[Review] I Am Setsuna - Nintendo Everything

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[Review] I Am Setsuna

Posted on March 26, 2017 by (@LyonHart_) in Reviews, Switch

System: Switch (eShop)
Release date: March 3, 2017
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher Square Enix

Sometimes nostalgia gets the best of us. We look back on the vast history of video games and how far we’ve come, what’s changed and what hasn’t, for better or for worse. There are certain mechanics that evolve so much over time throughout all genres that we tend to forget how things once were when they became innovative for their time. The RPG genre has come a long way, stepping away from the linearity and turn-based tradition and heading more towards an open-world and free-form combat in a flashy hack-n-slash fashion. Sometimes, however, you want to go back to basics and back to a time that makes you fall in love with the genre all over again and elicits strong feelings of nostalgia and purity that may have faded over time as we’ve grown. I Am Setsuna brings us back to the 90’s at a time when Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Parasite Eve, and a slew of other Square titles were pushing a new wave of gameplay with their Active Time Battle systems – ATB for short – where you could attack at any given point once a meter was filled rather than wait your turn in a chess-like fashion like traditional RPGs. I Am Setsuna not only brings us back to a time where RPGs were at their best thanks to their deep worlds, battle systems, and innocent art styles, but brings with it a reimagining to a forgotten style of gameplay that feels fantastic to have back in a modern take.

I Am Setsuna starts you off in a mostly empty forest where you’re introduced to your main character and the battle system. The enemies in the beginning are mostly just punching bags for you to get used to the mechanics of everything involved with the game, and while it doesn’t take particularly long to get the hang of it when you’re a hands on type of person, the text menus that pop elaborating on the UI, how to go about battling or initiating certain actions and so forth tend to be a bit much.

The game doesn’t come with a manual, so it gives it to you as a “tutorial”. While it doesn’t start off strong thanks to the player doing more reading than playing – and not just AI interactions, but manual-like explanations (table of contents and all) – it’s what happens later on and the presentation of it all that really makes itself captivating once you’re past the starting area. It’s a shame because there are sure to be some players that will undoubtedly skip all the text involved in the first bit of it, especially those with a history of RPGs, but the manual area, as we will call it, is rather crucial to your understanding of what you’re dealing with moving forward.

Like a lot of older RPGs from the 90’s, I Am Setsuna has absolutely no hand-holding whatsoever. If you’re not paying close attention to some of the dialogue in between quests, it’s easy to get lost as to what you’re supposed to do next. Though it’s not entirely at the fault of the player, there are moments that aren’t so clear thanks to an NPC saying something along the lines of “wait here”, and then proceeding to walk away with no real indication that control has been brought back to the character and then the player having to essentially find the NPC in question in whichever way they went. Little things like this may confuse people, but it’s not frequent enough to deter players from the overall experience, and as with other titles of this style, there are always audio and visual cues to give a better understanding of what’s going on and how to figure out potential puzzles.

Lost or not, no matter where you’re located – whether in a lively town or a tenebrous forest – I Am Setsuna provides a piano score that’s ubiquitous and beautiful, fitting to any event or location. In order to progress, you’ll be traversing an overworld in which the pianos perpetually reign, and where you’ll make the choice of how to approach. While a lot of sections of I Am Setsuna’s universe seem big, a lot is just for show. Paths sometimes seem to imply you can walk a certain way, like up a mountain or past a river in the overworld, but ultimately you’ll find yourself mostly going to three or four places that actually have the ability to be entered in a deceivingly open space. This isn’t necessarily bad due to the fact that the overworlds are all beautifully crafted and look like they were made with oil pastel, and it’s nice to go out there whenever you need to save and take a break from all the dramatic and emotive experiences you’ll run into throughout your journey. There’s an immense amount of information to take in both for lore purposes and the player’s own gain, so these places are rather dense once you enter them, and what you gain is typically invaluable when furthering the story.

Within a lot of the forests you come by, and wilderness in general, you’ll see a multitude of enemies in your way that you must slay in order to progress. The battle system may seem straight forward enough for veteran players, but there are a lot of mechanics that we either haven’t seen in a while or are new entirely.

