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"It's really happening... Just as you said. A kaiju attacked, like in that movie. So we'll do what we have to do. Get in the robots and fight. Our fate was sealed a long time ago."
Juro Kurabe
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13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a Visual Novel Adventure Game with Real Time Tactics gameplay segments developed by Vanillaware and published by Atlus. It was first teased in a preview video in July 2015 as a collaboration project between Atlus, before being finally revealed in the 2015 Tokyo Game Show. The game was released for the PlayStation 4 on November 28, 2019 in Japan. A playable demo was released on March 14, containing the game's first three hours. It was released overseas on September 22, 2020 with EFIGS support and an English dub.

A Nintendo Switch version was released on April 12, 2022. This is notably the first time a Vanillaware game has been released on non-PlayStation hardware since Muramasa: The Demon Blade's original release on the Wii in 2009.

In 1980s Tokyo, thirteen high-school students from Sakura High School are thrust into a mysterious series of events spanning from the 1940s all the way to 23rd century, all of which involve humanity's future demise at the hands of a massive invasion from aliens known as the Deimos. The story is told from the individual viewpoints of the thirteen characters. As the thirteen students unravel the mysteries surrounding their involvement and the fight against the Deimos, they'll soon discover the secrets that shape them, the world as they know, and their destiny.

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Unlike the developer's previous effort, this game takes place in a more modern setting, albeit one with giant mechs. The game is directed by George Kamitani, with the music composed by members of Basiscape.


13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim contains examples of:

  • The '80s: The game is set primarily in a fictionalized version of 1980s… rather a simulation of the 1980s, the game is actually set millions of years into the future.
  • Aborted Arc: Tamao ended up having so little presence in the story that you probably didn't realize she was one of the Compatibles until the ending. Considering she had an unresolved subplot about Gouto implanting memories in her, then erasing said memories, it is possible that she was originally intended to have a bigger role.
  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Sentinel pilots can reach level 99, but they unlock their final skills at level 30 (which is about when you'd reach the Final Battle).
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  • Advancing Wall of Doom: The Drum Mine EX boss fight has the boss slowly advancing towards the terminal. It has minimal offensive capabilities, but it will Suicide Attack into the Terminal if it reaches it, taking it out. The player has to empty its extremely high health before it does.
  • Album Closure: The song played during the title screen can be heard during the final battle and the ending scenes before the credits.
  • Alien Invasion: Most characters assume the Deimos that are invading the world are aliens. This turns out to be a Wrong Assumption. They are actually heavy machinery made by Shikishima Industries for terraforming planets, and were inserted into the simulation by a heartbroken Shinonome in 2188 who had lost hope for humanity and wanted to Kill All Humans.
  • All There in the Manual: The Mystery Files go into depth on things that aren't explained in the story proper, such as the fates of certain side characters or how much time really passed since 2188. The Double Helix artbook also reveals some additional information.
  • Ambiguously Evil:
    • Both Gouto and Ms. Morimura are shown to be suspicious for almost all routes due to all the memory tampering and meddling they do. They both end up being Good All Along.
    • Fluffy the cat that offers Megumi a Deal with the Devil is also framed to be incredibly suspicious, with Megumi only obeying his orders of shooting other characters reluctantly. Surprisingly, he turns out to be Good All Along and his plan ultimately gave the protagonists the power to defeat the Deimos.
  • Amnesiac Hero:
    • Both Ei and Shinonome suffer from memory problems after exposure to the DD-426 virus. Ei even starts his route waking up after having lost all of his memories, while Shinonome route involves her remembering things that she's already done.
    • Megumi's prologue also shows Juro Kurabe is one, he used to be Juro Izumi until overusing his Sentinel caused him too much brain damage and loss of his identity. He and Megumi were also a couple, so he also doubles as an Amnesiac Lover and most of her route involves her efforts in trying to make him remember her.
  • Anachronic Order: With thirteen lead characters, each with individual perspectives, the chronological order of the story is presented to the player non-linearly through their perspective and is dependent on the player choosing which character's story to see, and that's not including the Story Branching that occurs frequently in the stories, which can quickly bring the non-linear nature into Mind Screw territory, unless one relies on the game's event viewer to replay previous events in the story in chronological order.
  • Alternate Self: The game makes extensive use of this trope, since most characters are either clones or A.I.s.
    • Ms. Morimura and Juro Izumi (later known as 426) are actually clones from 2 loops before, having managed to survive the world reset by Brain Uploading in Sector 0. In the next loop, Tetsuya Ida also make use of this to survive the new reset, along with the androids of Tomi (who later become Miyuki Inaba), Tamao and Keitaro (who would later become BJ).
    • Iori Fuyusaka and Shu Amiguchi are the clones of Chihiro Morimura and Tetsuya Ida of one loop ago, and the reason they have different names is because Morimura and Ida removed the two of them as babies from their original sectors and placed them in Sector 4. They then transplanted their respective memories into Shu and Iori after arriving in Sector 4 post the DD-426 incident in Sector 2 in an effort to make them compatible and taking over their bodies.
