I Am Setsuna is an old school JRPG developed by Tokyo RPG Factory, published by Square Enix as a part of the Square Enix Collective Games. Seemingly the first release for them, Setsuna follows in the footsteps of old generation series like Tales, Chrono Trigger and Persona, going for an almost painted landscape with colourful characters and story. Will it be an amazing remembrance of yesteryear or merely a grab at past fame?
You control Endir, a member of the mysterious Masked Men clan, mercenaries of well-known fame due to their strength and ability to get almost any job done. You quickly finish up a mission with your mentor before getting your newest assignment, to assassinate this year’s Sacrifice. Endir takes on the mission and heads to Nive Island to find this woman and follow through with his task.
It wouldn’t be much of a game if it ended with you killing the “main character” so you are either stopped or stop yourself before the blow it dealt. Getting to know the sacrifice as Setsuna and her guard of Aeterna. You are pretty much forced to join in as another guard, or through your own choice, following Setsuna’s path across the lands to the Last Lands to give her life to stop the resurgence of monsters.
If this at all sounds familiar, it’s pretty much the same premise of Final Fantasy X or Tales of Symphonia, with a dash of Persona 3 added in for good measure. While it does tweak the story at points, from the background villains, politics and the like, Setsuna doesn’t do a good job of hiding these references, rather embracing them fully. This is what Setsuna is meant to be, an homage to the past.
The main story will last you around 20 hours or less, depending on how much grinding and collecting you do, what little there is to actually do. I completed the game in 16 hours, with doing a once over of the map to open the locked chests, though I am an avid RPG player so that could be a quicker playthrough then most. There isn’t much on offer besides the main story, locked chests, optional bosses and food collection, at least nothing that really jumps out at you. There are some smaller attractions to pour some hours into, easily racking upwards of 25 hours but without a New Game+ there isn’t much in the way of replayability.
If you have played games like Grandia or Tales of series (Namco) you will know how to play this game. You wait for an ATB gauge to fill up, then select Attack, Tech or Items, waiting longer will charge an SP gauge to increase the potency of any option you select. Whenever you use an attack or tech your characters will move accordingly to the action, some requiring contact while others need them to be some distance away.
Attacks are pretty similar to each other, being contact attacks, however Setsuna has Chakrams/Crossbows that she can use at range. Techs are split up into magical attacks like Fire or Flare, with some healing spells dotted around, as well as physical attacks like an attack infused with an element or status debuff. You will need to keep track of what attacks do what, how much damage they can deal as well as your MP gauge, especially in the early game. You can combo techs together for some pretty good effects, while others only really add an element or debuff to them.
The SP gauge is charged through waiting while your ATB is full, dealing or receiving damage or through spiritnite. You can hold 3 SP at any 1 time, using 1 every time you press X when using any action. The special effects vary from more damage, elemental damage or debuff, extra buff, duration boost and more. Whenever you use your special it also has the chance to add a Fluxuation to the battle itself or your spiritnite, giving buffs or effects to aid you.
Spiritnite is this games version of Skills or Materia, you slot these into your characters to allow them to use their skills and magic. Command Spiritnite will allow the use of Techs, Support Spiritnite boosts resistances, damage and other effects with the all slots allowing either. Spiritnite can be enhanced through Fluxuation, which I talked about above, up to 10 times per spiritnite. You unlock new slots to embed spiritnite into, or can equip talismans to give you temporary slots to add more.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
I could go on and on about the systems at play in I Am Setsuna, but it would drag on for way too long. In summary there is a lot of customisation when it comes to how you want to fight, which is sorely needed when the difficulty can ramp up at any moment. Bosses are always a problem to deal with, dealing elemental damage or debuffs which force you to buy more spiritnite and counter their damage. Food can come into play to help with resistances as well as buying more items to use whilst in battle, upgrading your weapons… see where I am going with this? There is a lot.
The musical score in I Am Setsuna is calming and consistent, using pretty much a single piano for the entire OST. While you might not think it, there is a lot you can do with one instrument. There are energy infused tracks for the battles, with slower yet still energetic tracks for exploration. All the music blends together magically, I didn’t hear 1 specific track I didn’t like and the music in its entirety never fell into the background like other games.
Now, I talked about difficulty already but I think I need to outline it a bit better, in the beginning you will have 3 characters, meaning you will need to calculate how much MP you have and use per battle. Levelling up refreshes your HP and MP, allowing you to actually progress through the game, since a lot of enemies will do a lot of damage to you, you will want to kill them before that happens. With the addition of more characters you will not have to do this as often, especially as you gain levels and more spiritnite, making the game easier by your own upgrades. With the addition of fluxuations and Kir you can make some powerful attacks, Fire II at 10+ Tech Power… beautiful destruction.
Overall I Am Setsuna gets an 8/10, it is an amazing game with amazing graphics and flawless style. However the homage to the past can grate a lot on you, it feels too much like a rip-off at points, with twists and character tropes plaguing the game too much to be considered its own franchise. You will think too many times “just like that game” I saw heavy inspiration from Tales of Symphonia, Grandia, FFX, Persona 3 and 4, Chrono Trigger, FF7 and a few more. With so much of the game being a reference it is hard to say it’s a must buy, since nothing is really original here. At 20 hours it can feel a bit short, but at £30 it could be worth it. If you haven’t played the above games, you should definitely love this game, however if you have you might see a bit too much of a repeat in this purchase.