Designed as an homage to Chrono Trigger, I am Setsuna is much more than this. Reminiscent of SNES JRPGs, this tribute is about the journey of Setsuna and the masked man Endir who was originally sent to kill her before she even makes her journey to the Lost Lands in order to save the peoples of the arctic lands that they all live in.
Like Star Ocean earlier this morning, I am Setsuna will feel like something that you may have already experienced. Following what is basically Final Fantasy X’s storyline, which sees the main character Yuna and her guardians journey to Zanarkand in order to bring about the next Calm, this Chrono Trigger inspired title will also see homages to Final Fantasy IV and VI on several occasions. This can be seen as early as the opening sequence with the main character looking like Cecil from Final Fantasy IV before he renounces himself as a Dark Knight to become a Paladin and the iconic snow walk while the opening credits roll from Final Fantasy VI. With these nods and others over the course of the journey, I am Setsuna offers a wonderful looking and sounding experience through the many hours that it offers while still coming across as something new that doesn’t feel like a copy and paste but instead a tribute to the greats.
Starting strong, I am Setsuna’s greatest feature is the piano based soundtrack that just makes you want to sit there and listen to it. This musical arrangement persists through the entire adventure and has a track for every situation type that Setsuna and her party will find themselves in. Upbeat battle themes, mellowed town scores, emotional tracks for when things become serious (and they do), the piano has it appropriately covered. It’s not uncommon to have a piano score or two as a musical accompaniment but to have the whole experience covered by it works out very well with the soft colours being used in this snowy land.
Again not uncommon is to have a snowy location or two as a party can either head up a high enough mountain pass or explore the north or south most reaches of the world. Setsuna’s journey however occurs entirely in this snowy reach and the party never actually sees more than a few wisps of long grass through the snow. Anyone living in Canada would feel at home as they could relate to the depth of this snow being showcased by the trails left in it as the characters wadded through it. These trails were quite easy to see and helped, at least outdoors, to keep track of which paths you recently took as there are no maps. Another nice detail was that these paths are also carved out when in the middle of battle by both your party and that of the enemy.
Having played just about any classic JRPG should prepare you to fight against the enemy. Using the Active Time Battle (ATB) approach, each character has different speeds in which their turns occur. Some are close enough to one another that it’s hard to tell if they indeed are faster but there is a clear indication of the fastest and the slowest leaving the rest of the party more or less in the middle range. While there have been some titles that make a nod to it, no other game has really simply followed Chrono Trigger’s approach to battle to the letter which saw the party spread out into formation without any transitions to a battle map which by the end of the game saves a lot of time and patience instead of having to wait for it especially if grinding experience was involved.
What made Chrono Trigger interesting wasn’t just that battle occured in place, as Breath of Fire 3 also did this, but that the party could move around either by being hit or by using different combinations of what are known as Tech (solo skills) or Combos (Tech that require two or three party members). Using both Tech and Combos to end a battle quickly is more often than not to your advantage. Winning multiple battles quickly can not only make the party avoid taking damage, but it can also heal them up on a level up making healing items for the moment unnecessary. More than this though is that certain Techs have ranges and the enemies, like the party, can move around with the use of these so a wide ranged attack may still miss a few that went outside of the target range. They really have no consideration for an expedited combat experience.
Using what are know are Spritnite, characters can obtain the above mentioned Tech and Combos to be used not unlike equipping Espers in Final Fantasy VI. Unlike the Espers however, these skills cannot be permanently learned and require being equipped in order to be used which is really a small price to pay. While Tech offer solo skills to be used in battle, Combos require that the multiple party members have Spritnite equipped that allows them to participate in that combo. Without all of the party members having the appropriate Spritnite, the Combos cannot be performed.
With how useful Techs and Combos are, the party has another avenue that is open to them in the form of what are known as Momentum. Momentum allows for party members to add either physical, magical, or special additional damage to the enemy by pressing another button after an attack has been launched. Normal attacks, Tech, and Combos can all have Momentum added which can help finish the battle that much quicker. There are other special factors that can be applied such as defensive barriers and an increase to the ATB fill rate.
Momentum itself can be gained by either attacking the enemy, being attacked by the enemy, or simply sitting there and allowing the ATB to continue its job which then fills up the circular meter on the right side of the character portrait. Each party member can have a total of three stacks that reset once the battle is over so it’s worth noting that they should be used as soon as possible. With how useful this feature is, having the party sneak up on the enemy is one of the best approaches as it will allow the party to each start off with one stack of Momentum already set and ready to go.
With all of the exploration and battling enemies there will be the need to rest. I am Setsuna takes an interesting approach as it does away with the ideas of Inns instead forcing the party if they want to rest to buy a tent and use it outside of town or within the safety of a Save Point. This could be a little odd at the beginning while looking around for an Inn and realizing that you just spent the party’s reserves on healing items and new weapons.
Buying and selling is always a bit odd as enemies do not drop gold but instead drop materials. These materials can only be sold to a member of the Magic Consortium that will then give you gold for your materials. Doing this often is recommended as all the materials not only grant the party gold, but each material goes towards a banked system of exchanging sold materials for Spritnite that you need to learn new skills. It’s an interesting system but it would have been nice to have a “sell all” option.
I am Setsuna is a wonderful tribute to the SNES era. Even with all the familiarity from the older titles that it pays homage to it doesn’t come across as a copy paste and instead is capable of standing on its own even with the heavy nostalgic feel. Graphically and audibly beautiful sounding this RPG is more than worth the time in the snow covered reaches that are traversed.
Tokyo RPG Factory
Article by Pierre-Yves