Parent talk: The ESRB rates I Am Setsuna E10+ for everyone ages ten and up. The ratings board sites fantasy violence, alcohol references, and mild language as the reason for the rating, and if you have ever played the early-to-mid 90’s classic RPGs like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario RPG you know what to expect. The violence isn’t realistic, the characters are all animated and fantastical in design, and overall this is the type of game I used to play all the time when I was younger and I turned out just fine in the end. Ok that’s debatable, but truly, parents have little to fear with allowing their children to play this game.
Plays Like: I Am Setsuna was heavily inspired by the likes of Super Mario RPG and Chrono Trigger. It plays very similarly to both of those games, with a touch of Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system thrown in for good measure. It’s a turn-based RPG, meaning you have to wait your turn before you can enter your commands to engage in combat. Exploration is done in traditional RPG style, whereby you explore a vast overworld, however unlike RPGs of yore, there are no random encounters, and instead battles begin when you tag an enemy.
Review Basis: I completed the game, and unlocked the coveted platinum trophy. When all was said and done, I logged in about 35 hours or so.
I’ve seen many people say that I Am Setsuna is a great nostalgia trip for RPG fans who grew up playing Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis classics like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, and Phantasy Star II to IV. While it’s certainly true the game borrows many elements from those classic games, I like to think that it fits perfectly alongside those classic games. So while it may have been influenced by the greats, it does a really good job standing on its own two feet. If you enjoy turn-based command-style RPGs, you will absolutely love I Am Setsuna. While it doesn’t necessarily break the mold, it reminds players of a simpler time when the emphasis was on story and killer gameplay.
The story and cast of characters are great. The story in I Am Setsuna revolves around a young woman named Setsuna who must journey to The Last Lands in order to be sacrificed to appease the monsters that grow more and more dangerous every day. The ritual has been going on for centuries, and every decade one sacrifice is chosen to keep the monsters at bay. This is a tragic tale, and all the characters involved know it. The Sacrificial Guard is made up of a group of would-be heroes that join the party for different reasons. While the game doesn’t spend too much time developing these characters, unless you opt to partake in end-game side quests which flesh them out somewhat, there is a lot of banter and back and forth dialogue that helps give each character a lot of personality. I would highly recommend you take part in all of the side-quests offered before completing the game to really experience everything the story has to offer. It will leave a huge impact on you.
The bulk of your time will be spent in combat, and it’s a great thing I Am Setsuna was so heavily inspired by Chrono Trigger as the end results are fantastic. Battles are engaged once you tag a monster on the overworld. That’s right, no random encounters, so you choose whether you want to fight every few seconds, or every few minutes. I should also quickly mention that everyone gains experience, even those not in your active party, however those inactive members get about 50% less experience as those that are in your party.
Once combat is initiated, the active time battle meter will slowly start to fill. There are two different gameplay modes available, wait and active. Wait mode means the second you click on a command, the active time battle meter stops filling for the rest of your teammate and enemies as well. In active mode, the meters of everyone involved continues to fill, meaning enemies can attack regardless of how long you take to enter commands. The default mode is wait. There are only a handful of commands available, which include Fight, Tech, and Item. Fight and Item commands works just as you’d expect, with the Fight command allowing each character to use a standard physical attack. The Tech command works much like Chrono Trigger’s Techs, in that you can not only use magical attacks, but also combination attacks. Combination attacks are based on your party members and the Spritnite, also known as magic stones, they have equipped. A quick example would be having Endir equipped with the Aura Spritnite and Setsuna equipped with the Prayer Spritnite, which allows the two to use the combo Tech Heal. Far more advanced techniques become available once you have three party members, and more powerful Spritnite.
Spritnite works something like Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system. As you level up you gain more and more Spritnite slots. These start off with two distinct types, Command and Support Spritnite. Commands Spritnite are offensive and defensive spells, buffs and debuffs, and more. Support Spritnites are more passive abilities such as gaining magic points from damaging enemies, and things like that. The higher you level, the more All Spritnite slots you unlock, which allow you to equip whichever Spritnite you’d like. Talismans also contain Spritnite slots, allowing you to equip even more Spritnites, plus gain whatever ability the talisman has. These abilities are often passive skills or modifiers such as displaying enemy health. Talismans also have a very important secondary function, the ability to mutate or flux as the game calls it, your Spritnite.
