Review: I am Setsuna 

It’s a fine experience for what it is

click to enlarge setsuna.jpg

I am
Setsuna, the debut from developer Tokyo RPG factory, is a deliberate throwback to the JRPG’s of the 90’s, in particular the like of Chrono Trigger.

The story, as it is, is basically Final Fantasy X by way of Game of Thrones. The world is trapped in a seemingly endless winter, and you the player, a mostly silent mercenary are charged with protecting while she takes a pilgrimage to sacrifice herself to end the winter and save the world. A good setup, though, like with FFX, I can’t help but wonder if the pov character was necessary, and that the story wouldn’t have been stronger if Setsuna herself hadn’t been the main player character.

I mean, the maiden with a tragic destiny is done all the time in rpgs, couldn’t we at least play as her rather than protect her? That sounds better to me.

Anyway, the game has quite a lot of positive things going for it, and you’re a fan of old style rpgs it’ll certainly pull at your nostalgic heartstrings. The battles are top done and utilize the active time turn based combat system. The magic system uses the same basic attacks as pretty much every Square Enix produced rpg ever, fira, firaga, etc.

It’s all very well put together, though it’s kind of way too easy for anyone old enough to be nostalgic for the games, it’s homaging. I trounced my way through pretty much the entire adventure without dying once and only needing to heal a few times to keep myself going in any battle that wasn’t a boss fight.

The combat looks nice, with lots of cool fight animations and lots of bright colors flashing around, but it wasn’t any kind of real challenge. Enemies aren’t tough enough to facilitate any kind of interesting strategy like in Chrono Trigger. So no clever enemy placement, no clever use of attack patterns, just straight forward turn based combat. Which is really meh.

Easily the best thing about the game is the music and the atmosphere. Though most of the environments are snow swept mountain tops and vistas for plot reasons, the way they’re rendered is beautiful, bordering on ethereal. The soundtrack also drips with sadness, blanketing the whole experience in melancholy. The 3d sprites are also downright gorgeous, striking a fantastic balance between detailed and simplistic

However, the characters and story are kind of bare bones. It’s a save the world yarn you’ve heard a thousand times before, populated with archetypes so blatant you’d think you were on a tv tropes page. The main protagonist you’re asked to embody is a blank slate cypher, something I was hoping games without character creators would learn to avoid, and Setsuna herself is Yuna without any of the nuance or growth that transforms her from pure young woman to world saving hero.

It’s very to tell a story with simplistic characters, I just wish they’d used ones I hadn’t seen done a billion times better in other games.

Unfortunately, while the game certainly scratches the JRPG itch, it feel kind of hollow. Like it’s the shell of an experience that could’ve been a lot more lyrical than the few good notes offered here. It feels like a much larger scale game with a lot more put into was just begging to happen, especially at the hefty price tag of $40.

It’s a fine experience for what it is, but I still couldn’t help but be left cold. If you’re desperate for a new JRPG, go for it. But otherwise, I’d wait for the FFXV.


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Joe Cain

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