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  • hi v3.0

    Still don’t get why the Switch version is 30fps

    • It really doesn’t matter in this case. It’s a turn-based battle system, and not a very fluid game in general. It could be 20fps in all versions and basically be the same.

      Heck, it has bigger problems than the fps.

    • My comment was eaten, so sorry if this is a double post. But being 30fps doesn’t matter for this game. It could be 20 fps across all versions. It’s a turn-based game in which your characters don’t even have idle (battle) animations. Its fps means nothing, really.

      It has bigger problems than that in my eyes anyway.

      • Burning Gravity

        “Being 30fps doesn’t matter”

        A) that doesn’t answer the question
        B) that’s an opinion, not an objective fact
        C) you’re allowed to share said opinion anyway, but I’m allowed to point out how it’s kinda irrelevant and well… an opinion. lol

        • What question? Where was any question? He just said he doesn’t get why. He never posed a real question. And there isn’t an answer. The vita version was 30 fps too. Maybe ask TRPGF or SE why it is? They made/published/ported it.

          Sure. Whatever appeases you.

          Again, sure. Whatever pleases you.

        • Tlink7

          Are there non-objective facts? 😛 and it is kinda pompous of you to call punchinri’s opinion irrelevant, when it holds just as much weight as any other well-substantiated view.

          What does higher FPS allow for? It lets one see more movement per second. So how important is a high FPS count in a game where comparatively very little movement happens? I’d say punchiri has a good point.

          • ForeVision

            I wouldn’t put objective and fact in the same line, since one is preference, and the other is irrefutable.

            FPS, as you’ve said, doesn’t hold much weight in a turn-based game. It really comes into play during racing-games, action games and fighting games particularly. But there are people like TotalBiscuit who refuse to play a game if it’s not 60 FPS (barring examples where it isn’t as big of a factor)

          • Tlink7

            I know, that’s why I was bringing the ”objective fact” to the OP’s attention xD

            30FPS would be pretty bad in racing and action games yes, say Smash or F-Zero. It just gives you that bit extra time to react when the FPS is 60.

    • megasnorlax927

      Since both I am Setsuna and DQH run at 30fps and ~25fps respectively, it’s probably always gonna be debated these were rushed ports on square Enix’s part. Whether it’s true or not, I’m still excited to try this game out regardless of 30fps.

  • Honestly. . . I was kinda mixed about the game when it was PS exclusive. I bought it to support JRPGs on the Switch, but I regret it a little. It is a lovely game in many ways, but it also feels very dull in the beginning; and it’s frustrating from the angle of them hyping up the game being like a CT spiritual successor. Except the game lacks most of the essential charms and strong points of CT, or any of SE’s older games.

    For where I am in the beginning, I regret buying the game. It feels so dull, and the story is already contradicting itself. I don’t care for the Winter-y environment either (very bland here). I know some of the soon and later to come locales are pretty, so I want to hold out for them, but this game feels like a chore to play.

    And the piano score is pretty. . . but the CT OST worked beautiful for being on older consoles. This OST is pretty, but very forgettable. It fits the mood of the game decently, but that feels rather lacking to me.

    In a way, the game feels very nice on the surface, but fairly unpolished and lackluster. Maybe it’ll improve more as I go, but seeing a lot of the complaints from Japanese fans upon the game’s release, I don’t know if I’ll feel better about it later.

    • ForeVision

      From reading this, I’d like to ask you: would you recommend enjoyers of JRPGs to hold out for Project Octopath/other titles?

      • kurodo

        I can answer: if you want games like this from square and others, you should buy to show supoort. Anyway, I’ll buy The physical asian version on The next batch! <3

        • ForeVision

          I perhaps would’ve but since Setsuna is a digital-only title, I’ll hope they bring Octopath over in a physical coat. I hate clogging up my console this quickly, especially considering that my funds are limited.

