I am Setsuna is the first game developed by the newly established studio, Tokyo RPG Factory. This studio was especially created for fulfilling the needs of RPG fans of the yesteryear by Square Enix and it has managed to deliver its goal with the first game right out of the gate.
I am Setsuna sees the player taking control of a mercenary who has been hired to end the life of a girl called Setsuna. Upon arriving in her village and discovering Setsuna, he soon learns that the girl who he is trying to kill is ready to sacrifice her life, but that requires her to take a journey across the world. The game has a very simple story premise but while the general outline is simple, the journey that happens along the way is what makes the game memorable.
The story and gameplay takes a lot of inspiration from the past Square Enix games. The basic premise of the story, a journey for sacrifice, looks like it was taken from Final Fantasy X. The gameplay is inspired from the turn-based ATB systm featured in Chrono Trigger. It is similar in execution in terms of how the enemies are represented on the battle screen. There is even a combo technique called the X-Strike which is straight out of Chrono Trigger. This might please some of the fans of the series who have been demanding a successor.
The gameplay of I am Setsuna revolves around a modified version of the active time battle (ATB) system from Chrono Trigger where enemies are placed on a battlefield along with the player, and each have their own turn during the battle which allows them to attack or perform various actions. The battle is determined by the ATB gauge which, when full, results in the player taking control of the corresponding character. It is a classic turn-based battle system that has been used in numerous RPGs and should please the old school fans who wanted to see a return to turn-based combat in JRPGs.
The enemies appear on the map, which means it is possible to avoid them if you want, although the enclosed space doesn’t really leave much room for it. They don’t appear to respawn unless the player leaves for a different location, usually accompanied by a loading screen. There is a also a bonus for sneaking around the enemy that can result in an ambush. The battle that follows an ambush has the player all powered up with a fully charged attack and ATB gauge, which can make short work of the enemies. There are also boss battles through the various key story sequences that require the players to formulate a strategy, usually revolved around making sure the party remains healthy while the boss is slowed down with attacks.
You will be able to make your characters learn new techniques to use in battle by acquiring various Spritnite stones. These can be bought by selling certain items harvested from monsters, which in turn unlock specific stones. These can be equipped by characters to perform various techniques in battle. Each of them has their own set of required items to sell and aren’t that hard to acquire. Some of the items will need a specific way to finish the monsters in order for them to drop it.
The game features a variety of locations but it is mostly situated on snowy landscapes. There is a world map with top-down view that seems to be inspired from the classic Final Fantasy games. The PS4 version of the game also has a short loading screen every time the player enters a new location. There are various town, dungeons and caves to explore but they all seem rather small in scope and sadly don’t offer much in term of variety. It might be due to the short budget and scope of the game, which is rather apparent from the environment.
If you were a fan of the chibi art style of Bravely Default or Final Fantasy IX, you will enjoy it in I am Setsuna as well. While the environment are lacking variety in term of detail, the same doesn’t apply to the main characters as they appear to be well designed. Unfortunately the game lacks a memorable villain, which might be a huge negative for fans who loved the crazy villains of Final Fantasy or Chrono series.
The game isn’t particularly lengthy when compared to today’s RPGs, and can take around 20 to 30 hours in order to complete. There isn’t a lot of side content to encourage players to return the game. Unlike in Chrono Trigger, the story here is linear, and there isn’t much incentive to replay it. That said, if you like the character and story enough, you may end up considering a second playthrough.
In conclusion, I will say that if you are an old-school JRPG fan and are looking for a game that scratches that particular itch, you will be satisfied by what I am Setsuna has to offer. Though, it does make me wish for a true successor to Chrono Trigger with proper time travel mechanics, fascinating characters and multiple endings.
I am Setsuna is available now for the PS4 and PC. This review covers the PS4 version of the game.
I Am Setsuna Review (PS4)
I Am Setsuna is an interesting take on the classic JRPG genre. Tokyo RPG Factory has managed to take one of the best turn-based battle system from fan favorite Chrono Trigger and used it to create a simple but memorable experience that might satisfy the thirst of JRPG fans.