    • And, to make things even more confusing, the presence of virus DD-426 means that some of these alternate selves have different names and personalities than their original ones since it deletes the personality and memories of the infected. Ryoko Shinonome and Ei Sekigahara are in the early stages of the infection and so they still have their own memories. Tsukasa Okino infected himself with the virus and then uploaded his own personality and memories into an AI that took over after he disappeared. Juro Izumi had his personality replaced with a new one by Tamao Kurabe and became Juro Kurabe. This also explains why their romantic pairings differ from their 2188 selves, since they're essentially different people.
  • Apocalyptic Log: As the story progresses, the characters unveil a lot of logs left by their original selves from 2188, which help explain the state of the world.
  • Art Shift: A first for a Vanillaware title. The Real-Time Strategy segments are displayed on a holographic radar with 3D graphics instead of the usual hand-drawn sprites used for the Visual Novel segments.
  • Aside Glance: A couple of characters have idle or talking animations in which they look directly at the camera, such as Tamao and Chihiro. Left idle, Gouto will turn away, remove his glasses, then glare back at the camera.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Seaside Vacation" by Hu Ito (who also provides the vocals for "Brat Overflow"), sung in wave 2-10 and the ending credits.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Megumi, out of the cast in 2188. While everyone else were grown adults, Megumi was only eight years old.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Nenji and Kisaragi are constantly at each other throats, even though it's very clear they're both attracted to each other. One of Kisaragi's skills is even called "It's Not Like That!" and activates if Nenji is on the team.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Played with. Tetsuya Ida and Professor Morimura (in the body of Chihiro) are the closest thing the story has to active antagonists, and their ideological conflict is the cause of many problems, though neither of them are actually in control of the situation — see No Antagonist. The actual main villains of the story all died millennia before the story even starts.
  • Bland-Name Product: Characters discuss movies like E.X.T., UFO Wars, and Exterminator. Additionally, Yuki is seen drinking some Hey-C juice in one scene.
  • Body Surf: Nanomachine technology in the future made it possible for people to be "mind-hacked" and having their bodies taken over. This became a huge issue in 2188 and it's what led to the extinction of humanity. In the story itself, 426 (Juro Izumi from 2 loops before) uses this to take over Tamao's android body and later jumps into Juro Kurabe's body. He also uses it sparingly on Megumi to manifest himself as Fluffy to her.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Minami's Research Notebook skill gives her a large stat bonus... on any stage you've previously S-ranked. Generally, if you've previously gotten S-rank on a stage there's nothing left for you to do there besides get the bonus objective (which is usually easier than getting an S-rank).
  • But What About the Astronauts?: The only humans to survive the nanomachine plague are a handful of Project Ark workers who were on a space station, plus at least one person who evacuated to it. They end up killing each other, but managed to complete Project Ark in the process, albeit one of them corrupted the programming.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The fights in Area 4, unlocked after finishing the game, are very difficult, and offer no tangible rewards beyond experience and Meta-Chips.
  • Can't Take Anything with You: Played With, the protagonists lose their clothes when entering the cockpits of their Sentinels, but notably some characters keep some of their accessories. Iori, Yuki and Natsuno still have their hair decs, Shinonome still has bandages in her neck and head and Megumi, Tomi and Gouto all keep their glasses on. Even after The Reveal that the characters are naked because they're actually in the pods they were born in, the only way for them to see themselves until they exit those pods is via the viewscreens, which are generated within the simulation and thus mesh with their digital representations in the simulation. Otherwise Tomi, Renya and Ryoko would each wonder why their eyesight works when they aren't wearing glasses, Nenji's hair would feel noticeably different, since he can't style his hair in the pod, Miura was obviously not born with the massive forehead scar he got in the sim, and so on. They don't mention it in the text, though.
  • Cast as a Mask: Most different clones (or other versions) of the same people share voice actors, but there's one exception. Shiba and Shippo/Fluffy are actually a version of Juro Izumi, and though they share a voice actor with each other, he's not voiced by Juro's voice actor except when his projection looks like Juro.
  • Central Theme: Second chances and reinterpretation.
    • The entire game is essentially humanity getting a second chance after the apocalypse ruined the planet. Each of the protagonists is a clone or A.I. version of one of the last thirteen survivors of humanity, and each protagonist acts as a second chance for the originals to mend their mistakes. The purpose of Sector 0 is to reset the simulation and give the protagonists a chance to win the battle against the Deimos once again.
    • As the story rotates between each of the thirteen perspectives, we see different sides of each character and event. For example, Yuki initially comes across as confrontational and mean, but we later see her nicer side as she interacts with Natsuno and Shu. Many of the plot twists revolve around the protagonists gaining access to new information that recontextualizes what they thought they knew. For example, most of the cast is certain that some form of Time Travel exists and that's how they get around between time periods. In reality, each time period is really a "sector" of a virtual reality simulation, and that each time they travel to the past or future, they're moving between sectors.
