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I Am Setsuna Review

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Aina Prat Blasi
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When Square Enix announced the development of I Am Setsuna the intentions of the Japanese company were immediately clear: create a JRPG that goes back to the origins of the genre. A sort of homage to the golden age of role-playing games of the 90s, to the point of putting on a team, i Tokyo RPG Factory, precisely for this purpose. While all the media attention is mainly catalyzed on Final Fantasy XV, ready to be talked about in a few months, I Am Setsuna arrives quietly in these days PlayStation 4 e PC in digital format only (at the price of € 39.99), certainly making the joy of all those players of the old guard, hoping to find in this Square Enix title the same timeless pearl magic as Chrono Trigger o final Fantasy.



Tested Version: PlayStation 4

Setsuna must die
I am Setsuna is a title with intrinsic melancholy

The story begins with a young mercenary, Endir, who at the end of the umpteenth mission is approached by a mysterious figure, who will ask him to kill a young girl, Setsuna. Without too many problems, our masked protagonist will leave for the village of Nive. Here, after having identified its target, just as the final blow is about to strike will learn about the girl's sad fate: Setsuna is the chosen one to make a sacrifice, a necessary rite to keep the peace of the world and to preserve the villages from the increasing attacks by the monsters. Setsuna's fate is therefore already written and the inevitable death hovers over her. We will therefore decide, in order to carry out our mission, to escort the girl and her bodyguard Aeterna, in the lands of Last Lands where he will be able to perform the rite and put an end to his life. As you can imagine, the journey of this "unhappy" company will not be roses and flowers, and there will be many obstacles that will separate us from the inevitable ending.



 

I Am Setsuna is a title with an intrinsic melancholy, where the theme of death, or rather of sacrifice, hovers for the duration of the adventure. A melancholy that is reflected on its protagonists, all characters well defined and framed in a narrative context where the leitmotiv will be that of "regret". As we discover I Am Setsuna we will get to know the various characters that animate the events, and their skeletons in the closet. From the laconic Nidr, haunted by the ghosts of the past and the failure of a previous sacrifice, a Kir, a young half-human ready to risk his life just to free himself from the heavy impositions of his clan, or ling, the last descendant of a now vanished kingdom, subjugated by the heavy legacy of her ancestors. A well-assorted cast that over the 25/30 hours necessary to complete the adventure, will be able to grow and evolve, both temperamentally and psychologically. From this point of view, I Am Setsuna offers an "intimate" story, far from certain epic epics told in other shores, that while not shining in originality, it still manages to be interesting and entertain throughout its "short" duration thanks to a tight rhythm with no downtime, giving the best of himself in the final, capable (in the most sensitive) of touching different emotional strings.

Back to the (JRPG) future
Under the crust of a basic system hides interesting mechanics

Not too dissimilar to what happened with Bravely Default e its sequel, the work of Tokyo RPG Factory follows a creative process (and conceptual) analogous as regards the revival of a rather classic gameplay and tested mechanics, enriching it with some modern elements, without however exceeding the work done by Silicon Studio.
Here we are faced with a turn-based JRPG where, winking at the Chrono Trigger battle system, the characters will act in the playing area by positioning themselves on the field according to the moves used. Placement will therefore be an important aspect, which will allow the members of our party to attack one or more enemies based on proximity to them, clearly influencing the outcome of the fight. Each character will be able to perform the classic actions such as attacking using the equipped weapon, resorting to one of the skills learned by exploiting the magic points or accessing the bag of objects to use one. The actions, both ours and those of our enemies, will be marked byATB (Active Time Battle) which will determine the timing of the attacks, just as it happened in the old chapters of Final Fantasy, forcing us to act quickly and without too much second thoughts.



 

Under the crust of this basic and antiquated system, however, there is a skeleton that supports the entire play system and allows you to customize not only the characters, with skills, equipment and so on, but also the style of play with which to face the battles. Let's start from one of the most important points, namely the Spritnite, stones that, in a completely analogous way to Subject di Final Fantasy 7, if equipped in special slots will allow you to learn new skills, both active command, and passive dedicated to support.
To get new Spritnite we will have to exchange the materials obtained from the defeated enemies, which will open the way to new and more powerful abilities. It is interesting how you immediately notice the versatility of this system which allows, by carefully studying the descriptions of the stones, to create sets that are able to respond to our needs, both with a view to specializing the characters towards certain specific builds (wizard, healer, tank) or to stem their limits with some skills that go to plug the gaps. In support of the Spritnites we find the Talismans, equipment that allows you to extend the power of the latter, primarily by increasing the slots in which to insert them. These equipments have two types of bonuses, one related to the effects of the battle, that is by increasing the speed of the ATB, the drop of the items or the experience obtained, the other to the Flow. The Flux are events generated randomly during the clashes that allow you to add permanent effects to the stones improving their final yield (for example an increase in defense).
Another novelty always related to the combat system concerns the Momentum, a fundamental resource to be mastered to our advantage to solve the toughest battles. By filling a special bar (for up to 3 slots), during the attack turn we will be able to add further damage or buffs by pressing the Square button with the right timing. Here the strategy on the use or not of the Mementum will become crucial, forcing us to choose whether to attack immediately without exploiting it, or wait for the bar to be charged, leaving us open to enemy attacks. Both the Spritnite and the Mementum are great additions to the game's mechanics, but they suffer from the Tokyo RPG Factory's part. a certain carelessness in divulging the basic notions for their learning, and it will therefore be up to the player to get by and experiment with all the possibilities offered by this complex system.



