An old School JRPG to appease your inner nostalgic demons
Game: I am Setsuna
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher: Square Enix
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (Review code provided by publisher)
I am Setsuna is an RPG created by Tokyo RPG Factory; a seemingly new development studio created by Square Enix and consisting of external staff to create classic style role playing games. With this in mind I absolutely couldn’t wait to sit down and get stuck into I am Setsuna. The game follows the story of Endir and companions on a pilgrimage to save the world from strength increased monsters by sacrificing a girl so that monsters become less hostile making the world a safer place. The girl in question is known as Setsuna. Not the strongest story but one that has been heard of before and very reminiscent of another RPG that I know of…
As I got stuck into I am Setsuna I was super impressed; not only by the amazing visuals but by the beautiful piano music playing before me. The game opens quite well but one thing I noticed is the story progression happens a bit too fast and the narrative seems a bit off at first although this passes. Within the first thirty minutes of the game you complete a mission, rescue a girl, almost kill another and before you know it you are on the mission set out before you for the rest of the game. The way the narrative plays out I thought that the kill mission was the whole purpose of the game but this isn’t the case. As a huge fan of old school JRPGs I am accustomed to large drawn out conversations with characters especially when text boxes are involved; for me this just didn’t happen early on and I felt the story tried too fast to get onto the main goal.
As you play you follow some tutorials and become accustomed to the games battle system which is an absolute pleasure to play. The combat is similar to that of Chrono Trigger mixed with Final Fantasy. Players take it in turns to attack as the ATB(Active Time Battle) gauge fills. When this is full characters can either attack; use a skill or spell or an item. However, if they wait for a team members gauge to fill also and they have a linked move with the other character they can perform a combo together. This will use both characters attack but the power of the combo move more than benefits it. Sadly there is no Defend option and you are stuck waiting if a character can only heal which I found when nobody needs healing but there is a bonus to waiting on a character who has yet to perform. A character who is waiting to perform will have a momentum bar filled. When this is full a dot will appear, with a maximum of three. By concentrating and unleashing an attack and pressing square just as you attack you will unleash a more powerful version of that attack or skill. Characters are placed in battle depending on your approach to enemies.
Spritnite is a stone that grants powers and while most can only be used by certain individuals some can be used by all making for some interesting combination attacks. Defeated enemies will reward not money but materials which can be exchanged at vendors throughout the game. This can then be exchanged for money or Spritnite as long as you have the required items. For this reason it is best not to sell items you do not have a lot of and while they generally sell for more, they appear less and may be better suited for obtaining new Spritnite
Talismans are accessories obtained which can have a positive effect in battle such as showing an enemies HP in battle but also determine what type and how much Spritnite can be set on a character. Each character specializes in their own weapon and new ones can be found and purchased in the game. They can also be strengthened as long as you own the tempering items to do so.
While towns look unique and everything is well placed, I found that some buildings interiors are completely identical and the only difference is the NPCs that reside within or may hold a treasure chest. One thing I found very odd for a supposedly golden age style game is the lack of inns. There are none to be found in I am Setsuna; now don’t get me wrong this is not an issue in the slightest and Tents which can be bought from any Item vendor for a respectable 200 coins do the job just fine but I always loved the feeling of arriving at a new town, finding an inn to settle down in and saving the game if need be to carry on at a later date. Usually these are hot spots for information and I would of thought a game about travelers going on a pilgrimage there would be sanctuaries set up. May aswell have a random guy in every town saying”Here you go ever so important sacrifice have a tent and go and sleep outside in the dangerous world full of ever increasing hostile monsters”…
There is a World Map (yay!). It is however quite confusing in terms of knowing where to go. Trees cannot be passed and to progress through forests means going through a separate instance. This again is a homage to Chrono Trigger for having the same style overworld which I am ok with.
While there is no voice acting there are voices but these are only heard in battle and unfortunately they are in Japanese. Yes, I know most people prefer Japanese voice overs to English however I am not one of them and I cannot speak for everyone; fortunately I was able to turn these off.
Given the few small issues I have with this game, I am Setsuna is close to a perfect role playing experience and will cater to old school veterans and maybe even to new people looking to get into an old JRPG experience. The game is beautiful to look at; the story while weak at first does pick up an the music fits each situation perfectly. There is a general theme of sadness with this game and it does a good job to make sure you know that. Personally I don’t think the game will be a memorable experience that you will go back to it time and time again however it definitely should not be overlooked.