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I am Setsuna Review: Chilly Discontent

/ Aug 25th, 2016 No Comments

I am Setsuna Review

Tribute bands are in no win positions. At best, they remind people of what they are emulating, brining back fond memories of the past. Often, they’re just a cheap knock off that misses the point of why people liked the thing in the first place.

I am Setsuna manages to break from the curse of the tribute. While it certainly is a love letter to Japanese role-playing games, it never feels like it is painting by numbers. Its influences are obvious, but it manages to stand out on its own thanks to superb writing and fantastic gameplay.

Final Stop: The Last Lands

The situation with the monsters has gotten worse recently. They are actively attacking villages causing destruction and death. Sadly, the solution isn’t a scrappy band of heroes to wipe out the savage beasts. No, it is more somber than that. One girl is the only hope for peace.

Setsuna’s village has a long tradition of selecting one girl from the village to venture to the Last Lands and offer herself up to a terrible demon as sacrifice. By doing this, it calms the monsters and brings peace to the lands. Setsuna, like her mother before here, is selected to make the pilgrimage.

Armed with a group of tough, capable bodyguards, Setsuna may be able to bring peace back.
 

I am Setsuna Review

As the main character, you must make tough choices.

At first glance, the story seems to be about Setsuna — the title alone suggests it. However, it is quickly obvious that it is about much more. Certainly it is very much Setsuna’s story, but she isn’t the sole focus.

Endir, the mysterious, close-lipped masked warrior, is the center of the story. While Setsuna has an important task of bringing peace by acting as the sacrifice, the story spends plenty of time alluding to Endir’s past, and keeps you questioning his motives at every turn. All this gives the story dimension.

I am Setsuna does an excellent job at characterizing its cast. There is a good amount of time given to fleshing out each new party member when they join. The time spent on backstory and the characters’ motives for joining Setsuna’s journey helps add depth and makes players invested in the characters.
 

I am Setsuna Review

There are plenty of beautiful moments within I am Setsuna.

From the plot to the characters to the quality of writing, all of these elements elevate the game. They help I am Setsuna go from a simple JRPG homage to one that can stand up to other contemporary RPGs and some of the classics.

Keep Your Enemies Close

While the story is fantastic, it is probably the retro-inspired gameplay that will catch most people’s eyes. The combat is inspired and pays homage to Chrono Trigger.

Players have the ability to link up party member’s spritnites, which are special moves, to create more powerful combination techs. These collaborative techs often are super formidable and help take out basic enemies without breaking a sweat.

Characters don’t learn new spritnites by simple leveling up; you have to purchase them in the various towns you come across by selling materials to a Magic Consortium representative. This gives actual purpose to searching for items on the world map or in dungeons, and makes grinding have a purpose outside of leveling up your characters.

Purchasing new spritnites and experimenting with tech combinations is a huge part of the fun in I am Setsuna. The combo techs are what make the combat such an engrossing and exciting portion of the game. It turns the standard turn-based active-time JRPG gameplay into something electrifying.
 

I am Setsuna Review

Your party can combine moves to unleash powerful attacks.

There is a further wrinkle to I am Setsuna’s combat in the Momentum mechanic. When it is your turn in battle, if you let your character idle, they will fill a Momentum gauge (up to three times).

Once the gauge is full, you can activate Momentum on your attacks with good timing (it happens when there is a flash on screen during a move execution). Activating Momentum adds special effects to your attacks, such as adding additional damage.

There are passive spritnites that can help change what different type of Momentum effects are added to attacks. This results in deep customization for your party’s attack loadouts between active and passive spiritnites.
 

I am Setsuna Review

Tinkering with the different combination techs is one of the great joys of combat.

The boss fights feel like boss fights. They aren’t just jumped up mobs with additional HP. To best the bosses in the game, it takes more than just spamming powerful combination attacks.

You need to utilize the different skills of your team and plot a plan of attack that can best neutralize these powerful foes. Often it involves using techs that can debuff the enemy, whether it is slowing them down or turning them to stone.

There is a feeling of actually accomplishing something once you beat a boss because you have to show some amount of mastery over the tenants of gameplay in order to defeat them.

Overall

I am Setsuna doesn’t re-invent the JRPG genre, but it doesn’t need to. Sometimes it is enough to do something exceptionally well. It hits with a captivating story and deeply engrossing gameplay, which is enough to satisfy any JRPG aficionado.

I am Setsuna was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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I AM SETSUNA REVIEW: CHILLY DISCONTENT

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall86%

GAMEPLAY9

Figuring out the best skill combinations with your party is a hugely satisfying part of I am Setsuna’s gameplay. The combo skills help keep the very traditional active-time turn-based combat from feeling antiquated.

GRAPHICS7.5

There are plenty of nice touches in the visuals of I am Setsuna, but nothing ground breaking.

SOUND9

The striking piano driven soundtrack is one of the game’s strongest points.

STORY9

I am Setsuna tells a surprisingly rich story with a lot of depth and great characters.