          • I agree with kurodo, but it is also important to only invest in a game that won’t bore you, as far as digital goes. The thing is, companies will justify what they want too. Theatrhythm did well on the 3DS as far as I know, and Bravely Default did too. We then got Explorers and Bravely Second. Two games that absolutely do not stack up to the two before them. So even with nice performance and returns, Square did not want to invest into better games; so support what you can, but definitely be prepared to be burned anyway. ^u^;

          • ForeVision

            I quite liked explorers, it’s a sad thing it didn’t do as well to be honest. And Square really should be less fickle in that regard, but I guess that’s tied to the all-important “does it sell?” so here’s hoping Switch’s line-up hooks RPG enjoyers like myself and keeps them there.

          • I think it looks fun, but what they tried to be and tried to do falls pretty short.

            I would say it goes back to that, but it really doesn’t with them. It’s nice to see they got themselves together compared to just a few years ago, but they’re still in a not entirely improved spot.

            I’m hopeful with Octopath, especially since Asano seems to work well with a decent budget. I hope they let smaller teams do something too, or maybe Kitase. More than anything, I want Dissidia Arcade to come to the Switch. And either WoFF, or a game like it.

          • ForeVision

            Since we are speaking of Square, I wonder if we’ll ever see another Final Fantasy Tactics game again. I really love that series, but since Grimoire of the Rift there has not been any other…

            Let us see what the future brings, as an individual we can but buy the games we enjoy hope the sales are to their satisfaction.

          • Well, with Matsuno having left a while back, I doubt it. I’m surprised he just worked on the XIV storyline. I don’t think they’ll do more with FFT or Tactics Ogre though; I’d love if they just hired him on for a game though. It’s nice that Tactics is still getting some love from them though. (Yay Ramza in Dissidia Arcade!)

          • ForeVision

            Ramza doesn’t ring a bell, but what I loved most about Tactics is it’s possibilities and combinations. Combining a Spellblade with a Red Mage to double-cast affliction attacks was quite the evil combo, not to mention Parivir + Paladin to have Luso wear the strongest armor and weapon in the game, and have access to elemental attacks all the same.

            The situation reminds me of ImageEpoch and Stella Glow… And having looked up some things about it, it seems that (Stella Glow) is now in Sega’s hands, I’ll leave the link here in case you’re curious: http://gaming.moe/?p=951

          • Ah, I think you mean Tactics Ogre then? Ramza is the main character of Final Fantasy Tactics. I haven’t got to play a TO game yet, though my husband started LUCT for PSP. I’m actually about to hook my Wii up though and get on the Shop Channel so I can give them a shot. ^o^

            I was considering the game. I love Imageepoch’s games, though sometimes how fanservice-y they can in some designs gives me a bit of a smirk. (Like, really? Don’t want to tone it down a bit, lol.) I think Arc Rise Fantasia is my favorite game from them, though I haven’t got to try Luminous Arc yet. (Just dawned on me that they did Last Ranker too.)

          • ForeVision

            Ah, I see where I made a mistake. I forgot to mention the games that I’ve played being Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and A2. Marche is the main character in the first, Luso in the second.

            Oh yes, there’s some fan-service in Stella Glow, and they’re not even hiding it, in fact they’re using it as a running gag, and it’s absolutely hilarious. Her name is Nonaka, and she’s a glutton for punishment, especially considering who her mistress is (among her many nicknames, “boobs for brains” is the one that sticks to my memory)

            That aside though, it has the unique aspect of having English voices, yet keeping the singing Japanese. It gives something special to the singing, yet they have great English VA, of which I’d argue they’re better than the original (Patrick Seitz, he’s just good imho).

            Not to mention a pretty good story, one I’d wish had “what ifs” to it. In fact, I’d love to play more RPGs with “what ifs” story parts. Sengoku Basara did this, by allowing alternate stories which made playing through them again very satisfying.

          • Oh, the A2 games! That makes sense~. I never tried those, but my husband did. (Well, the first one.)

            Some of it I can handle or even ride with, but it definitely depends. It’s weird looking between their titles and seeing how the fanservice can be fun in one and so. . . terribad in another. (Yikes on TokiTowa/Time and Eternity.)

            I remember the controversy over that, hehe.

            Yeah, I was thinking of just getting it when the digital sale happened recently, but I see a physical copy here and there in my area. I’ll probably pick it up with Lord of Magna, because I have an obsession with buying niche games. TTuTT

          • ForeVision

            If only we could have a lot more people to have that obsession, or a compulsion like it, then they’d stop being niche. But well, positive thinking and all that.

