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A Return to Form for JRPGs

Robert Lashley Posted:
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The snow falls down through the canopy of evergreens. A tribal elder escorts a young man through the frozen forest imparting his wisdom on what could will be his last journey, The young man wears a mask hiding his face which is a customary marking of his mercenary heritage. Their code of honor compels them to complete their mission regardless the task. Even if that task is to kill a young girl.

I AM SETSUNA is a throwback to the golden age of JRPGs. A time when Final Fantasy IV and VI dominated the Super Nintendo along with Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. Eventually these games gave way to the the next generation of tales that were spun on the Playstation. However; for some there is nothing quite like the tapestries these 16 bit yarns wove.

In I AM SETSUNA you’ll start your adventure as Endir, a tough as nails mercenary, who isn’t as unmovable as he seems. You’ll quickly meet Setsuna and find out that she is destined to sacrifice herself to save the world from monsters. Normally her village makes a sacrifice once every 10 years but for some reason the monsters are coming back stronger and in larger numbers lately. Instead of waiting the customary 10 years to make a sacrifice her village has chosen to send Setsuna off after only 8 years. Along your journey you’ll investigate why it is the monsters are coming back sooner than before and you’ll struggle internally with allowing Setsuna to sacrifice herself.

Setsuna seems at peace with her fate. She reminds me a lot of Yuna from Final Fantasy X. A young woman off on an important pilgrimage at an early age. Wise beyond her years in spiritual matters but still a little wet behind the ears in others. Setsuna quickly bonds with Endir and comes to depend on his decision making ability but fears he won’t be able to finish the journey with her.

The world appears to be in perpetual winter. The artists use white, grey, and blue to good effect instead of the standard green grasslands we have become accustomed to. The character art is also well done. Each player character has their own distinct look and feel. Tokyo RPG Factory even created 8 bit portraits of the characters to place in the menus for that extra little bit of throwback flair. The oddest part is that none of the characters have feet. Once you notice it you can’t stop noticing it.

The most disturbing thing about the art is that rank and file monsters are not menacing. In fact most look like penguins, squirrels, or rabbits. Hardly what you would think of when you hear the word monster. Some of the bosses do look harrowing but for the most part the enemies look uninspired and there is not a lot of diversity in the enemy characters models. You’ll quickly come across reskins of early monsters long before you should.

The story for I AM SETSUNA, much like the games it draws inspiration from, is a series of early encounters followed by setbacks that throw you a curve. Tokyo RPG Factory does a good job of tossing a not so subtle nod to this tactic by having one of the player characters Nidr mention at one such twist he feels their whole adventure has been nothing but one step forward, two steps back.

The combat system is similar to that found in Chrono Trigger. There is an active time battle system that allows you to wait to attack. You can then combo attacks with multiple characters for more effects and higher damage. You’ll also shift around on the battlefield and position matters. Some attacks will affect areas while others will hit anything in a straight line. After the ATB gauge fills to a certain level you’ll get momentum points. These allow you to trigger special abilities while you perform an attack or tech based upon the talisman you are wearing. If you perform a momentum attack there is also a small chance that you’ll be able to add a flux to your spritnite and further power it up. These appear very randomly however and that takes some of the fun out of them.

The techs available to the characters are based upon the spritnite they have equipped. Spritnite can be obtained by finding items that are dropped from monsters and then selling them to certain vendors. Once you have found specific combinations of items and sold them to the vendor you can then receive particular spritnite as a reward. This is a backwards attempt at a crafting system and comes across as too cute for its own good. Compared to the rest of the game though this is a minor complaint.

Two years ago Square Enix announced it had created a new studio, Tokyo RPG Factory, to create RPGs in the image of those golden age games. In that time Tokyo RPG Factory managed to catch hold of the spirit of those games and pull it forward into 2016 with the release of I AM SETSUNA. Tokyo RPG Factory managed to not only tap into that nostalgia vein but crafted a solid game that stands on its own.

Gameplay: 7 While the tech system is a throwback to Chrono Trigger the randomness of Flux take the fun out of the system. Limited save systems should have been left in the 90s. Spritnite purchasing is odd.

Visuals and Sound: 9 The graphics are a perfect mix of 16 bit nostalgia and modern high poly and better textures models. The score sounds right at home in any JRPG from the Squaresoft golden era.

Polish: 8 Looks great and handles well. No bugs were encountered. Would have been nice to have an english voice track.

Longevity: 8 With multiple characters to rotate in and out of the party with different skills sets this game does have replay value. You’ll easily get 20 - 30 hours out of a single playthrough. 

Value: 8 For $40 this is a value priced digital only game. 

8.0 Great
  • Character customization with spritnite
  • Old school feel with a new generation look
  • Tech system
  • Crafting spritnite
  • Enemies are cute, not ominous
  • Randomness of Flux


Robert Lashley

Rob Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @Grakulen or find him on YouTube @RobUnwraps.