I Am Setsuna is causing mixed feelings across the Interwebs, and of course, it’s time for me to speak my mind. What is I Am Setsuna? It’s an RPG released by Square-Enix, by Tokyo RPG Factory. In its heart, it’s an homage to Chrono Trigger. It was a moment where they went back to what made them huge in the first place in the 90s. Is it a ground-breaking RPG where everything is different, shiny and unique? No. But is it a wonderfully told story using quite solid game mechanics? Yes, yes it is. There are quite a few throwbacks. There are so many references to Chrono Trigger, from the skill names, to the top-down overworld walking, and a host of other things. Do I think that’s bad? Absolutely not. It’s a beautiful world, tainted by sadness and it brings forward some emotions I haven’t felt since Final Fantasy X. It’s a tale of sacrifice in every sense of the word.
One of the other complaints had was “SO MANY SYSTEMS. UUUUGH.” Seriously? The various combat systems work well together, forcing players to think and strategize quite a bit. Though the Momentum system is quite a bit confusing. The various Talismans offer conditions to give powerful boosts. But there are so damn many, and some of them feel quite vague. Between the fluxes and Momentum, you can get quite a bit of power in a critical moment. If you’re lucky, anyway. I do hate that so much chance seems to be involved. I enjoyed ATB, and this version of it made me smile and the second meter for Momentum worked well with this. You can stock up to three points in that other meter, and good timing with the button pressing can offer benefits in your healing/physical damage and more. There isn’t a lot to smile about in I Am Setsuna, from a storyline point but the game mechanics made me happy. You don’t get millions of abilities, and have to decide which characters is going to wield what. Everyone can’t do everything, and that’s okay. The combat systems were ones I actively enjoyed using, and while the combat was fun and very very reminiscent of Chrono Trigger again, that in no way is a detriment.
But the story is what really pulls me in. It seems like every moment in this game follows the path of “sorrow” or “loss” in some way. The story is fucking heartbreaking, and I have a hard time getting through parts of it. Normally good people doing pretty terrifying things, all in the name of what is “Right”. I agreed not to spoil anything major, and I will endeavor to do just that. Sure, this is not a terribly long RPG. About 20-30 hours from what I’m seeing. But they pack so much emotion into that ~20 hours that I had to take pretty regular breaks from it. Everything about the game made this atmosphere work. The beautiful, haunting piano music [but there are some moments I don’t agree with it; but far and wide, it fit], the ice and snow is beautiful. RPGs these days are moving towards Action RPGs, where everything is blood and violence and silly bullshit.
Long and the Short: Sad but Hyped.
While yes, one of the complaints is “Hurr itz short”, I don’t know if I could take 80 hours of this story. It’s already sad! It’s proof that Tokyo RPG Factory can produce a great RPG. It’s very clear to me that their small, ~20 man team loves RPGs and it shows in their work. Despite how short I Am Setsuna is, they pack so much emotion into such a small space. Yes, it’s 40 bucks. Yes, it has no physical release. Is it a perfect game? By no means. The characters were a little bland, but their stories and motivations were really quite lovely. It’s a blast to the past, but not so much of it that you’ll get tired. I think this will be enjoyable for more people than Retro fans. I don’t care if it’s an unpopular opinion: I love so many things about I Am Setsuna, and while it’s not perfect, nothing is. If you want a story that will make you misty-eyed, solid mechanics, and haunting, beautiful piano music, you owe it to yourself to look at I Am Setsuna.