  • Character Tics: Each character has at least a few, usually show via their idle animations, such has Megumi flipping her hair or Kisaragi kicking the air. Most notably Chihiro Morimura shares her tic of leaning her hand on her cheek across all her other selves.
  • Childhood Friends: Several of the characters have been friends since they were children:
    • Natsuno and Yuki have been Best Friends since they were very small, though they got separated for a few years after Yuki's family moved.
    • Nenji and Shu have been best buds since middle school.
    • Just like the above, Iori and Miwako also have been Best Friends since middle school.
    • Tomi has been Megumi's best and only friend since they were children.
    • Takatoshi, Keitaro and Tamao have all been childhood friends back in the World War II era.
    • Kurabe also remembers him and Shiba have been friends since childhood but this just turns out to be a false memory.
    • Tetsuya Ida and the Tomi Kisaragi of his loop were also friends since they were children, and this becomes a Childhood Friend Romance after they fall in love.
  • Cloning Blues: All the "compatible" are clones of the last 15 living members of humanity from original Earth, the 13 protagonists plus Okino and Tamao. Some of the characters have difficulty coming to terms with what their original is like (Ryoko is devastated to realize that her original released the Deimos to make sure Project Ark would fail, Natsuno is shocked that her original self is the daughter of the original Yuki and Takatoshi is deep in denial about his original's romantic relationship with Okino).
  • Coming-Out Story: Part of Takatoshi's plot arc is him coming to terms with the fact that he is attracted to the openly gay Okino.
  • Company Cross References: The VALKYRIE canned soda is a throwback to Vanillaware's previous game Odin Sphere, the can logo has Gwendolyn's tiara and it's accompanied with a feather that has the the same shade as her wings.
  • Conlang: Hitoshi Sakimoto stated the lyrics to "Brat Overflow" were written in a made-up language.
  • Cool Bike: Ei has a future bike built by Shikishima in his era that has its own AI and several other futuristic features, such as voice recognition, biometric authentication system, and being able to self-drive back to registered drivers.
  • Decoy Antagonist: Prisoner 426, aka the Juro Izumi from two loops ago. Despite being built up as an ominous threat throughout the game and genuinely being responsible for a few horrific things, he’s actually a Big Good working to give the children a means to defeat the Deimos once and for all. Without him, victory would have been impossible.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Downplayed with Juro. While he's front and center on the boxart and title screen, he has no more focus than anyone else in the cast. His story is one of the most important since it dives into the idea of Alternate Self and his past ties into his role as both a Sentinel pilot and a new version of 426. He has more story locks than usual as a result, but Juro ultimately shares equal screen time with the rest of the Sentinel pilots and is no more important than anyone else.
  • Distant Finale: After the DEIMOS code is finally purged from the simulation, there's a five-year Time Skip between the end and the epilogue, where it takes the protagonists several years to set up a proper colony and rebuild the simulated Earth.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It takes god-knows-how-long of looping, but the DEIMOS simulation is brought to heel during the game, allowing humanity to finally rebuild on a distant world using the Sentinels.
  • Earth All Along: The game actually inverts this. The game appears to be taking place on Earth, but it's actually another planet, twenty million years in the future.
  • Ensemble Cast: The game features a total of 13 protagonists, each with their own intersecting storyline.
  • Eternal Recurrence: This explains why there are multiple flashbacks with characters having different names and doing actions that are inconsistent with how they normally act. The protagonists are clones of people who lived in 2188 who are Inside a Computer System. When the Deimos destroy every sector and reach the center the facility disposes of the clones and resets the system. However, using Sector 0, the personality and memories of a clone can be stored into an AI with a simulated body inside of the simulation for the next loops. It's unknown how long the colony has been stuck in this loop, with the player knowing it happened at least three times. The "Eternal" part also ends up subverted as the resets are taking a toll on the facility and Morimura learns that the current loop will be the last one, as one more will cause permanent damage on the colony. The game's stinger also shows that this is likely happening on every planet that the clone probes reached, as it shows a variation on the game's opening scene, but with Nenji and Natsuno instead of Iori.
  • Everybody Lives: Thanks to the majority of the plot taking place within a digital simulation, pretty much all of the characters that "died" are brought back by the end since their data was successfully saved, with the 15 survivors researching technology that can eventually let all of them be brought to the real world.
  • Everyone Is a Tomato: The fifteen compatible teenagers are clones of long-dead humans being raised in virtual reality. All the other characters in the present are AI—including digitized copies of deceased clones.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: The game ends with the main cast having six ironclad relationships (Juro Kurabe/Megumi, Shu/Yuki, Nenji/Tomi, Ei/Iori, Natsuno/Miura, and Hijiyama/Okino) and one Maybe Ever After (Gouto/Shinonome). Given The Reveal that the fifteen compatible are the only flesh-and-blood humans alive outside of the simulation, that means that at the end of the main story, there is only one living human who isn't in an implicit or explicit romance of some sort.
