Review by Ouderkirkj

Reviewed: 08/03/16

The true sorrow of I Am Setsuna is the fact that it's extremely derivative and shallow.

I Am Setsuna is a JRPG inspired by the turn-based classics of old; most notably Square-Enix’s own Chrono Trigger. Square-Enix’s sub division company Tokyo RPG Factory was created to develop classic inspired titles such as these as they aren’t as prominent in the present. Titles such as I Am Setsuna deserve to exist regardless of the monetary cost, genre, or format type, but I Am Setsuna isn’t the one that will lead this sub genre to a resurgence. It’s an example of inspiration taken to the extreme.

Graphics:

Graphically, I Am Setsuna is nothing to write home about in this department. That’s neither a positive nor a negative as it nails what it sets out to achieve. I’m reminded of Chrono Trigger as well as the remake versions of Final Fantasy III and IV on the Nintendo DS. The image quality is clean and laser focused on that stylistic choice. Something that certain people make take issue with is there are several horizontal lines (similarly to tube TV lines) that are visible on the screen at times, especially during world map traversal. It’s not a huge deal or anything, but it may distract at times.

Gameplay:

I Am Setsuna boasts an Active Time Battle (ATB) combat system based on Chrono Trigger. Characters stand in place while an ATB bar charges allowing characters the opportunity to attack when the bar is completely full. However, I Am Setsuna adds an added twist on this system with a mechanic known as “Momentum.” This is another added ATB like bar known as SP, which when full adds a single charge to your character and then starts to fill again. This bar can charge up to three times. These charges can be used on attack or sometimes defense (by pressing square) to add additional effects onto attacks such as increased damage, status effects, increased ATB on the next turn, etc. It’s an interesting take on an already established system.

Characters can equip tech abilities via “Spiritnite” which are similar to “Materia” from Final Fantasy VII. These Spiritnite can be equipped to one of the numerous talismans found throughout the campaign. The amount and type of Spiritnite that can be equipped is dependent on the talisman. There is a combat based system that is embedded within Talismans and Spiritnite known as Fluxation. This system allows for additional beneficial effects to be added to tech abilities. The problem with this system is that is has a completely random chance of activation after each battle. It’s an added layer that’s complex, random, poorly explained, and completely unnecessary.

Spiritnite can be created by selling items via monster drops to vendors in the campaign known as the Magic Consortium. This method is pretty much the only method through which you’ll earn money to buy weapons or items. It’s not a bad idea in theory, but in reality it’s extremely tedious as there is no sell all feature. It becomes really annoying after the first few times, especially when you have hundreds if not thousands of extra items to sell.

Similarly to Chrono Trigger, there are numerous tech ability combos that characters can pair up to use to devastate enemies. For example, Cyclone and Charge can create X-Attack. There are also combos that the entire party can team up to use. There are a wide variety of combinations to discover.

I Am Setsuna’s combat system is significantly impaired by the utter lack of difficulty due to the unbalanced nature of the combo system, Spiritnite, and enemy scaling. Only a handful of hours into the campaign will you discover combo combinations that will completely devastate any and all enemies. That combo for me was “Cross Cutter”, an AOE combination that mostly always one shots all enemies on screen. These combos can also be used to tear bosses into shreds in mere turns. Once discovering a destructive combination such as this there’s absolutely no reason to experiment with other characters or combinations since you can face roll the entire experience. At times I Am Setsuna literally felt like “Cross Cutter” – the video game. The entire battle system is extremely shallow as a whole.

After battle, characters earn experience which is used to level up. I Am Setsuna’s character progression system is based around three things. Levels which impact health and mana points, Spiritnite for technical abilities, and weapons which determine strength, intelligence, defense, and resistances. Weapons can be refined in the main menu with special ores in order to boost stats.

Story:

I Am Setsuna’s absolute biggest fault lye's in the story department. It shamelessly steals its story foundation from another Square-Enix title. Does this premise sound familiar at all?

“A woman is chosen as a sacrifice every ten years to embark on a pilgrimage to The Last Lands (a fallen highly advanced civilization) in order to quell a monster threat that’s devastating the world. One of the party members on this adventure is an aged male that has a katana on his back, a scarred sliced eye, dark hair, and a pony tail. This person traveled on a pilgrimage with the previous sacrifice team.”

