An emotional journey
Tokyo RPG Factory, a new video game developer, set its aim high with the announcement of the classically styled RPG, I am Setsuna. Published by Square-Enix, I am Setsuna borrows inspiration from numerous classic RPGs, most notably Chrono Trigger. After a brief download and installation period, I salivated at the opportunity to play what looked like a promising RPG. And boy, was I not disappointed.
I am Setsuna is the tale of Endir, a masked mercenary hired to kill a young girl. That girl, Setsuna, happens to be the designated Sacrifice – a woman sent to the Last Lands to sacrifice herself in order to quell, for a time, monster activity. Unfortunately, the last Sacrifice’s worldly effects didn’t appear to last the usual length, so Setsuna planned to set out to the Last Lands on an early schedule. Once Endir meets Setsuna, he is presented with two choices: Kill her or spare her.
Either way, Endir ends up imprisoned for his brazen actions; how could anyone possibly choose to harm the Sacrifice? In traditional RPG fanfare, monsters attack the village in short order, and Setsuna, of all people, frees Endir. After dispatching the monsters from the town, Endir is given the option to join Setsuna on her journey, along with the powerful Aeterna. Together, the three charter passage on a vessel and set off on their world saving voyage. Unfortunately, the journey didn’t proceed as planned – lurching Endir and company on a much lengthier trip to the Last Lands.
Tokyo RPG Factory accomplished many feats successfully within I am Setsuna. Gameplay is very simple; I am Setsuna is a turn based RPG. The battle system runs similar to Chrono Trigger, where your characters periodically move, and you can combo skills together with party members. The similarities even fall as close as the combat UI boxes. Overall, the system works well. When your character strikes (or when you are able to attack to stand idly), your action bar fills. When it is filled, a small, blue orb represents your extra action points. Using these extra points requires you to hit the square button (I used a Steam controller, so I had to hit the X button) at the appropriate time to trigger an additional battle condition. Often, that condition was in the form of extra damage to one or all enemies (in range, of course). If you ambush enemies (you can see each enemy on the map; to ambush, you simply need to run into their backsides), you start the battle with one action point. If that happened, I could routinely kill all enemies in a battle in one turn.
In addition to an enjoyable, if unbalanced, battle system, I am Setsuna boasts one of the most tremendous soundtracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a great while. I am Setsuna features an all piano soundtrack that matches the tone, situation, and atmosphere of the game with immaculate precision. You can feel the emotions of the game through its soundtrack alone, and it perhaps even tops Nobuo Uematsu’s classic Final Fantasy soundtracks. It really is that good.
Lastly, the aesthetics in I am Setsuna present a mixed bag. The game itself is beautiful. The character sprites are cute in a mature fashion, one befitting of the story and reminiscent of the Final Fantasy IV remake. The colors are all pastel and soft, with few flashy effects or coloring to grab the eyes. For such a subdued game, the coloration worked admirably. Inversely, the constant snow of I am Setsuna almost blended the game all together. Because the majority of the game is spent knee deep in snow, various towns and areas often blended together behind the sheet white snow and flurries.
Honestly, I am Setsuna may be the best RPG I play this year (Trails of Cold Steel is excluded because it released last year). With its simple title, emotional story (try to get through it without feeling something), perfect soundtrack, enjoyable battle system, and pretty aesthetics, I am Setsuna is an admittedly short title with a few flaws that, on the whole, succeeds. If you’re in an RPG drought or waiting for Final Fantasy XV, I am Setsuna should fill your appetite for RPG splendor.