  • Fake Memories: Several characters come to realize they've been implanted with false memories.
    • Juro has lost his memories as Juro Izumi during the battle of 2025 and was given a new identity and memories as Juro Kurabe by Ms. Morimura and Tamao Kurabe. And he's also having his memories tampered with by 426 who is posing as his friend Kyuta Shiba through videotapes, giving him the memories of 426 from back when he was Juro Izumi.
    • Ms. Morimura is implanting the memories of herself and Ida on their counterparts: Iori and Shu. But due to 426's influence they only experience their memories via hazy dreams.
    • In his route, Shu figures out that everyone has false memories when Yuki talks about her childhood and Shu realizes his childhood was exactly the same, something that is managed by Universal Control in order to keep everyone from realizing the Awful Truth. Shu himself only managed to come to this conclusion due to Miyuki Inaba's influence.
  • Failed a Spot Check: One of Shu's events shows himself as Tetsuya Ida deleting 426's personality from an android after interrogating him. After leaving the room, "Tomi" then notes that the delete button had been remapped, and if Ida wasn't so worked up he'd have noticed that he actually unknowingly caused a Body Swap between the two, allowing 426 to escape.
  • Fanservice: Due to being a Kamitani game, this is to be expected.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Multiple movies are referenced within the story, but with fictionalized names. The "Deimos" film series is a clear parallel to Franchise/Godzilla, and Minami mentions watching "E.X.T." multiple times in theaters, saying that it was a 1982 classic, the year that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial came out. Interestingly, the game doesn't do this for non-copywritten properties. In the same scene that Minami mentions "E.X.T.", she also specifically namedrops War of the Worlds which, unlike E.T., is in the public domain.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early on in Juro's route, there are signs that Kyuta Shiba can only be seen by Juro. During Juro's route, nobody ever seems to directly talk to Kyuta or acknowledge his presence. Meanwhile, in other character's routes, Kyuta is never seen when Juro is present.
    • Juro's route also has thoughts describing movie. Most are well-known ones from real life but with the title changed or omitted, except for a film with an "iconic scene where a man teleports onto a bridge". Juro isn't remembering a movie, but something that happened to Juro Izumi. Shiba had been implanting those memories into Juro Kurabe, but made them seem like movies so they could be integrated into his new personality.
    • In Megumi's route there are several scenes where Megumi talks to a cat thinking it's Fluffy, only for the cat not to respond. Megumi assumes Fluffy is messing with her, but it's actually a hint that Fluffy isn't the school's cat.
    • Midway through Nenji's route, you discover the "Groundhog Day" Loop he's stuck in, where every loop ends with him talking to a voice in space, is actually Tsukasa's Virtual Reality Interrogation. It turns out to be a microcosm for the entire story. Not only is the apparent time travel elsewhere just as fake, the whole Facility is also a digital simulation the Compatible are in that was programmed by a version of Tsukasa. Nenji's end-of-loop image looks the same as when he's piloting his Sentinel because the "cockpits" are actually People Jars they were all incubating in.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: Juro summoning his Sentinel in the prologue is covered up as one of these. Several other incidents involving the Sentinels get similar cover-ups such as the android battle in the girl's bathroom being covered up as a "fire". It's unknown how much this is done by Ida's Black Suits, Shikishima personnel or Universal Control itself.
  • Genius Loci: In a manner of speaking the entire simulation is directed by the ambiguously sentient mainframe Universal Control, whose 'body' lays underground across the entirety of the simulation's world.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Kengo Ogata, the Chairman of Shikishima in the 2100s and Nenji Ogata’s father. As an A.I. construct, he spurred on Professor Morimura’s actions in an attempt to become immortal, leading to her inadvertently starting the nanomachine plague and dooming humanity.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop:
    • Zig-zagged, each chapter in the adventure story usually repeats the same beginning several times. However, thought cloud items acquired from previous repeats carry over, and in-game time does move forward.
    • Played straight with Nenji's story, which has him trapped in a simulation and forced to repeat his quarrel with Kisaragi again and again.
    • It is eventually revealed that this has been happening for all sectors, because the Kaijus keep destroying all the terminals and forcing the world to reset.
  • Guide Dang It!: In Juro Kurabe's story, after the "A Relentless Nightmare" segment, players might get stuck on how to advance to the next segment, since there's apparently no story lock, but the percentage is stuck at around 55%. It requires filling a section of the plot flowchart that isn't an official segment, namely the "Daily Life" section. First, Juro should get rid of Kyuta in the classroom by saying he has to deliver papers for Morimura. Then Juro should enter the hallway (optionally speaking with Megumi on the way) and then visit the nurse's office by exiting the hallway to the right. Then, Juro should check the documents on the nurse's desk, and also speak to Ryoko Shinonome. After progressing the scene enough, Kyuta will come into the nurse's office, and once he and Juro go home, "Daily Life" will complete, and you'll get a story lock that needs 9 characters with at least 30%-character progression each. Unlock this lock, and you can play the next segment, "48Q".