            With what I see to be today’s generation of gamers being more about graphics, I hope there will be those who enjoy games for what they are as well.

          • Well, and I do think the term niche is a little overused/over defined for these games. They’re not mainstream, so they’re niche. But some are quintessentially niche, while some just aren’t mainstream so the moniker isn’t entirely fitting.

            I’m still bitter that Xseed did not localize Earth Seeker, which was a futuristic fantasy a la Monster Hunter. . . developed by previous Monster Hunter people! (And yet, we still got Rodea. . .) In terms of prominence, it’s a random new title so it could be considered niche, but the genre and devs behind it are not, and it was Kadokawa publishing it.

            Sorry to ramble, but I guess I just wanted to kind of make a point that sometimes, niche titles actually have a very good audience and amount of sales behind them, so they aren’t actually niche in performance (or in name). But I do agree, it’s always nice for smaller and B-tier games to get more support!

            Same~. I think that’s slowly starting to actually shift, and people just use the graphics argument to dismiss what they don’t like. But I definitely notice more devs making a stronger effort for things beyond graphics, and I’m glad. (Not that the mentality is completely gone yet, but people are trying harder.)

          • ForeVision

            But then if they do have those sales and audience, are they still niche? I mean what defines niche? A title that’s for a smaller audience, or a different than mainstream demographic? Perhaps the developers use the word the wrong way, just as “core” and “casual” are convoluted to be washed out and near-meaningless.

      • For now, yes. IAS isn’t a horrible game, but unless you are really looking for something super lowkey, quiet and with the whole, overly done ‘sorrowful’ atmosphere, I would not recommend it.

        Project Octopath is obviously an Asano pet project, and that spells something golden. He has a good track record behind him. He did good work with 4HoL, the IV remake(s; but especially the DS one) are great, and Bravely Default was not a perfect game – but it is spectacular in many ways. (And I “blame” the scenario writer for the storyline and the time/world flux stuff as he’s into that, being the Steins;Gate writer.) Asano really knows how to capture the classic JRPG and especially Square charm, while giving it a modern flair. And his team does a great job. Hopefully, he’ll get a real budget again too and we may see another badass composer like how BD had Revo.

        I am hoping the Tales game will actually be good. The series used to be amazing (flaws and all), and I think Baba started off good but all of the later PS3 games just started declining so bad. With him at SE now (on what could also be a Switch game, and could be decent), I think we may have a more classic or just fresh team for Tales. That could be superb. Might not work so well.

        If you don’t mind hard games or already enjoy SMT, I’d also wait for that too. Atlus has been delaying lately given P5, but they otherwise have a good track record. (And P5’s delays to me are them trying to get the game on PS3+4.)

    • Tide

      So far i like the game, and the only gripe i have with the game is the tone. It’s constant sadness and despair straight through the game with absolutely no levity. I personally would have liked some fluff added to the story just so i could have a few happy moments, maybe even see some relationships develop between characters.

      Overall it’s interesting and complex, but very linear and dense with everything thats happening. I personally would love to see a sequel to see how they could improve the current format.

      • How far are you? Maybe you’re further and seeing more of the world (which I am kind of excited for). But yeah, I can talk they want to give some light in their sea of despair, but they are a bit heavy-handed with it. That’s exactly how I feel on the story and tone though.

        I agree with that~. I’m a little bitter because I think for what they were trying to emulate, it’s terribly weak as a game. But on its own, it isn’t bad and has some stuff going for it. But yeah, I would hope that with a sequel (and a slightly better budget), they could improve and I’d love to see what they do.

        • Tide

          I’ve lost 2 teammates, and I’m looking for one so I can progress. I’m fairly close to the end now.

          • Ahh, okay. I’m real curious about how the end of the plot is. I’ve managed to not spoil myself so far, but the temptation grows. >u<;

    • Eileen the Pizza Queen

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one. My boyfriend desperately wanted it so we got it, but I feel pretty underwhelmed so far. Nothing EVER feels any different from anything else that’s happened, because it’s all low-key, it’s all depressing, it’s all snowy and it’s all accompanied by piano. We’re about ten hours in now and it feels like we’ve made no progress on anything, just because there’s been no shift in mood. Chrono Trigger was a diverse game with something for everybody thanks to its wide range of settings and objectives; I am Setsuna has something for one very specific type of person, and let’s hope they like a LOT of that thing.

