I am Setsuna is an ode to the classic JRPG. Does it capture everything? Is it fun? Most importantly, is it worth your time?
A fun game to be sure, but far from compelling. There are other sites that will boil down specific points, so I will get right to it. I am Setsuna is like an appetizer before, what you hope, is a great meal. The appetizer is not designed to do the job in both satisfaction and satiety, but it does preview the work of the hosts who are preparing your meal. A long way of saying the game is shallow, hollow, but nice enough to whet your appetite.
The gameplay takes from many classic RPGs. It has Active Time Battle. It has a job system that includes your classic black mage like character, your damage sponge character, your white mage, your warrior, your thief/sneak/quick attack character, etc. The characters do not fit the rolls exactly, but they are close. If you can have the right combination for the right level or boss, then the game gets fairly easy. If you don’t, you will be in for a close battle. It has items galore. It has a materia like system a la FF7. The armor system is simplified by the purchase of weapons and experience upgrades. The real fun is outfitting your characters with Talismans and empowering its slots with various Techs. Techs become available as you turn in various items to a Magic Consortium. You know, classic RPG fare.
I am Setsuna was made for the Vita in Japan, so I won’t bash the graphics in reference to the PS4. The visuals do have a certain charm that hangs on though at least the point I’m at in the game (over 4 hours). The real reward is the score. Using the piano as its weapon, the music is haunting, poignant, and overly catchy. Its simple, but elegant.
The story is pretty simple. Nothing out of the ordinary. So far, there are no side quests although there is a decently sized overworld. Seems most of the space to walk through is a waste. There are no battles as you traverse. When you do battle, ATB is the best way to go. The JRPG chess match. So what’s the problem? Both nothing and everything. Trying to describe a hollow game is difficult I suppose. As I mentioned before, its an appetizer to a great meal that I hope is Final Fantasy XV. If a JRPG could be made to fit an “arcade,” this would be it. Maybe that’s too harsh.
My verdict? If you need a return to RPGs and the new style doesn’t cut it for you, or you are in need of some nostalgia without the difficulty of say Xenogears, Final Fantasy 4, Dragon Quest 8 then you’re in luck. I am Setsuna will do it for you. No need to have low expectations – there is high quality in this game. Just don’t expect a fully immersive experience. You won’t find that here, but it sure is fun. If JRPGs aren’t your thing or old school turn-based systems turn you off – don’t bother. I am Setsuna is unapologetically turn-based in the most no nonsense way possible.