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: All the melee-focused first-generation Sentinel pilots are boys, whereas two out of three range attack-focused third-generation Sentinel pilots are girls. Yuki is the only one that subverts this, with her unique skills and armaments making her 4th Generation Sentinel more optimized for melee combat.
    • However it's worth nothing that in many cases people do not pilot their original sentinel, such as Iori's piloting Ei's Generation 2 Sentinel
  • Heal Thyself: You can order your pilots to perform field repairs to keep their Sentinels in fighting shape. This leaves them highly vulnerable to attack, however, so you will need to keep an eye on your enemies to avoid being attacked while defenseless.
  • The Heavy: While the Deimos are the main threat, they are simply mindless robots and the people responsible for the events of the plot are all long dead leaving the role of antagonist for most of the story to Tetsuya Ida who is actively trying to sabotage the attempts to save the Sectors from the Deimos. He's the one in charge of the Men in Black Suits who oppose the protagonists, manipulated Ei and Shinonome against Morimura, caused the spread of the DD-426 virus that infected the Sentinels, created the automated androids that frequently threaten the protagonists and attempts to sabotage the satellite with Miyuki Inaba so she can no longer provide assistance. His goal is to force a reset in the simulation, all so he can implant the memory of his lover Tomi Kisaragi into a new body in the next loop. He's dealt with before the Final Battle with the Deimos by Ei and Shinonome.
    • After Ida dies, The Heavy role is taken up by Chihiro, or rather, the original Professor Chihiro Morimura. While her ultimate goal is far more benign, as she simply wanted to get the Ark Project back on track, she is willing to kill her Alternate Self and sacrifice the current world to make sure it happens. She's eventually convinced to let the pilots try one last time and ends up proving vital for the defeat of the Deimos.
  • Hold the Line: Many of the Destruction missions can be cleared by simply holding on for two minutes (though time pauses when you're selecting actions), with the exception of boss battles.
    • In the final battle this is the only way to clear the mission.
  • How We Got Here: The very first prologue ends with the start of the aptly named "Final Battle" (which comprises the entirety of the "Destruction" portion of the game); the rest of the game is about learning of the events that led to that moment.
  • Humongous Mecha: A pivotal part of the game as the protagonists fight in these, called "Sentinels".
  • In Medias Res: The story starts right as the Deimos invasion on 1985 is beginning with the protagonists joining the battle by summoning their Sentinels. The rest of the story is told in "Adventure Mode" is told in Anachronic Order showing the events that lead to the Final Battle against the Deimos.
  • Interface Screw: While playing as Shinonome the screen can become blurry and distorted while she's having an episode and needs to take her pills.
  • Interface Spoiler: The presence of the event timeline, which quickly begins placing scenes in ways that don't make sense given the years that they take place, can clue players in to the fact that there is no actual time travel in the story. Lessened as a player might think that the timeline is ordered in another way, such as by a single character's perspective, or that it's ordered in whatever way makes the story most coherent.
  • Internal Retcon: This is how Universal Control deals with "inconsistencies" in the simulation, by warping reality and memories of digital entities to prevent them from discovering too much. It can't do this to the protagonists, because they're not the same as the various other digital people.
  • Kudzu Plot: With a non-linear presentation, thirteen individual character routes, all with numerous plot twists, as well as the story-branching that can also occur on the individual routes themselves, the narrative can become overwhelming if one does not follow or consult the chronological order in-game.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: The Deimos are separated by three colors indicating their power levels. Red are the normal 1st generation Deimos, Blue Deimos are the 2nd generation Elite Mook versions while Gold Deimos are boss versions.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At one point Natsuno can try to change in a locker room and starts lifting her shirt in what seems like they're setting up a Fanservice moment... only to stare at the camera and get spooked enough to back out of it, thinking someone could be watching.
  • Leitmotif: A remixed version of "Brat Overflow" without lyrics plays during the final battle before fading into the version from the Title Screen. Also, remixed parts of the song can be heard throughout the scenes following the final battle during the credits.
  • Loophole Abuse: Morimura and Juro inadvertently find out one can survive a world reset by Brain Uploading themselves to Sector 0 and take advantage of that to better prepare the next loop for the next Deimos invasion.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: It's mentioned the 22nd century has some kind of law requiring people (at least the ones without children) to donate their sex cells for reproductive purposes. Far from being required to raise the resulting children, neither the donor nor the progeny is informed of their relation. The 2188 Chihiro Morimura discovers Tsukasa Okino is her adult son only from sequencing their DNA as part of Project Ark.
