JRPG home cooking.
I Am Setsuna on PlayStation 4
Imagine you’re living on your own, making yourself dinner, and thinking it’s just not the same as being able to have a home cooked meal at home with your parents like you used to have all the time as a kid. Although simple, there’s something comforting and wonderful about a family member cooking up something delicious and familiar for you.
I Am Setsuna is the ultimate JRPG comfort food. There’s nothing particularly fancy about it. This isn’t a five-star restaurant meal by any means. But you don’t care. It’s so good, and it feels right.
These days, classic-style JRPGs on home consoles from major publishers/developers like Square Enix are quite rare. Action-RPGs, open world games, and MMORPGs have made the turn-based style gameplay nearly extinct outside of indies. However, you only have to play I Am Setsuna for a short while before you’re transported back into the JRPG golden age of the 90s (playing on a home console – the PS4 – definitely adds to the nostalgia). Your muscle memory will kick in right away, and it will be just like the good ol’ days.
The first thing you’ll notice is the game’s visuals. Obviously, I Am Setsuna doesn’t take full advantage of the current generation’s graphical potential. This isn’t Final Fantasy XV. Instead, it retains an early 2000s style with an appropriate modern face lift. As a result, I Am Setsuna manages to channel nostalgia, while also being very, very pretty.
The only problem though is that I Am Setsuna rarely shows off anything other than snow. Its world is very snowy. It’s supposed to be that way thematically, portraying a sense of sadness. However, it probably wouldn’t have killed Tokyo RPG Factory to include some more variety. Hours and hours in, and all you’re going to see is a lot of ice, frost, and snow. It’s all pretty, but repetitive nonetheless.
In addition to the snowy setting getting a bit tired after a while, you’ll also be seeing a lot of the same enemies too, but reskinned. You’ll be running into familiar looking enemies often throughout the entirety of I Am Setsuna, but with a different color scheme and some new abilities to mix things up. Thankfully though, I Am Setsuna’s combat is so much fun that you won’t really care.
There are no random battles in I Am Setsuna. Instead, enemies appear in plain sight and can be avoided or engaged with. Getting a preemptive strike by sneaking up on monsters is quite easy and when you do, you get a big advantage to speed these lesser engagements up. That advantage is a quick ATB boost and a single charge of the all important momentum. Yep, ATB (Active Time Battle) is back in I Am Setsuna, and is enhanced greatly by the Momentum and Combo features.
In most games that use an ATB system, the first person to fill their ATB bar is up to attack, and its best to attack right away and keep the battle moving. You’ll do a lot of that in I Am Setsuna, but it’s not always the best move. When your ATB bar is filled, you can let it sit there and gather stacks of momentum which can be used to greatly enhance your attacks and abilities. So for example, Provoke, when used normally, draws enemy attacks towards the user. When used with momentum though, it’s altered to add a useful defense boost on top of what it normally does. One more for you: Drain normally only steals HP from an enemy and restores the HP of the user. With momentum, it heals party members as well. So in tough battles, you’ll need to decide when to attack right away, and when to wait for a momentum stack to get an effect that can turn the tide. And in normal encounters, annihilating packs of enemies in a matter of seconds with well placed momentum-enhanced attacks never gets old.
That’s not all though; all of the playable characters in I Am Setsuna have their own set of unique abilities (Tech) that can be used together, Chrono Trigger style. Once two party members have their ATB bars filled, they can join forces to unleash a powerful attack (which can also be powered up with momentum). All of this adds a layer of complexity to the traditional ATB system and makes it feel fresh and fun, even in 2016.
There’s also of a ton of Tech that can be used to change/enhance the way the playable characters behave in battle. Seriously, there are TONS of abilities that range from combat attacks, passive traits, support spells and more. While each character has a general play style, you can do some serious tweaking depending on what Tech you choose to equip. You can definitely make certain characters fit into the classic Final Fantasy job paradigm if you choose, or mix and match lots of different Tech abilities. The choice is yours.