I Am Setsuna Review
Initial NA Release Date: July 19, 2016
Review Date: August 16, 2016
Reviewed on: PC
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS Vita
A beautiful looking JRPG inspired by the likes of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy and the Tales series, I Am Setsuna is the classic narrative of the “pure-hearted heroine willing to sacrifice herself for the good of others.”
The core aspects that give away the classic JRPG feel are all there, a party made of characters holding different weapons, the use of elements in battle, foes varying in forms of humans to giant monsters, light puzzle solving and even a flying ship. However, the game lacks the depth we are used to from most role-playing games that make their way from Japan. In a way, I Am Setsuna attempts to disguise its shortcomings with its endearing visuals and that’s not enough when it comes to investing roughly 20 hours into it.
Presentation – Aside from the occasional cave, almost in its entirety, the game is played in a land covered in snow, and winter never looked so good. The snow trails the characters and monsters leave when moving, the windy snow that breezes throughout the scene, the ballad themed soundtrack all aid to the cold, winter touch of the game.
The 2.5D character and monster models blend well into the scene and the game’s overall art style seems heavily inspired from the Tales series which use the same type of land design and animalistic monster types. I Am Setsuna also sounds very much like a Tales game when it comes to certain battle or special environment tracks. The characters don’t sound bad in their mid and post battle banter but it gets repeated often. The option to mute all characters, not just Endir, would have been a nice addition.
There isn’t much to complain about when it comes to the overall aesthetic of the game, it’s definitely pretty to look at, exploring the white winter terrains with an ironically peaceful soundtrack considering the game’s narrative, is enjoyable, however just like the game’s lack of gameplay depth, the feeling of reiteration as you continue on the journey, takes place, the snowy terrain and emerald caves are pretty to look at but in the end there is no real variety.
Gameplay – I Am Setsuna sets homage to Chrono Trigger with few things but the most noted is with its active time battle system (ATB) and its play of elements such as Time, Light and Shadow, as well as a few weapons.
The ATB system lends the characters and monsters to make moves when the ATB meter is full, there are no set turns, once the meter is full it’s up to who acts first. The choice to wait for characters to be in sync with their ATB meters in order to perform double or triple link combos is the gamble when dealing with how the monsters decide to act with their ATB. Along with synchronized ATB combos—a battle mechanic inspired from Chrono Trigger, there is also the Tales inspired Momentum gauge, which can store up to three charges at once, being able to use a single charge per action, the Momentum is used for additional damage, passive boosts, health regeneration, etc.
In addition to Momentum, the three other helpful battle mechanics are Spritnites, Flux Bonuses, and Singularities. Spritnites are crystals that the characters may choose to equip for special attributes such as stat boosts, ATB reduction, passive effects etc. Flux Bonuses act as almost as Spirtnites for skills or techs, basically additional boosts for skills, and lastly Singularities are random timed effects that occur during battle, providing a variety of different attributes. The one problem with these mechanics, is that they aren’t very well explained and are just abruptly introduced in the beginning of the game and never really touched on again, but aside from that, with a multitude of skills, Spritnites, and attribute-boosting Talismans, the game maintains a refreshing battle system, the variety opens up different party options and strategies, making battle very enjoyable.
Where the game really falls short on is with almost everything else but its great battle system. The lack of character depth really hurts I Am Setsuna as there is no real personality to the characters and are all just very typical JRPG stereotypes. Setsuna, the “see good in all sacrifice.” Kir, the “young spunky comedy relief.” The only real character that has any personality is Endir, and that is only because we get to pick his lines, which brings me to one of my biggest gripes with the game, which is that your choices just simply do not matter in this game.
Endir’s party often gives him options to choose from only to turn around and completely disregard his choice if it is not the one they were hoping for. The linearity really shows itself when this happens, begging the question, “Why even give the player a choice if he really has no say at all?”
To go along with the game’s stereotypical characters, its plot follows suit. The story revolves around getting Setsuna, the chosen sacrifice from the village of Nive to The Last Lands, in order to save the land from the monsters overrunning, thus maintaining an impermanent peace between the two species. Together with Setsuna, Endir, the hired mercenary assigned to originally murder Setsuna, and the rest of the party encounter bumps along the road to The Last Lands, having to change courses, help others as they keep meeting additional party members.
The overall narrative is not bad but suffers from a slow start and due to its predictability when having to select a name for new party members in their first appearance, spoiling the plot in a way, and the game’s strict linearity, I Am Setsuna falls short in the story-telling aspect.
Final Impression – In an attempt to replicate what made games like Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series so special with the ATB system, I Am Setsuna succeeds, however the game constantly falls short when it comes to anything else.
The lack of variety in locations, personable characters, accompanied with a generic narrative and an underwhelming final boss lends the game to be bittersweet by the end of it.
There are many things that keep the game from being better than just a nice homage to the classic era of JRPGs. The inability to sell old weapons, lack of world map or mini map, only being able to sell materials to one vendor, are all just a few.
To summarize, it’s difficult to overlook the game’s shortcomings, but it does pick up for its slow start at the later stages of the game and with a great battle system, art style and fitting soundtrack, and a relative short length for its genre, I Am Setsuna is an enjoyable JRPG that is well suited for both novices of the genre and experienced JRPG veterans.
+ ATB battle system
+ Pretty art style
– Uninspired characters
– Linear, no real choices
Final Score – 7.4/10 Good
Throughout my playthrough with I Am Setsuna, I made sure to explore extensively before leaving maps, as well as interacting with NPC’s. Also before the final boss, I went back exploring for locked chests and explored Apparth Ruins. I finished my playthrough in about 16 hours total.