  • Mega-Corp: Shikishima Industries. Over the course of the timeline, it's been involved in consumer appliances, military weapons, androids, space travel, and nanotechnology. They were the ones that built both the Sentinels and the Deimos, and were also partly responsible for the nanomachine incident that destroyed Earth.
  • The Men in Black: Several of these are seen in 1985, usually chasing after Ei or Natsuno. They're later revealed to be a special investigation unit under the command of Tetsuya Ida, serving as his Mooks. When stranded in the UFO with Amiguchi, they're pretty cordial and seem like decent enough people.
  • Mistaken for Romance:
    • Happens twice with Shu. The first time, Iori stumbles across him and Juro talking in hushed tones with some Innocent Innuendo, and tells them that it's okay as long as they love each other, but they explain they were simply talking about their weird dreams. Later, Shu and Iori are talking like this, and Takatoshi walks past them, remarking to himself that Iori has no taste in boys.
    • Iori believes that Ei has romantic feelings for Shinonome for some time in her route, and it's not until later that he explains to her that he and Shinonome are Like Brother and Sister. (In the game's early development, it was planned to be a traditional shojo love triangle.)
    • Megumi comes to the assumption that Iori and Juro are attracted to each other having observed their hushed interactions at school, which makes Megumi extremely jealous. In reality, Juro and Iori are simply discussing their dreams.
  • Necktie Headband: A pair of background drunks in the Tsutsuji Station can be seen drunkenly wobbling around on a bench with these on their heads ignorant of the potentially world ending drama going on in front of them.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Downplayed. After Android Tamao arrived at 1985, Grandma Tamao was deleted by Universal Control to prevent two of the same person from existing in the same time. However, this was the only instance of something like this happening, and characters do meet and interact with their alternate selves throughout the story.
  • No Antagonist: The 2188 versions of Kengo Ogata and Ryoko Shinonome, who actually caused the problem to begin with, are long dead; Tetsuya Ida is merely The Heavy and is just as much at risk as anyone else in the simulation; and Prisoner 426 is Good All Along. As a result, the only truly hostile forces are the Kaiju, who are mindless robots under the control of what's essentially a buggy video game.
  • Non-Uniform Uniform: A chunk of the characters are wearing the Sakura High uniform, so there are usually little touches to make them different: Tomi wears white tights and Nenji wears a red shirt under his jacket, for example. How Megumi gets away with wearing lace-topped thigh highs is anyone's guess.
  • No-Sell: The Composite Ceramic Armor armament passively nullifies any damage below 500, which is available for Yuki and Takatoshi's Sentinels. The Deimos Gladiators and some late-game minibosses also have this.
  • Official Couple: Almost every protagonist ends up with someone else by the end of the story:
    • Juro and Megumi end up together after they live together for some time and he regains some of the memories of Juro Izumi.
    • Shu and Yuki become a couple and even have their own daughter by the time of the Distant Finale..
    • Natsuno and Keitaro are engaged in the Distant Finale, mirroring their original selves from 2188 who were also a couple.
    • Iori and Ei become a couple by the end of his route and are still together in the Distant Finale.
    • Nenji and Kisaragi pair up and apparently even have children of their own by the time of the Distant Finale.
    • Takatoshi and Okino also seem to be a couple by the Distant Finale which also mirrors their original selves from 2188 who were lovers.
    • Averted with Renya and Ryoko who are the only protagonists who are not clearly in a romance by the end of the game (although an optional conversation implies they were in a relationship at some point before Ryoko met Ida). There is some Ship Tease between them in their final scene together though, as they're shown to have gotten pretty close in the five years since the end of the game, but it's more a case of Maybe Ever After.
    • The Original Juro Izumi confesses his love to Chihiro Morimura in the final scene before the end card.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The brutal physical battle between androids in the North Building girls' bathroom that absolutely trashes the place is seen entirely from Natsume's perspective... who spends the whole thing cowering in a bathroom stall barely able to understand what's happening.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Thanks to the non-linear nature of the story, many times a scene will be revisited from a different character's point of view. How much this affects the interpretation of the story will vary from person to person.
  • Only the Chosen May Pilot: The titular Sentinels can only be piloted by people injected by nanomachines called Innerlocitors, and only people who are "Compatibles" can be injected Innerlocitors in the first place, of which only fifteen characters, all teenagers, are. More specifically, it's because the "Compatibles" are the only actual flesh-and-blood people in the setting.
  • Ontological Mystery: Heavy spoilers ahead. At the beginning, the game looks like it's set up in late Showa era Japan, with 13 high school students defending their city against an alien invasion. But little by little more inconsistencies are revealed until it turns out that the game is really set in a completely different solar system, millions of years after the 22nd century, where the last living specimens of humanity fight across countless loops against a simulation gone rogue to save their lives.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Most of the cast are normal high school students. Subverted. Virtually all named characters have more going on than what it looks like at first glance, due to the fact that they're all clones of the last survivors of the nanomachine disaster of 2188.