I Am Final Trigger
the exploratory phases are perhaps one of the weakest aspects of the game

I Am Setsuna is not just about fighting, and we will often find ourselves exploring dungeons and villages scattered throughout the game world. Despite the strong inspiration of the title, and the continuous references to a not too distant past (with clear references to Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger), theand exploratory phases are perhaps one of the weakest aspects of the game. The fault is not only of an extreme linearity due to the events narrated but of too much simplicity of the dungeons we will visit, which do not offer many ideas except that of the objective to follow, like simple corridors. Even the level design puts its own, appearing extremely too similar to each other, as well as monotonous,  and not making you feel the lack of a minimap on the screen, which in these conditions would have proved completely useless.
The villages present will not offer great variety from this point of view, ending up becoming only the theater of history or the place to buy new equipment (Talismans and Swords), Spritnite or support items. On the other hand, the total absence of the inns is curious, one of the emblems of the role-playing game where you can restore the health of the party, which in I Am Setsuna forces you to resort to healing items to get back in shape. In the final hours of the game it will then be possible access to a practical aircraft which will allow us to move quickly around the continent and discover some secrets to extend our adventure by a few hours: new crates containing rare equipment, a series of sanctuaries where you can face powerful enemies and even some secondary missions, extras otherwise missing during the course of the game.

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Allegretto, but not too much
I am setsuna hits the mark in replicating the essence of the JRPG of the past

The melancholy that transpires in the story pours into the graphics sector with the choice of setting I Am Setsuna in a world "submerged" by snow. A white kingdom stained by the ever constant threat of monsters, which transmits a sense of decadence to the player, as if everything were blocked in time. The choice of snow, which also finds a narrative justification in the implications of the story, fits perfectly with the artistic direction, which hits the mark in replicating the essence of past JRPGs (even including a nice easter egg with a retro aftertaste). Perhaps too much, ending up abusing it and creating a single and endless landscape, falling into a visual monotony that loses its effect in the long run, while maintaining a certain level of quality intact. As mentioned a few lines above, the level design of the dungeons is also affected, which cannot involve the player too much due to an overly accentuated stylistic flatness, almost to remind us of the low budget nature of the project. The realization of the characters is also excellent, which come to life thanks to incredibly detailed superdeformed polygonal models, enhanced by a chara-design by toi8, which we have already appreciated a few weeks ago with the excellent work done on Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE.
He also puts his poignant soundtrack, which having to cover the absence of any kind of dubbing (present in little measure only during the fights) takes care of marking every single passage, with a soundtrack made entirely on the piano which dynamically changes according to the events told. The sounds then bring back to mind many of the tracks of the aforementioned Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, from the fanfare of victory to the themes of the battles, closing the circle on the nostalgia operation proposed by Tokyo RPG Factory.

Verdict 8/10 Kill Setsuna, save the world Comment With I Am Setsuna Tokyo RPG Factory attempts a delicate and successful nostalgia operation, rescuing some of the classic elements of the great JRPGs of the past such as Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, giving a splash of modernity with a rich system of sub-mechanics, without distorting the starting formula too much as happened for example with Bravely Default. Overall I Am Setsuna is a successful title that will be able to leverage especially on long-time players who still live on memories today. Despite all the pleasant aspects, from the combat system (rich in many facets) to the graphics sector, Tokyo RPG Factory tackles some elements of the game lightly, and the exploratory phases and the dungeons are affected above all, which lead to the most total monotony, influencing not little on the economy of the game, showing the pieces of a project developed for savings. Overall, however, I Am Setsuna fully hits the target by becoming a title to be taken into consideration for all lovers of classic JRPGs, an interesting aperitif while waiting for the "big names" of the rolistic genre of the next videogame season. Pros and cons Well characterized history and characters
Dynamic and emotional soundtrack
Excellent technical realization ... x ... killed by the monotony of landscapes and dungeons
x The "right" lasts
x Not exciting exploration

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