JRPGs revolutionized the gaming world back in the late 80's and early 90's, becoming a genre that would stand apart from all the other ones. Despite being a successful formula, JRPGs in general have slowly changed in the last few years, mainly due to the technology progress when it comes to consoles and PC. We see franchises, such as Final Fantasy, moving away from its roots and changing into something that fits the modern look of the current gen games. However, there's still a big demand for more traditional JRPG games, something that Square Enix recently acknowledged with titles such as Bravely Default. With this is mind, Square created Tokyo RPG Factory, a studio whose main focus is to develop traditional JRPG titles, such as I am Setsuna.
I am Setsuna starts with main protagonist Endir being tasked with killing a young girl named Setsuna. Endir's attempt at taking her life fails, and it's at this point that he learns the whole truth about Setsuna and the duty she must undertake. In order to appease the savage monsters in the mainland and the surrounding islands, once every ten years a chosen sacrifice travels to the Last Lands to perform the sacrificial rites. With this sacrifice, the threat of the monsters disappears and brings peace once again. Setsuna is actually the next sacrifice, and when she senses something special about Endir, she asks him to accompany her on her pilgrimage to the Last Lands. Several other characters, each with their own backstories and motivations, will join the pilgrimage in this adventure focused around the themes of courage, sorrow, loneliness and sacrifice.
The gameplay remains faithful to the traditional formula of JRPGs with a turn-based battle system, but with a few gameplay elements and interesting twists that make it more interesting and challenging. For starters, you can attack several enemies depending on their position on the field, something that applies to the enemy as well. Although you don't have any control over your characters' movement, both you and your enemies will move across the field. With attacks that hit everything directly in front of you, magic attacks that hit your target and everything near it, among other abilities with different ranges, the position of both your characters and the monsters play an important role on how you will handle the battle at each moment.
There's also no random encounters in the game, as the game takes a similar approach to games like Final Fantasy XIII-2 where monsters roam freely in each location you visit except for towns. This allows you, for the most part, to avoid the enemy and skip combat or catch the enemy off-guard. Getting the enemy by surprise lets you start the battle with the ATB meter filled and one Momentum point (I will get to this in a bit) when the battle starts, which gives you the chance to defeat them before they get a chance attack.
Spritnite stones also play a crucial role in the game. There are two types of Spritnite: Command and Support. While Command sprinites allow the characters to use magic and other abilities, Support sprinites grant special effects such as higher evasion and MP regen. Although at first each character can only equip two or three spritnites, as they level up, they will unlock more slots. Materials that the enemies drop can be sold to Magic Consortium members to purchase new sprinites. In addition, you can perform special combos when you have certain characters in your party and they are equipped with the right Spritnites.
Speaking of materials, you will find scattered around the ground pretty much everywhere ingredients, such as apples and salt. Given you have all the necessary ingredients when you talk to certain NPCs, they will prepare a meal using those ingredients and give you the recipe. Once you have the recipe you can buy that particular food anytime you want. The deal with these meals is that once you eat one of these it will give you bonuses in the next battle, such as more experience, magical power or evasion rate. Taking in consideration the benefits, meals are always something useful to have in your inventory before a boss battle.
The most interesting aspect of the battle system is Momentum. In addition to the ATB meter, each character has a second meter that once it fills up grants that character a Momentum point. This meter charges every time that the ATB meter is full and when the character performs an action or takes damage, with players having the option to accumulate up to three points. You can use these Momentum Points to add various effects to a character's attacks and abilities, such as additional damage, healing your party when the action is performed and increase the duration of supportive magic. The issue with this system is that you need to press the square button as the action is performed, something that requires good timing and it will take players a bit before getting used to the mechanic.
When you use Momentum points you will occasionally trigger Fluxes and Singularities. Fluxes add permanent Flux passive bonus to spritnite that you characters have equipped, such as ATB bonus, higher evasion rate, among other bonuses. As for Singularities, these are temporary special bonus effects that provide various bonuses during battle to your party like dealing more damage or the ATB filling faster. Although it relies a bit luck, Singularities prove to be a great help, especially in boss battles, as they often turn the tide of the battle in your favor.
Despite a gameplay system, story and world that might feel nostalgic to classic JRPG fans, I am Setsuna lacks some of the core elements that make this genre unique. Despite featuring a world map and several locations, the game offers very little amount of optional content. The game features only a few sidequests and extra dungeons, and even these are only available for players in the late stages of the game.
This doesn't mean there aren't any challenging optional enemies as you progress through the game. Occasionally, you will run across Spritnite-eaten monsters, which, just like its name indicates, are monsters that have been eaten away at by spritnite. The deal with these monsters is that they are much more powerful than the average monster and defeating them rewards you with a lot of exp and materials. The issue with these monsters is that although they look slightly different than their counterparts, sometimes you won't realize that you encountered a Spritnite-eaten monster until the battle itself starts, which in case you weren't prepared, could easily result in you being defeated.
I am Setsuna is also a lot shorter than you would expect from a JRPG, with the average player being able to complete the game in 20 hours. In addition, the fact that the game doesn't feature a retry option or more save points might make your experience a bit more frustrating, especially in the later stages of the game or when you accidentally face a Spritnite-eaten monster.
I am Setsuna doesn't disappoint when it comes to its presentation. Visually, there's a lack of overall variety of environments, but the snowy sceneries are beautiful and detailed, and in the end, they fit the overall theme of the game and its world perfectly. The soundtrack is easily one of the game's strongest points with a beautiful and powerful piano score that, just like the game's sceneries, fits perfectly with the several themes the story is trying to tell.
Overall, I am Setsuna is a love letter to fans of traditional JRPGs. It's a charming experience that features an amazing story and a classic turn-based system with its own interesting twists and mechanics. While it's true that the game lacks in optional content and replay value, I am Setsuna is a fun and nostalgic game that JRPG fans will surely enjoy.
|Amazing and deep story with a great cast of characters.|
|Classic turn-based system with unique Momentum, Flux and Singularity systems.|
|Beautiful piano score.|
|Very small amount in sidequests and optional dungeons.|
|Short in comparison to average JRPGs.|
|Lack of scenery variety.|