Inspired by the timeless classic Chrono Trigger, I am Setsuna is a great homage to the JRPG masterpieces of yesteryear. Should you play it?
I am Setsuna
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher: Square Enix
Available on: PlayStation 4 (tested), PC
I am Setsuna is a heartfelt moving story about a girl destined to be a sacrifice. This is the way the game is introduced in the first few minutes. The monsters have become aggressive, guards are starting to be unable to fight them back, and when that happens, a sacrifice must be made to pacify the monsters. A girl, Setsuna, is about to become 18 and she has been chosen to go on a pilgrimage and ultimately give her life to accomplish this.
We are a mercenary, and at the beginning we are given the task of assassinating Setsuna by a mysterious man. When we met Setsuna, we realize we can’t do it – but it doesn’t matter. She is destined to give up her life anyways, but how she dies is the important bit. Giving too much away would be a disservice to a fantastic story, so there is that. Take that premise and make out of it what you can.
The structure of the game is pretty simple. We will explore a town, and there will be a main quest. We will need to complete it before jumping to the next town. In the middle, we will explore bits of the world while fighting monsters. We will deal with some heavy morality issues in our way, and what we do and say matters. Dialogues will change based on our decisions, and there are plenty of crushing and impactful dialogues and decisions.
The battle system is one of the strongest mechanics in the game. We can take up to three heroes to battle, and each one of them have an ATB that must be filled before being able to perform an action. An action can be a simple attack, using a tech, items, etc. You pick one and then a target. But If you don’t attack and decide to wait, a second bar will start filling up and when it does reach the end, you will earn a point. You can store up to three points. These can be used to boost attacks, abilities, combos, etc by pressing a button when the action is taking place. This is called a Momentum, and it is really important to not miss them in longer and more difficult battles if you want to survive. It adds some complexity and a cool twist to an otherwise structured battle.
The longer the battle, the more chances a Singularity can occur. It is unclear how to trigger a Singularity, but the game gives a clue: “Although their true cause is unknown, some say that are a result of the collision of magical energy during battle, which creates distortions in space-time that cause information from another dimension to leak through.” This is really cool, and will give temporary and special bonuses, like to double the speed of your ATB bar, letting you unleash Tech abilities and attacks twice as fast as normal. It can also activate more passive effects too like triggering maximum enemy drops. It is totally random, but it is guaranteed to help you.
Aside from that system, the game is pretty much your typical JRPG. The snowy landscapes will be filled with cranky little penguins, squirrels, and not so cute animals like the Spritnite-Eaten Monsters that will earn us a trophy for defeating them. Spritnites are magical stones that will allow us to produce Tech – a fancy mechanic for abilities. It is by the use of Tech that Setsuna and her group will be able to heal the party and to make use of other more aggressive abilities as well.
Should you play it? Yes. I am Setsuna features one of the most heartfelt and meaningful narratives, it is full of twists, makes use of a fun battle system, and it is an example of what a good JRPG is. If this is the first Tokyo RPG Factory game, I can’t wait for the next.