      Also, I need to double down on the lack of polish because Square-Enix’s digital games always cut a bunch of tiny little corners that don’t really matter individually, but together they add up to a game that feels incredibly cheap. They keep doing these things and I’m not going to keep overlooking them. The text formatting is a nightmare with nonsensical line breaks in seemingly every other line of dialogue, which isn’t helped by an incredibly generic font and a script that seems allergic to personality of any sort. And the transitions between different songs are incredibly rough, which really undermines the somber piano vibe and makes what should be a very personal game feel really robotic.

      Mostly, I just hope this game eventually becomes something more than arriving at a new town, talking to an important person, going to the only other location on this chunk of the world map, talking so another important person, going back to the first place, waiting at their house, fighting a forgettable boss out of nowhere, having a boat mishap, lather, rinse, repeat…

      • Thank you, Eileen! Yes! That is another thing! The game really doesn’t ever feel like it picks up or does anything! It’s basically too consistent with how dreary it is. That’s why I adored CT so much, and it honestly feels like a slap in the face that they referenced it so much as their main inspiration and influence.

        Yup. Agreed entirely. And I know people are calling out the Switch ports for their fps and such, but it really isn’t just the Switch games. XV had plenty of issues upon release, and they’re obviously trying to cut corners in places. The script for Setsuna really does get me. Not just the world, but the characters themselves feel. . . lacking in character. Like, everyone has their really basic type/trope, and they really don’t shine within that even.

        I hope so too. I feel a little extra bitter because I asked my husband which to get between this and FAST at the time; I thought he was going to play, but nope. Feels like I wasted my money. :/ (And I have FAST, and have enjoyed it with friends already and on my own.) Even Bomberman, for all its lack of polish, at least tries to be amusing and can make me smirk for how ridiculous it is. This game. . . man. Square can’t do this again. And I am so glad that Enix has kept their mainline DQ stuff away from Square, because I would be seriously worried for XI at this rate.

        • Eileen the Pizza Queen

          To be honest, I’m usually turned off of wholly serious works for one reason: even when it’s absolutely terrible, real life is still funny. Not only is life is full of irony, often cruel irony, but humor is basically a human defense mechanism. It helps keep you sane during dark times, and builds a sense of camaraderie. Frankly, I feel like any writer who tries to create a serious dramatic work by making their characters completely humorless is just missing the point of how humans work, and it immediately destroys my ability to care what happens to said characters. If I cared about anyone in this game, I could look past all the other flaws, but…..I just don’t, man. Not even a little.

          Despite all of this, my boyfriend’s playing it and seemingly really interested in it. I honestly don’t understand how, but I’m glad one of us is enjoying it, at least. Unlike 1-2-Switch, which he also insisted on getting on launch night, and which hasn’t been touched since that night. He has questionable taste in games when left to his own devices, is what I’m getting at. XD

          • Agreed. Even some of the darker works I read have their humor in them and some balance. It just doesn’t make sense to me to be so wholly depressing and dreary. Yes, I agree entirely. it seems very lacking in human understanding and essence for a writer to feel and write that way.

            Lol, I understand. Sorry 1-2 Switch has went unplayed! Maybe you can invite some family or friends over to play? x’D
            I feel bad for Bomberman because I like it, but I’m pretty much ignoring it, save for when I have company. (When Puyo Puyo comes, that’ll be worse, hehe.)

