ll be hooked onto 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim and want to find out more about what the hell is going on.
Pretty soon, you’ll be playing the game’s real-time strategy mode to break down the barrier to the narrative and its 13 protagonists along with their points of view. Secrets, lies, conspiracies, and other juicy story bits are revealed bit by bit. While they seem familiar to other sci-fi films at first, they all click once you get to the 30th hour of the visual novel-slash strategy gaming experience. Without going into spoiler territory, it all comes together in a grand and epic fashion punctuated by the best electronica and orchestra hybrid score from the geniuses at Basiscape.
Seriously, the violin chorus here totally works.
I wasn’t riding on hyperbole when I declared 13 Sentinels‘ story to be on-par with classic works of fiction from Frank Herbert, Robert A. Heinlein, and Philip K. Dick. George Kamitani’s work is truly a sci-fi marvel that pays proper homage to its inspirations and the 80s while also being its own beast. Even if its RTS gameplay can be completed with basic strategies (protip: use 2nd gen Sentinels & spam their turret placements), its storytelling and how it’s structured more than makes up for it.
All in all, I’m in agreement with Yoko “Moonface” Taro: Vanillaware is a treasure that should be preserved for years to come. Especially when they can keep up with gems like 13 Sentinels.