  • Politically Correct History:
    • The 1945 characters are largely portrayed as decent, patriotic soldiers, simply fighting for their country and defending it against American invaders; both express an interest in taking the Sentinels back to their time to prevent the atomic bombings and one even wants to "take the fight to American soil." The closest thing to criticism the narrative provides is implicit, such as high-school aged young men being drafted into the military or taken out of school to work in factories. For that matter, their discomfort with later eras, while examined more deeply by the narrative, still tends to revolve around being Fish out of Temporal Water rather than reckoning with the intense ultranationalistic fascism of their time, and how it would impact their view of, say, homosexuality or women wearing immodest clothes. Imagine a story in which a similarly-patriotic Wehrmacht soldier ends up in modern Germany and expresses a desire to prevent the collapse of Hitler's empire, and it'd be about as weird.
    • Less problematically, in 1985, most of the young characters are very accepting of homosexuality, considering the time period.
    • Potentially subverted with The Reveal that no actual time travel is taking place and all of these time periods are simply simulations; the simulations' creators could simply have chosen to omit unsavory attributes and attitudes from the time periods in question, making this an In-Universe trope.
  • The Reveal: Several, the game is designed with giving at least one big reveal about a character or the plot in every character's event, usually at the end.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Played straight, averted and even zigzagged.
    • Straight: Miura and Natsuno, as well as Takatoshi and Okino become couples at the end, much like their original Project Ark counterparts. There's also an one-sided example with Ryoko Shinonome, who has a crush on Tetsuya Ida (both in 2188 and in the virtual world), which sorta extends to the Ida's younger self, Shu.
    • Averted: Shu and Tomi, who were a couple in the previous loop, end up with Yuki and Nenji respectively in the current one.
    • Zigzagged: Juro Izumi and Chihiro Morimura were both in love, and it's implied this was the case for their original Project Ark selves as well, Major Izumi and Professor Morimura (if Gouto is to be believed). However, Juro Kurabe and Iori Fuyusaka, their current loop versions, end up with completely different people by the end.
  • Resurrection/Death Loop: The 2188 Ryoko Shinonome sabotaged to the Facility so the cloned children will die and their simulated world will be destroyed before they can reach adulthood. The Facility then makes new clones and resets the world, which will repeat until the children manage to escape or the Facility breaks down entirely.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Transmission to Sector 0 allows someone to survive the end of a loop with their memories and personality intact. However, Sector 0 is not a physical space, but a server for brain uploads. Those who go through it are recreated as an AI in the new loop, causing them to lose their Compatible status.
    • A major driving force of the game's final stretch is that this will no longer work, as the Lotus-Eater Machine the story takes place in is about to exceed its service life. By the next loop, everything would be physically rebuilt, causing Sector 0 to be wiped clean.
  • Running Gag:
  • San Dimas Time: Travel between eras is fixed to multiples of forty years. For instance, several characters from the 80s are shunted to the ruined 2020s, spend a few days there, and return the same amount of time later. This is actually because the different Sectors are parallel worlds where time passes simultaneously; they're just meant to look like different time periods.
  • Scenery Porn: The game features stunning backgrounds, which is hardly a surprise, given this is developed by Vanilla Ware.
  • Sempai/Kōhai: While most of the protagonists are first-year high schoolers, Ryoko, Renya and Hijiyama are second-years. Renya in particular commands a lot of respect from the first-years.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: This is the reason the different sectors of the Ark are set in different time periods. To avert the mistakes that led to humanity becoming extinct in 2188, Doctor Morimura ordered the different sectors to be set at different points in history to maximize the chance of an alternate route being taken and avoid the bad decisions that ended up destroying humanity.
  • Ship Tease: A fair bit of it occurs between various couples — namely, Juro and Megumi, Ei and Iori, Shu and Yuki, Nenji and Tomi, Ryoko and Tetsuya, Takatoshi and Tsukasa, and Keitaro and Natsuno. The last two pairs were actual couples in 2188, and in the Distant Finale they're all actual couples with the exception of Ryoko and Tetsuya — the former may have ended up with Renya instead.
  • Shoulders-Up Nudity: All the protagonists are naked when piloting their mechs, with their portrait cutting at the shoulders to only imply nudity for the guys. To conceal the girl's breasts, Iori and Tomi both have Toplessness from the Back in their screens while Shinonome, Megumi and Natsuno all have some conveniently placed circuitry covering their chests.
  • Shout-Out: The game makes several direct shout outs to well-known science fiction novels, films, and pop culture.
  • Significant Double Casting: Take a quick glance at the Characters page for this game and you'll see that several of the voice actors are cast as two or three different people. In every case, those different people are alternate versions of or false identities used by the same singular individual.
  • SkeleBot 9000: The androids made by Ida that are scattered across the Sectors look like skeletons made of metal, with the Kisaragi and Tamao android being the only ones that were given a human skin.