You’ll notice in the video a circular gauge called the Momentum meter that slowly fills once the active time battle meter is filled, or whenever you get hurt. This meter will eventually be able to stock up to three Setsuna Points or SP. If you wish to trigger momentum mode, you need to press the square button at the precise time your character takes action. The window for the button press is quite long so after a few battles you’ll get used to the timing. This is where the game reminds me of Super Mario RPG a little. If you use momentum often enough your talisman might flux your Spritnite. I say might, because there is no guarantee this will happen, it’s completely random, although there are items you can use to increase the chances. So what does fluxing do exactly, it adds an additional bonus to your Spritnite. Let’s say you’re using the Fire Spritnite, and you trigger momentum mode every chance you have, and your talisman has a flux bonus of MP Consumed. If the flux occurs, the Fire Spritnite will now require less MP to use every time you use it. There are a wide assortment of awesome flux bonuses you can get, but the limit per Spritnite is ten. If you do this to all of your Spritnites you can form a truly powerful team in no time.
- Weapons and core stats work a little different in I Am Setsuna than in other RPGs. There’s been some misinformation out there on the stat system for some reason. When you level up your characters all of their core stats increase as well as HP and MP. It’s been reported that base stats do not increase as you level, but that’s incorrect, they do. Weapons add unique elemental status to your attacks as well as boost your basic attributes. So you might find a sword that will add fire elemental damage on top of raising your attack power, etc. Weapons can also be further enhanced by blacksmithing them with core materials. With the best materials you can take even the earliest weapons you purchase and make them powerhouses. This becomes important later on when you’re trying to gather the best materials for creating new Spritnite as all enemies drop different materials based on how they were defeated. Defeating an enemy with fire elemental damage as opposed to ice elemental damage will result in a completely different loot table.
The audio visual presentation is fantastic. I Am Setsuna takes place in a world covered by snow, during an endless winter. There’s a really nice graphical effect that shows your characters plowing snow and leaving behind them a nice path. It looks great, and never gets old. Even though all of the locations feel very similar given the constant snowfall, it’s impressive how Tokyo RPG Factory was able to give each new area its own distinct look and feel. This is primarily done through unique architecture and lighting effects. I was really impressed by what a great job the developers did overall. The audio is also fantastic, and the somber piano themes that play throughout the game really lend to the emotional impact of the storyline. This is not a cheerful game, and the music helps emphasize that. I would have appreciated a few more instruments in the soundtrack, but overall it’s a powerful composition that suits the game perfectly.
+/- The materials you gather from enemies can then be sold to the Consortium representative, which then allows you to purchase additional weapons, items, and other goodies from the other vendors. Gold is only attainable by selling materials, which is a bit odd, but it fits in with the crafting system. Each material you sell to the Consortium not only allows you to earn gold, but since he stocks these materials, you then have the requirements to make new Spritnite. This allows you to easily make a dozen simple Spritnite spells like Cyclone, and grants you the ability to see the requirements for making some of the more powerful Spritnite stones later in the game. There’s also a fantastic companion book in the main menu that allows you to see all the enemies you’ve faced and what items they drop. This is particularly useful when determining which enemies you need to defeat in order to gain the few previous materials you’re missing. That said, if you have not defeated an enemy with all of the different elemental attacks, you will not see what they drop for that particular element. The system works, but I feel it could have been refined ever so slightly in order to streamline the crafting element as I had to look online in order to determine which enemies dropped certain supplies as I found myself using the same core techs over and over again.
+/- You can polish off the final boss at around level 40 to 45. The super boss of the game can be tackled closer to the mid 50’s. I ended the game with my main party at level 70 and the inactive party members at around level 60 or so. Grinding really isn’t mandatory unless you want to tackle some of the end-game content. For the most part the enemies on the overworld can be polished off with one or two powerful tech skills, however the bosses can prove to be quite challenging if you don’t spend much time fighting. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the game is unbalanced, but just be warned that you may find yourself struggling with some of the boss fights if you just plow through the game.
I am a very big fan of traditional role-playing games. I grew up with the likes of the original Final Fantasy, and Dragon Warrior series, and experienced the wonder and joy of the Super NES classics like Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, and Final Fantasy VI, and I’m very pleased to say that even though I Am Setsuna is only around 20 hours or so long, it fits nicely alongside those classics. It may have been inspired by some legendary RPGs, but in the end it manages to separate itself just enough to stand on its own as a fantastic RPG that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the genre. I Am Setsuna comes very highly recommended.
Final Score: 9/10