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Japanese developer Vanillaware’s 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an ambitious story of thirteen protagonists that delivers a smorgasbord of sci-fi concepts in non-linear chunks. In lesser hands the intersecting storylines, unreliable narrators, and unevenly spaced battles would have been a catastrophe. Instead, the chaotic elements drive the confusion and discovery that are the twin-linked keys to this story about teenagers and their mecha.
Combat is a non-stop cascade of insurmountable problems (kaiju) that require improbable solutions (giant robots). The combination of tower defense timing and positioning with more traditional RPG resource management and advancement keeps battles tense, while still allowing the characters to feel powerful. Mastering the unique system leads to new tactics on the field, mechanical advancements for the mechs, and unique skills that allow the pilots’ personalities to shine. As a result, the battle mechanics are excellent companions for the story, which piles the weight of the world — love, responsibility, giant robot maintenance, some light epistemology, and the search for the perfect yakisoba pan — on its heroes.
In Langrisser I & II, Chara-ani has pulled together a delightful package of tactical goodness. Whether players want to relive their youth with classic music and graphics or stick with newer versions of each, there are plenty of foes to conquer, level-ups to acquire, and squares to march. The two Langrisser games add a pair of interesting twists to the classic tactical action. First, each story unit is a leader who can summon nondescript allies at the start of each battle, chosen by the player. These units each have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as costs, so choosing which to field on each map is critical to success. Second, each game has branching storylines that reflect decisions that are made in the heat of battle. Which enemy general is defeated first, whether a guest character is saved or left to die, or even whether specific allies live all craft different storylines that leads to oodles of replayability.
by Zach Welhouse and Anna Marie Privitere