          • Eileen the Pizza Queen

            Yeah, I had very mixed feelings about Bomberman. Like, on one hand, I’m happy to see that Konami hasn’t entirely forgot about the series, but….it just looked super cheap? Like most Konami games? I know Bomberman is a series that’s always going to look a little cheap anyway, but I’d appreciate even the bare minimum of trying to aspire to more than that, you know? Still, I know we would’ve gotten more out of it than 1-2 Switch so maybe I should’ve campaigned a little harder for it instead…

            Honestly, besides Zelda (which I have poured embarrassingly large amounts of time into), the current Switch game I most want to play is Snipperclips. I was utterly charmed by the demo, and basically the only reason we haven’t gotten it yet is because we’re holding out till we can get a second pair of Joy-Cons for the download code. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but the art style is exactly my type of thing. ^.^

          • Yeah, it is absolutely cheap, lol. Not just looks, but is. I think the animation/cutscenes are cute and well-done, but the graphics are super lazy. Not in an entirely bad way, but you can tell they didn’t try to add any charm or unique flair and went with what’s easiest and quickest. It’s kinda sad. The game is fun though. My friends and I had a blast playing together~.

            Snipperclips looks so cute! It definitely caught my eye at first, but I was skeptical of it for whatever random, baseless reason. We downloaded the demo and are gonna try it soon. It looks fun, and I’m glad for another game to have to play together. I really dig the art style too~. >u<

          • NeptuniasBeard

            Damn, you two are practically doubles. You sure this isn’t a Fight Club thing lol

          • Lol, nah. This is more like. . . PreCure or something? Where we just gush over stuff we like together, but are prepared to take down the crap things that dare infringe on the gaming world? x’D

            I don’t know, man. It’s starting to hit my nap time, and I still haven’t started dinner. ^u^;

          • Eileen the Pizza Queen

            Yeah, that sounds pretty accurate to me. I’m sure we have wildly differing tastes on a lot of things, but we agree on the basic principle of “don’t be a terrible, hateful person”….it’s amazing how far just seeing eye-to-eye on that one thing can get you. XD

            Real talk: I’m about fed up with the comment sections here. While I still appreciate the news coverage, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the comments are just as much of a cesspool as most of the gaming world. (Anyone who uses phrases like “autistic screeching” can die in a fire, frankly.) But you’re cool, I always appreciate your input, and I hope we still get chances to chat and play stuff online in the future, even if I throw in the towel here. The same also goes for anyone else I follow, to be clear: if I follow you, I’ll always be happy to hear from you. ^.^

          • Yup! Haha. It really goes a long way for me. . . especially with the topic you mention.

            I had more faith in it before, that wavered once last year, but it’s hitting that spot again. I don’t know who said that line, but that kind of stuff. . . well, leaves me with very rash thinking. OUO (My toddler is autistic and in general, I take strong offense to the way people talk about and refer to mental illness and disability, especially in the gaming world.) I want to say I’m disappointed, but some of those people have been here for a while, and I guess they really did make up most of the commenters before. There used to be more sites dedicated to news and real discussion in gaming (more inclusive spaces, to be exact), but some of them just died. I hope more pop up, because they’re sorely needed.

            Thank you so much though! Same to you, and I’m still looking forward to Puyo Puyo together! I have immensely enjoyed and appreciated your input here as well, and I hope you won’t mind me checking my latest comments and picking up on whatever articles and sites you venture to. ^u^

          • Eileen the Pizza Queen

            Absolutely, feel free to hit me up anywhere you see me! I think you’ve proven you can be a responsible and trustworthy stalker. XD

            See, I think I was lured in by a false sense of security, because the Switch’s release was imminent when I started commenting, which made everyone too excited to be cruel, I guess. But….man, it’s just so depressing that, in 2017, racism is STILL a controversial topic. If there are any of these inclusive spaces still around, care to point me in that direction? Maybe? ^^;;

  • TDude73

    Thumbs up for I Am Setsuna!

  • TheDonRob

    Not sarcasm here, but so did you have to not play zelda to make this review happen?

    • Yes. I was miserable, because Zelda is life right now. It’s hard to play ANY game at the moment, even ones I’m immensely excited for; that’s how good Zelda is. The only one that’s been able to remotely keep my attention away from Breath of the Wild is The Nonary Games (I’m a huge Zero Escape fan).

      • TheDonRob

        Yeah man, I kind of figured that was the case. I’m the same way. I bought I Am Setsuna, Bomberman R and Shovel Knight along with Zelda at launch and haven’t even fired any of the other three up yet. Thanks for the review though, I am stoked to play this eventually lol