Nostalgia is a very easy thing to mine. Throw in the right characters and promote something in the right way, and you can get a big, broad audience to pay attention to you. However, actually satisfying that sense of nostalgia is another thing entirely, and a good 98% of the Steam Greenlight RPGmaker clones promising a classic RPG experience are woefully poor to say the least. I am Setsuna thankfully proves to be the exception.
The world here isn’t merely one where “winter is coming” but it’s already arrived in force. It’s your job to survive and hopefully restore it. Saying more would sadly spoil the game as it does love its RPG clichés, but the real meat stems from what is worked around this. The characters are entertaining and the locations memorable, and it seems as if the core plot was largely an excuse to experiment with a few fun ideas.
The real selling point here is the Active Time Battle combat, which is more akin to an older Star Ocean or Chrono Trigger release than the typical turn based affair. Offering the use of movement, flanking, formations and tactical mobility, it’s a welcome change for sure, especially when paired up with the new Momentum mechanic. Requiring timing over slow tactics, it allows a second bar to slowly build up as you fight. Loose something when momentum is high and you can be granted some bonuses to your abilities, from bonus damage to fireballs or a HP replenishing spell also curing all status ailments. It’s a small bonus of originality which helps to keep things fresh.
I am Setsuna’s main failings relate to two key issues. The first of these is the dialogue, as while the story is well told there are some extraordinarily cringe worthy moments throughout the story. Characters will spew clichéd heroic lines which were old ten years ago, and there are a few odd wrinkles in the translation which were never ironed out. The second is the constant backtracking the game requires of the player. This isn’t done to make the world seem ever changing or to create a metroidvania sense of learning, but to pad out the tale with fetch quests. It becomes a real drag on the story, robbing it of a much needed tighter narrative.
Aiming for the “warts and all” approach, I am Setsuna retains the best and worst traits of this genre’s old titles. It certainly nails the old sense of wonder, but you may find yourself frustrated at its more obtuse moments. Still, with Final Fantasy having “revolutionised” itself beyond recognition, perhaps a reminder of what made them great was what Square Enix truly needed.
I AM SETSUNA / DEVELOPER: TOKYO RPG FACTORY / PUBLISHER: SQUARE ENIX / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 4, PLAYSTATION VITA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW