Selamat pagi! I hope you’ve been kicking ass this week.
So I kind of made my own tradition thing when I moved into my current place: to complete one of my unplayed JRPGs during winter. The impetus was to specifically designate some of my time each year to a JRPG because they’re usually timesinks. It’s the problem of having more games than time. Why winter though? Well, that’s the season it was when I moved in, and that’s usually when I have the most free time.
The Previous Winter JRPGs
- The Last Story
- Xenoblade Chronicles
- Final Fantasy XII
- Xenoblade Chronicles X
Winter is kind of already over, but I started the game before winter ended and I beat it like two weeks ago. It’s just that I’m only getting to writing this review now. Final Fantasy XV could have been the Winter JRPG, but I beat that before winter started.
I bring that up because I ended up choosing I Am Setsuna because of Final Fantasy XV. FFXV really disappointed me. Most of my issues were with the story, but coming out of that style of game, I wanted to go in the complete opposite direction — a JRPG that was closer to the classics. That’s where I Am Setsuna comes in; a game that takes after Chrono Trigger. The premise of I Am Setsuna is also part of what drew me in: a sacrificial girl must go on a journey to save her land.
Now this isn’t the first “girl sacrifice has to save the world” story, but I feel like there’s a lot of emotional potential there. Unfortunately, I think I Am Setsuna misses the mark; there’s some good stuff in there though! Let’s get into it!
Image courtesy of Square Enix
I Am Setsuna takes place in a land of perpetual winter beset by monsters. There is an ancient custom to calm these monsters, where a sacrificial girl is sent from a special village to The Last Lands to give her life in return for peace. Setsuna is one such girl, but there is something different about her and her situation. There already was a sacrifice ten years earlier, but the attacks from the monsters are getting more frequent and bold, the opposite of what the sacrifice should achieve. She embarks on her journey with a masked man, Endir, who was originally sent to kill her before she reached her goal.
Agh, the intrigue, that’s such a good premise, but unfortunately the story fell a little flat for me. I think there’s a good story buried in there somewhere though. I especially liked the themes, something that I would like to see fleshed out somewhere else. Upon first glance, the world of I Am Setsuna appears black and white, but it’s actually quite gray. Maybe not all of the monsters are “evil.” Maybe they’re not even monsters. What if the only way they could survive was to eat humans? Should they be killed mercilessly just for trying to live? How about a human who became a monster to save her friends? Can someone be forgived for their actions, even if those actions are horrible? I Am Setsuna briefly touches on these things and goes no further.
As for how it plays, I Am Setsuna pulls inspiration from the JRPGs of yore, most notably Chrono Trigger: enemies exist on the playing field, the battle system is turn-based and uses ATB, and there are combos. I Am Setsuna changes things up a tiny bit with the Momentum system (similar to Lost Odyssey’s attack timing system), where pressing a button in time with a flash a light (once your meter is full) adds effects to your action and increases its efficacy.
Image courtesy of Square Enix
I like turn-based battle systems, but by the half-way point, it started feeling stale for a few reasons. Your characters have Techs (magic, elemental, or special attacks), which are governed by which Spritnite you have equipped. The game doesn’t facilitate exploring the Spritnite system though, so once I found the Techs that worked, I stuck with them. Also, when you approach an enemy from behind, it counts as a pre-emptive attack, filling up your ATB gauge and the Momentum bar for each of your party members. This turns the game into “walk up to enemy from behind, have your three party members cast their good Techs, make sure to properly time your Momentum, battle over.” It’s a shame because there’s a staggering amount of Techs to be learned, not to mention the Tech Combos that come with that. I barely even used the Tech combos as a result.
The other problem with the battles is that the bosses usually felt overpowered. I never skimped out on fighting enemies and I usually never had any trouble. However, when I got to a boss, my skills would be tested in ways the game hadn’t tested me before, since I was just employing the tactics I learned fighting the regular enemies. Suddenly I had to play with much more precision and care. It led to some frustrating moments of wondering what I was doing wrong and whether I had to go grind a few levels. Fortunately I never really had to grind and ended up beating each boss through sheer will or luck — I’m not sure which.
No one part really sticks out, and that’s really the biggest problem with I Am Setsuna: it just ends up being middling. It’s a shame, but I enjoyed my time nonetheless. If you’re looking for a JRPG of the same vein as the classics, I think you should give it a try.
I Am Setsuna earns a 3 out of 5.
That’s it, folks! Until next time! You’re totally wonderful; I hope you didn’t forget!