When Square Enix announced a new RPG studio titled ‘Tokyo RPG Factory’ last year, it certainly excited fans of the genre. Their first title being I Am Setsuna, a game that will instantly remind you of the RPG’s often found during the Super Nintendo era, is an experience that’ll take you back to those good old days.
Set in a world covered in snow, you play as a mercenary who has been given the job to assassinate a maiden. What you soon find out is that this girl must be sent on a pilgrimage and give her life to temporarily stop monsters from destroying the human race. It’s a ritual that happens every 10 years, and Setsuna has been chosen. After learning more about the situation, the mercenary decides to join Setsuna and help reach her end goal. It’s a beginning to a story you’d expect to find in a JRPG, which works perfectly for a title that does everything in its power to recapture what makes the genre so much fun to play.
There’s the traditional experience gained from battles to increase your character’s level, so if you find yourself struggling with a boss, battling weaker enemies to increase your level is always an option. Weapons and Armour can also have their attributes increased with the items you obtain from defeating enemies, so you’ll find yourself wanting to do both to make the latter parts of the game less challenging.
The Active Time Battle System, or ATBS for short makes a return from the SNES era JRPG library. If you’ve played the early Final Fantasy game or especially Chrono Trigger, then you’ll instantly feel like you’ve reunited with an old friend after so many years. After an action has taken place in battle by your selected character, you wait until your ATB gauge is full before being able to choose another option. The same goes for the enemy – you can’t see their gauge, but after encountering the same enemy a couple of times, you tend to work out its attack pattern. Waiting for that gauge to fill gives you enough time to decide what you’ll do next, so don’t worry if you feel like you need to rush yourself before the enemy deals the final blow. Wait or Active is an option that can help ease the pressure a little bit. Wait means the enemy won’t attack while you are deciding what to use from the magic or item menu, where Active lets the enemy keep on attacking with no pause.
A new addition to the ATBS is the Setuna gauge. Whenever an attack is successful, this gauge begins to fill. When full, it grants a momentum charge by pressing square, which can be used when the player feels the need to grant boosts to the characters selected action. These boosts include dealing extra damage after the basic attack, critical hits having more chance of occurring and recovering health. It shouldn’t come as a surprise how much this can help turn a boss battle in your favour. Knowing when to use the Setuna gauge will be your key to victory during those tough battles.
The absolute stunning visuals and music do a great job of nailing the correct atmosphere. Snow falling from trees, leaving a trail in the snow as you explore the areas – it’s the little things you notice which make this world feel truly alive. The unique piano score being my favourite part of the game feels right at home alongside the winter landscapes. This is a sad yet beautiful tale, and nothing expressing it better than the music and its ability to tell a story like you are reading a picture book. It’ll be interesting to see what Tokyo RPG Factory next, but for now I’m fully satisfied with their first game.
I Am Setsuna does a great job of reminding us what we loved about the genre and what it was like to play a JRPG back when the genre was at it’s best. There’s enough here to make the experience feel fresh and new, without changing too much of the core gameplay. If you’ve been in the mood for a classic adventure on your PS4, then this is the game for you