I Am Setsuna feels familiar. As a 90’s style RPG that hearkens back to Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy, does I Am Setsuna accomplish what it’s set out to do? Let’s take a further look into the mechanics of the game om this I Am Setsuna review.
|Type of game:||J-RPG|
|Developer:||Tokyo RPG Factory|
|Total Play Time:||25 hours|
|System Requirements:||CPU: Core i3 2GHz and above
GPU: 512 MB GeForce GTS250
RAM: 2 GB
OS: Windows 7/8/10
HDD Space: 2 GB
The World of I Am Setsuna
I Am Setsuna is set in a backdrop reminiscent of that of old school RPGs like Chrono Trigger, but does it rely too heavily on nostalgia while forgoing substance? Does the player at any point actually care about any of the characters? The game received a 7.5 from IGN and averaged a similar score across the board. Below, we’ll take a closer look at how Setsuna’s atmosphere, location, and storyline contributed what has been hailed as an overall success.
Atmosphere & Location
The world overall is framed by a continuous snowy backdrop. While serene, this setup can sometimes make the game feel more compact than vast. Landscapes in Setsuna rarely introduce any unique elements, at times causing them to blend together and make traversing the ruins and caves feel less than exciting.
Where the setting of I Am Setsuna succeeds spectacularly is in rekindling the old RPG feel of it’s obvious and professed forefather, Chrono Trigger, without which a game like Setsuna would not be possible. Playing Setsuna feels impressively similar to what playing RPGs felt like when played as a child – frankly, one is just glad they can come along for the ride.
Invoking the influence of another named predecessor, old school Final Fantasy, I Am Setsuna is graced with the gift of the gorgeous, melancholy piano soundtrack ‘Winter’s End’ by composer Tomoki Miyoshi.
The empty landscape, constrained though it might be, pairs perfectly with the slow and pensive soundtrack, contributing to the game’s overall somber theme. This is a game that is meant to be taken slowly, meant to encourage the player to measure every step taken as the party escorts Setsuna on her doomed journey.
Nestled between the game’s plot and character development is Setsuna’s excellent real time combat system. As each character’s turn is determined by their individual combat bar, they may take turns fighting one by one. Even better; if more than one character’s bar is filled up at the same time, they can utilize combination moves to deal exponentially more damage.
Setsuna succeeds in altering some JRPG stereotypes and flipping them on their heads. The titular character has been chosen as a sacrificial maiden, and your party’s main objective is to escort Setsuna to this sacrificial death.
With a combat system that values combo attacks over traditional turn based combat, utilizing instead an active time battle system, each character becomes more useful to the player. Although one may be hesitant to invest in characters with such a sorrow inducing dynamic, each character manages to shine in their own way.
Despite the game’s short length, or perhaps because of it, each character is given just compelling of enough backstory without bogging down the main story line. In the end, these characters have resigned themselves to their fate and their role in Setsuna’s, and this sort of resignation is fascinating to watch, especially within a subgenre that so rarely leaves this sort of drama unexplored.
Kir, Julienne, Fides, Endir, Aeterna, and Nidr all have important parts to play and end the game changed after their journey with Setsuna to defeat the Dark Samsara. For such a somber game, Setsuna manages reveals and twists that add great depth to its characters, bringing them to life in a way it could have easily forgone.
It is in this unlikely strength that I Am Setsuna succeeds; in making each character reveal their depth with a deft artistry that defined its spiritual predecessors. As the game never wavers due to lack of side-quests or random encounters, what’s left is the tunnel vision-like focus of Setsuna and her party. The linear nature of these characters’ motivations make the walk to the inevitable end all the more melancholy.
The ancient custom is this: a maiden is sacrificed to appease the demons that plague the world of I Am Setsuna. These demons are appeased for a time, until inevitably another maiden must be sacrificed. The grim nature of such a reality informs the pacing of I Am Setsuna. The storyline is linear, matter of fact, for this reason. This is the way things are done, have been done, and will be done.
One might expect an RPG based on such a somber premise to be nearly unplayable, but this is not the case. Setsuna remains positive, reveling in the comfort there is to be found within the concepts of honor and duty.
The game is not without moments of joy and levity, and thankfully incorporates other traditional RPG elements such as time magic. While taking root in tried and true RPG functionality, Setsuna manages to deliver surprises and twists along the way, ultimately providing a gameplay experience unlike that of any other game with a similar functionality.
The cynical nature of the world of Setsuna paired with the occasional monotonous gameplay makes the player ultimately grateful a casual playthrough lasts about 25 hours. With little to offer outside of Setsuna’s story, the world feels less than fully fleshed out.
Without the lore of works within a similar genre, Setsuna does not set itself up for a franchise or extended gameplay, or even lend itself to multiple playthroughs. What it does offer instead is a beautiful, one time experience RPG fans will be grateful to have experienced.
Setsuna feels at home having been released by Square Enix, and it’s easy to see why. Having borrowed successful elements from previous beloved RPGs, Setsuna succeeds in creating something new, while feeling like something familiar.
Overall, I Am Setsuna is not one to pass up for fans of traditional RPGs. Those who normally shy away from the genre probably won’t find anything of note here when the repetitive combat system and landscapes inevitably lose their luster.
For the interested, Setsuna provides characters with depth and a tragically unique storyline that will most likely leave them a little more heartbroken than they were before they picked up the game. Did you enjoy Setsuna or did it feel like just another RPG? We want to know your thoughts on I Am Setsuna and our I Am Setsuna review.