  • Smash Cut: Whenever a character completes a route in Remembrance, there's a fade-out and the words "To Be Continued..." appear. There's only one circumstance where this doesn't happen. Once Juro Kurabe is wise to Shiba's true identity, Shiba will state that Juro needs another memory wipe. If Shiba catches Juro, the Remembrance smashes immediately to the results screen. It's quite jarring.
  • Technology Marches On: Invoked. The different classes of Sentinels are based on advances to the technology they are built on, with different generations of Sentinels having different capabilities:
    • First-generation Sentinels are melee-focused bruisers that focus on destroying enemies in close quarters.
    • Second-generation Sentinels have more balanced capabilities, being able to engage enemies at various ranges, as well as summon support units.
    • Third-generation Sentinels are outfitted with powerful long-range weapons, from missiles to railguns, allowing them to destroy enemies across vast distances.
    • Fourth-generation Sentinels benefit from being able to fly, using superior mobility to provide support to allies.
  • Thinking Tic: All of the protagonists have their own unique "thinking animation" that show off their different personalities during Thought Cloud, such as Yuki stroking her chin, Keitaro crossing his arms, Shu scratching the back of his head and Gouto reading his personal notebook.
  • Toast of Tardiness: In Iori Fuyusaka's prologue, she runs to school this way because she overslept.
  • Tower Defense: The Real-Time Strategy portions of the game center around commanding a team of Sentinels to protect a Terminal. If the Terminal falls, it's Game Over.
  • Time Travel: While most of the main cast hail from the present era of The '80s, some hail from a Bad Future where the Kaiju invaded, and others from the World War II era, and all come together to deal with a mutual threat. Actually Subverted. There are no real examples of Time Travel in the game and the characters are simply under the Wrong Assumption it's real. The game actually takes place thousands of years After the End in a colony on a different planet, where all the characters are Inside a Computer System. The creators of Project Ark felt humanity should restart in an era before the incident that ruined Earth, but couldn't decide on which one, so they based the 5 residential zones (known collectively as Sectors) to look like different time periods, where each character would live until they became 20 years old and could leave the simulation: Sector 1 (2089 to 2109), Sector 2 (2049 to 2069), Sector 3 (2009 to 2029), Sector 4 (1969 to 1989) and Sector 5 (1929 to 1949). What looks like Time Travel is simply a spatial relocation to other Sectors inside the simulation managed by Universal Control.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Whenever a character is in their head considering keywords, if that keyword involves an item they're carrying, they'll take it out and look at it. In some cases, this can be a gun. Nobody comments on this even if the character is in public. This is subverted only once. In Sekigahara's route, if he considers his phaser in front of a police officer, the officer will notice and react accordingly, which is actually required to access one of his routes.
  • Von Neumann Machine: The Ark was designed to be one by professor Yuki Takamiya of 2188. It automatically tries to recycle the materials found in meteoroids and small planets it finds en route to its location to make more of itself, to the point it's described as "a living organism". According to the last entry in the archive, it also reached all the way to a planet more than 750 million parsecs away from RS-13α, which is a testament to the resiliency of the design.
  • Wham Episode: Natsuno's "Exterminator" route, where she gets pursued by an android Tomi possessed by 426. As well, Tamao is revealed to also be an android, Natsuno is revealed to have the DEIMOS command code, and BJ is revealed to be none other than a copy of Miura. It's to the point that completing this episode is necessary to progress in the story of at least 4 other characters due to how spoileriffic it is.
  • Wham Line: Plenty, given the non-linear nature of the game's story allowing players to stumble across major plot twists before they can be substantially foreshadowed. But there are a few standout examples:
    • During Juro's storyline, he and Shiba bump into Keitaro, who tries to confront Juro over his accidental summoning of his Sentinel previously. Shiba remarks that it sounds like something out of a movie, and Juro agrees with him, only for Keitaro to drop this bombshell.
      Keitaro: Juro-kun... who are you talking to?
    • Megumi's storyline features a very similar twist to the above, when Miwako states that the talking cat Megumi was always interacting with doesn't exist.
    • In the last event of Juro's story, 426/Kyuta is discussing his motives, and says that with access to the greater system, every time they destroy an enemy, they'll get a prize, like scoring points. At this the player realizes that the Meta-Chips points system that's been in use throughout the Destruction mode has been completely in-universe.
    • Late in Natsuno's story, BJ gives us this line that throws into question everything we thought we knew about the setting.
      BJ: This is not Earth.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Outside of the 15 survivors (the 13 protagonists plus Okino and Tamao), every single NPC they encounter is actually a simulated personality generated by a highly advanced AI. However, this doesn't stop the protagonists from treating them as regular humans, even after they find out the Awful Truth. In the Distant Finale, five years after they successfully escaped the simulation, they reset it and go back to visit everyone, and Goto and Shinonome mention they're researching the technology to give the simulated humans real physical bodies so that they can live in the real world with the. When it comes down to it, on some level the protagonists are AIs too, just ones based on organic humans.

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