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I am Setsuna review - Chrono Trigger meets Final Fantasy

Katharine Byrne
19 Jul 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
30
inc VAT (as of 19th July)

I am Setsuna has a brilliant battle system and gorgeous soundtrack, but it's undermined by repetitive level design

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Specifications

Available formats: PC, PS4

Old school JRPGs have been having a bit of a resurgence lately. Bravely Default and Bravely Second have been leading the charge on 3DS, and now I am Setsuna, the debut game by Square Enix's newly-formed Tokyo RPG Factory, is picking up the slack on PS4 and PC.

However, this isn't simply another Final Fantasy clone that's been whipped off the production line and studded with a fresh coat of crystals. Instead, I am Setsuna harks back to one of Square's other famous RPG series, Chrono Trigger, albeit without the convoluted time-travelling storyline - that it borrows in liberal doses from Final Fantasy X.

It's a bit of a hodgepodge of other games you've probably played before, then, but there's still something inherently delightful about I am Setsuna, not least its sparse, yet gorgeous piano soundtrack and sumptuous hand-painted visuals. Indeed, with its top-down view and pared back system mechanics, this decidedly small-scale JRPG is probably about as far away from the upcoming Final Fantasy XV as you can possibly get, offering a gentle palette cleanser before Square's big hitter arrives in the coming months.

Chrono Trigger fans will certainly be pleased with Setsuna's Active Time Battle system, as its Tech Combos are back in full force. Much like its storied predecessor, each character has their own battle gauge in Setsuna, which, once full, lets you attack or spend magic points on a special ability. However, if you wait until either two or all three of your main characters are ready to attack, then you might be able to combine their tech abilities to initiate a super-powered combo attack.

It all depends on what kind of Spritnite you've assigned to each character, which you can forge from materials dropped at the end of each battle. However, you'll also need to take into account how many slots are available on your current weapon and accompanying talisman, as these limit the number of Spritnite you can have equipped any at one time. Swap out the wrong one, for instance, and you might undo your favourite combo, so you'll need to keep a watchful eye over each piece of the puzzle to maximise your efficiency.

So far so Chrono Trigger, but it's Setsuna's Momentum Mode that really lets Tokyo RPG Factory make its mark on this twenty-year-old battle system. For as soon as those battle gauges hit full, another meter kicks into effect that starts building up SP (Special Power) points, introducing yet another delay tactic to its risk and reward system.

You'll need expert timing to trigger these correctly at the start of each character's attack, but if done correctly, you'll be able to deal extra damage and prolong and spread buff effects around your party. It's immensely engaging, and it was often the only thing keeping me alive during its tense boss battles. Pulling off a successful combo is one thing, but there's nothing more satisfying than basing your entire survival strategy on a series of time-sensitive button presses and pulling it off by the skin of your teeth.

For all its battle prowess, however, Setsuna's over-arching structure does leave something to be desired. For instance, while its snowy, perpetual winter setting looks stunning for the first couple of hours, you'll soon realise there's little lying underneath, as its cut-and-paste towns all start to blur together once you progress. The same goes for its caves and mountain top pathways, which suffer all the more from following the same basic template time and time again, with thin corridors connecting large, circular monster-filled arenas.  

It ends up leaving each new place rather devoid of character and personality, and instead leaves its soundtrack to do the heavy-lifting. As brilliant as the music is, though, the lack of variety in its design is what really drags I am Setsuna down. If JRPGs are about the spirit of adventure, then Setsuna never really feels like it gets going, as it constantly feels like you're visiting the same locations without ever moving forward.

Its cast of characters don't help much on this front, either, as its rather humourless script and sombre band of adventurers do little to lighten the mood and carry the story forward. Main protagonist Endir is particularly hard to get a handle on, as his dialogue choices don't always tally with his supposedly cold and aloof personality. It could stand to learn a few lessons from Bravely Default in this department, for while that game's story is a carbon copy of the Final Fantasies of yore, at least its merry foursome made the re-treading of old ground all the more palatable.

I am Setsuna probably won't become a revered classic like its forebears, then, but its winning battle system has plenty to recommend it, and its beautiful soundtrack is up there with the very best Final Fantasy scores. It's certainly a promising start for Tokyo RPG Factory, but hopefully the next one won't be quite so formulaic.  

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Availability
Available formatsPC, PS4
PC requirements
OS SupportWindows 7, 8, 8.1, 10
Minimum CPUIntel Core i3 2GHz and above
Minimum GPUNvidia GeForce GTX 250 / AMD Radeon HD 5750
Minimum RAM2GB
Hard disk spaceN/A

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