I am Setsuna
Tokyo RPG Factory
Director: Atsushi Hashimoto
Producer: Kengo Urobuchi
Writers: Hirotaka Inaba
Composer: Tomoki Miyoshi
In a land gripped by perpetual winter, a mercenary takes on a quest to slay the maiden Setsuna who is about to embark on a quest to sacrifice herself in a ritual to keep the monsters of the land at bay.
active time battle system
a little north of 20 hours
July 19, 2016
-genre defining music
-easily digestible run time
-some mechanics are not fully explained
-all environments are snow based
-20 hour run time may turn off some hardcore JRPG fans
-lack of classic humor may turn some off
Japanese role playing games aren’t what they used to be. Often times, they don’t represent the “golden era” of the genre that players hold to standard. But every once in a while, a game will rear its head above the clouds of mediocrity. By achieving this status, that game will be remembered through the ages. I am Sesuna is the standing example of this.
I am Setsuna is a love letter to old school JRPGs. The creators at Tokyo RPG Factory embodies what it was to be a turn based adventure that feels copy pasted from the 90s age of gaming. Experiences like I am Setsuna remind us all that bouts of nostalgia are not only welcomed, but the doorway into a long lost gaming category that still has much life kicking around within it.
Bringing back the fan favorite active time battle system, games like Chrono Trigger, earlier Final Fantasy titles, and Dragon Quest are direct inspirations for I am Setsuna. The combat utilizes a time bar that fills up and initiates your turn. With moves like “X-Cross,” a team up move that requires two of the characters can do, is lifted straight out of Chrono Trigger.
While developer Tokyo RPG Factory may be the new kids on the block, they teamed up with producers and genre veterans, Square Enix. I am Setsuna is powered by the Unity engine which displays some very simple yet beautiful graphics. Sure, they are not top of the line visuals, but the art style is awe inspiring and fitting of the overall resonance.
Through my 20 plus hours of I am Setsuna, I experienced a myriad of feelings and emotions. A solemn tone permeates through its entire run-time, and while there is little humor or cheerful moments, the sad story creates a worthwhile narrative that has you invested in the journey as well as the great cast of characters.
The world seems to be trapped in a constant winter. Don’t expect to go through the trope filled locations of volcano, forests, deserts, and other go to biomes. While it may bother some, the constant snow and lack of other environments never bothered me. The persistence of the weather adds to the themes and tones of sadness.
The characters embody a mixture of classic archetype homages as well as fresh new characterizations. The main character, Endir is used as a vessel for the player to experience the story. The player can choose dialog options that don’t seem to have any bearing on how the story unfolds. Endir is a mercenary that is hired to find Setsuna, a young maiden chosen to ritually sacrifice herself to keep the monsters of the land at bay. This story set up is what begins the heart tugging narrative as Ednir struggles with his mission to kill the girl or allow her to fulfill the ritual.
Nidr is another standout character among the cast of six. He is a veteran soldier who is familiar with the pilgrimage that young girls like Setsuna have to embark on. Nidr is a larger seasoned combatant who carries a enormous sword and his inside knowledge of the journey. Sound like a particular fan favorite from Final Fantasy X? Nidir acts as a source of information as he gives many of world building speeches that rounds out the world and solidifies himself as an unforgettable character. Nidr easily has one of the best character arcs in the game.
The most memorable aspect about this game is certainly the music. The tunes are all piano based and composed by Tomoki Miyoshi. He got his break from working on the music Soul Caliber V at the tender age of sixteen. Tomoki Miyoshi is also known for movie and anime soundtracks as well. However, this is his best work. The music is beautiful, sometimes even hauntingly so. I find myself often leaving the game running just so I can do chores around the house and has become easily one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time.
This is a must play for any JRPG fan, especially those who long for that golden era of the genre. We don’t get console experiences like this anymore. Sure, there are a plethora of great turn based experiences on handheld systems like Sony’s Vita and Nintendo’s 3DS. However, we just don’t get games that feel as good as this game does. From the great mechanics, to the amazing music, to the memorable characters, and the strong story. This is a perfectly packaged JRPG experience. If you long for the days of Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, look no further than I am Setsuna.