Review by Renzokukenexe
I am Setsuna, not the jrpg revival we expected.
I am Setsuna is a 2016 retro style JRPG by the relatively new developer Tokyo RPG factory, and is published by Square-Enix. Tokyo RPG Factory aimed to replicate the much loved JRPGs of the early 90s such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI/VII and as such I am Setsuna borrows heavily from these titles. As a precursor to this review it should be noted that I am yet to complete the game, Im roughly 75% of the way through with about 13 hours playtime.
I am Setsuna is standard JRPG faire, the player controls the party via a third person perspective as they navigate the world map, fight through dungeons and visit towns completing each plot point as they go. The battle system in I am Setsuna is ripped almost wholesale from Chrono Trigger, with the exception of the momentum system. Combat is entered by touching enemies on the field which seamlessly shifts you into combat mode. The game utilizes an Active Time Battle system during which your characters charge their ATB bars in order to either attack, use a technique or use an item. Techniques may be combined together into combination techniques as long as characters have compatible techniques equipped. Once a characters ATB bar is full, or theyve sustained/dealt enough damage they will accumulate a momentum point. Up to three momentum points may be stockpiled and unleashed by pressing square during any attack for an additional effect such as extra damage or quicker ATB recovery. Character progression is achieved via a standard levelling system with exp points gained in battles used to level up and increase your stats. Skills are gained by acquiring Spirtnite which is essentially a more annoying form of Materia for those whove played Final Fantasy 7. Spirtnite is gained by gathering monster materials during combat and selling them to a shop, specific materials may then be used to craft specific Spirtnite, one major drawback of this system is that enemies will only drop certain materials if you kill them in certain ways, for example overkilling an enemy, killing them with fire or momentum attacks will result in unique items. This can lead to situations where you miss out on key skills if you arent farming which is extremely annoying. Spirtnite can be equipped in slots you gain as you level up and in talismans you equip. Talismans also have flux skills which are skills that may transfer to your spirtnite upon successful momentum attacks. If all this sounds a bit complicated it is, and the best part about it is almost none of the above is explained anywhere in game.
I have some serious complaints about the gameplay, first of all for a company thats trying to replicate old school JRPGs, none of the towns have save points or inns which seems to me like odd design. As mentioned previously explanations in the game are extremely poor, the game doesnt even tell you which skills can be used in combination techniques until you hunt each combination down in a separate chronicles menu. The game gives you multiple opportunities to answer questions on behalf of your otherwise silent protagonist but always railroads your answer to whatever option they consider to the right one, which begs the question, why bother letting us choose? In terms of difficulty I am Setsuna ranges from stupidly easy to outright ridiculous, bosses and allies frequently utilize AOE attacks yet the game offers you no means of reliably separating or congregating your party leaving many battle elements up to sheer luck. The absolute most annoying part of the game in my humble opinion however are Spirtnite-eaten monsters, these super monsters are minor pallet swapped versions of normal monsters found within a dungeon but are normally super strong. Ive lost more progress than I care to count by accidentally running into one of these, especially since there is no option to flee in this game. Thats right, old school RPG clone with no flee option. Equipment upgrades in I am Setsuna offer no variation, you simply visit the shop and buy the next one, with no variation in stats everything is just a straight upgrade making the entire system kind of pointless.
In terms of actual graphics I am Setsuna is pretty nice, the snow looks great, the mountains look great, the trees and wooden huts look great, the problem is thats ALL youll see. The world is so bland itd be hilarious if this wasnt one of the more expensive indie titles. So far Ive navigated three ice caverns, climbed four snow covered mountains and navigated two snow covered forests and thats it. This lack of variety has quite frankly killed any desire I have to finish this game, Im not sure if they just went completely overboard on a single theme, or just got lazy in development but any graphical prowess this game has is completely wasted due to some of the blandest environments Ive seen from any RPG in recent memory.
As I mentioned at the start Im yet to complete I am Setsuna however at a bare minimum the 75% of the story Ive experienced so far is almost a direct copy of Final Fantasy X. You play as a mercenary hired to kill Setsuna who turns out to be a sacrifice on a pilgrimage to save the world from monsters albeit for a limited amount of time. You recruit a band of guardians who defend her with their lives helping her make the emotional journey to the aptly named Last Lands. Theyve essentially taken various plot points from Final Fantasy X, chopped them up and pasted them into a slightly different order. The character development is the only area of this games story that separates it from Final Fantasy X, however at the time of writing I currently know the motivations of 1 character and have learned absolutely nothing about the rest so Im 75% of the way through the story and I still dont have any emotional attachment to any of the cast.
I am Setsunas soundtrack consists of piano, unrelenting, never ending piano. I play piano, I love piano music but if I were designing a soundtrack for an RPG I would have the common sense to switch things up a bit to keep it interesting. Its not that the piano tracks sound bad, theyre professionally done and sound beautiful, but theres only so much of the same instrument I can listen to before Im begging for something, anything to switch up the tone. Much of the soundtrack has this cold, desolate, melancholy feel to go with the snowy scenery, the problem is it just goes to further the fact that everything in this game looks so bland. When I play this game I cant even differentiate one track from another anymore it just blends into a cacophony of piano and bland snowscapes.
I am Setsuna is a by the numbers return to chrono trigger style old school JRPG combat, however poor explanations, a rollercoaster of varying difficulty, extremely bland environments, a mostly derivative story and a bizarre choice to limit the soundtrack to piano only, ruins what could have otherwise been a really welcome return to the glory days of the JRPG. I find it impossible to recommend I am Setsuna over the games it copies. If you like the combat system, go play Chrono Trigger. If you like the character development and customization, Final Fantasy VII does it better. If you enjoy the story they stole it almost whole sale from the far superior Final Fantasy X. The only situation Id even consider picking this game up would be if youd already finished all of the above and this game was on sale.
As much as I wanted to love I am Setsuna Im recommending you do not buy it.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: I Am Setsuna (EU, 07/19/16)
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