That seems awfully familiar to the plot of Final Fantasy X. The above summary is simply a sample of the comparisons because I can’t specify any more in order to avoid spoilers. However, if you have ever played Final Fantasy X then you’ll know pretty much what happens. It almost feels as if the Tokyo RPG Factory developers went onto Wikipedia and copy pasted the plot summary of Final Fantasy X and changed words to fit their narrative. Setsuna is Yuna, Nidr is Auron, Zanarkand is The Last Lands, the sacrificial pilgrimage is the summoner pilgrimage, etc. It’s shameless plagiarism at its finest and it never comes close to the achievements Final Fantasy X made. In addition, the ending twist was taken almost directly from a recently released JRPG in 2015 (JP) or 2016 (NA/EU). I Am Setsuna doesn’t steal all of its story content, but the little originality that exists isn’t very good due to the poor pacing of the plot, weak written dialogue, and its absolutely terrible ending.

World:

The Land of Snow is exactly as it sounds, a land of snow. The aesthetic of I Am Setsuna rarely changes as you adventure through a world entirely composed of snow. You’ll traverse fields, caverns, towers, towns, etc. This isn’t a big deal at first, but the aesthetic quickly wears off due to the pacing of the plot and the repetition of the area designs. Most dungeons take approximately five to fifteen minutes max to fully traverse to explore because they’re mostly all short. In addition, there are a number of dungeons that look exactly the same; one tower in particular is reused around five times. There are a variety of additional areas to explore once I Am Setsuna fully opens up the player for those that are interested. One of the neat features of the snowy world is the constant trail the party members leave behind as they explore. I liked this subtle effect. It will take roughly twenty hours to complete the main campaign.

Music:

The music of I Am Setsuna is a mixed bag and for a very specific reason. The tracks are a delight to listen to when playing, but the problem is that none of them are memorable due to the OST being entirely composed by the piano. It almost feels as if you’re listening to one gigantic song instead of a single track which makes it hard for retention purposes. To make matters worse, the speed at which the party traverses the world adds to this problem. The composer is very talented, but he or she needs to add variety to their future OSTs so that the player could easily pick out and distinguish those catchy tunes. For instance; I still remember many of the tracks from Chrono Trigger till this day, because they were catchy and they used variety of instrument types so that every track didn’t sound the same.

Technical:

I’m happy to report that I Am Setsuna is quite possibly the best performing Unity Engine title on the PS4. I didn’t experience a single crash or large frame rate drop in my entire experience. In addition, I Am Setsuna is extremely polished as I didn’t experience any bugs either. However, this doesn’t mean that technical issues and bugs don’t exist, but I didn’t experience them in my play-through.

Overall:

At the end of the day I really wanted to love I Am Setsuna, but it simply wouldn’t let me. It’s an extremely derivative story that’s shamelessly stolen from a significantly better experience, the combat is mindlessly shallow, and it lacks originality. I Am Setsuna obviously used classic titles as an inspiration, but it did so in such a manner that will frustrate many players, especially if you have played Final Fantasy X in the past or crave depth in combat. It’s one of those experience where the more you play the less you will think of it. I Am Setsuna is not worthy of the $40 purchase; not because of it’s length, format type, or genre, but because it’s a generically average experience that offers nothing on its own merits.

Score: 2.5/5.0

Recommendation: Purchase Bravely Default and Bravely Second on the Nintendo 3DS instead if you are craving a modern classic inspired JRPG. Nostalgia alone isn’t enough in a world where there’s too much to play at any given point in time. We must expect more from developers.

TLDR;

Positives:

•Technically sound.
•“Momentum.”
•Core Chrono Trigger combat foundation.
•Neat snow trail.

Neutral:

•Pleasing soundtrack, but unmemorable tracks.
•Graphics nail what they set out to achieve, but isn’t very impressive.
•The characters are alright. Not special, but not terrible.

Negative:

•Shamelessly derivative story stolen from Final Fantasy X.
•Poor pacing.
•Weak dialogue.
•Lack of originality.
•Terrible ending.
•Aesthetic choice wears off quickly.
•Reuse of dungeons.
•“Fluxation.”
•No sell all feature.
•Painfully easy.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Product Release: I Am Setsuna (US, 07/19/16)

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