I Am Setsuna is the 1st game developed by the team of Tokyo's RPG Factory. But while this may be the 1st time they have worked together as a team, most of the members have had their hand in many classic and beloved JRPG's of the past decade and beyond and this truly shows through I Am Setsuna.
I Am Setsuna starts off with players assuming the control of a merc known as Hansel (or whatever you choose for his name). He is briefed by an old man named Hapsper, who informs you of the monsters roaming the world in the present time and the importance of the "human sacrifice" making it to the Last Lands to give her life in order to keep the monsters at bay. It is a savage and horrible way to deal with them, yet the only thing that has worked and restored solace to the world currently. Hansel is given a task to kill the sacrifice himself, and thinking nothing of it, willingly agrees and heads to the town of Nive where the latest young soul known as Setsuna awaits. It isn't until Hansel starts conversating and traveling the world with Setsuna that he realizes this may be much harder than originally anticipated. You cant help but love and feel deep sorrow for young Setsuna, a kind and loving person who always puts the needs of others before even giving herself a single concern. Setsuna will join your party and from there Hansel and Setsuna set out on a mission to fulfill the destiny that has become all the norm these days and offer her life in return for world peace and less monster hostilities. The story is a great one, and the overall tone may be a bit too depressing and sad for some, it is sure to please any true JRPG fans. Several others will also join your ranks, each possessing their own special style and techniques to perform in battle.
While the lovable characters and gripping story are sure enough to please, the battle system is another classic throwback and homage to the classics and does a good job of keeping things interesting. Spritnite is the magic source of I Am Setsuna, and only certain people can wield it. This magical ability has slowly faded away from humans so the few who do still possess this ability are rare and valued. The only way to obtain new Spritnite is by gathering materials dropped by monsters. Depending on what materials you are able to gather, you can then trade to the nearest vendor and seller of magic trinkets and obtain special abilities and techniques. Bio is here, ice ice II, fire II, haste plus a whole bunch of other vintage spells make an appearance. The rarer material is that is dropped by monsters, the better and more rare the Spritnite and ability. To ensure you get the rarer acquired abilities, you can inflict status or element based kill hits on enemies, rendering you the materials. For example, some monsters will likely drop a rare material when killed by Wind based attacks, or others may when a time elemental attack is inflicted as their last hit. This makes for gathering all the great and powerful Spritnite abilities addictive and fun. You can also gather food items and materials and if you encounter an NPC in the field who is looking for all the required ingredients for a recipe, you can choose to give all of them to receive a food which will give you a special temporary buff to stats. You can then take the recipe of this food and turn it into chefs around the world to ensure that the food recipe is saved and will be available in the future. These foods provide a major edge after battles such as giving players double the EXP earned, increasing the number of drops of materials by monsters after battle, and more. This is essential and easy enough to do, so you have no reason to begin right away gathering items.
The turn based battle system is simple to work with and is more intricate than at first shows. The basics are still in play here, however, players can hit the square button at certain key times before striking to perform extra damage and gain momentum and possibly go into Momentum mode, and make the combos and chains attacks even more dangerous. This is a nice feature and provides a great distraction from the redundancy of battles. It takes awhile but before long you will begin learning deadly combos and group techniques that will devastate foes and give you the extra one up in difficult battles. The group techniques that you can perform depend solely on what Spritnite Techs you have managed to accumulate, and who is in your party at the time. This is also a very neat and needed feature in the game.
The graphics are nothing fancy but the old school style is still pretty at times. Snow falling to the ground helps capture the sad mood and is nice to watch. The lack of CGI cutscenes may be a downer for some, but I think they are not needed as this makes the game feel more genuine and worthy of classic JRPGS from the past. This was the inspiration for the game so it holds true to its roots. The dialogue could have been voiced by actors, but again, the text conversations and lack of voice acting is precisely what I Am Setsuna is trying to encapsulate. A time when gamers had to read everything and when voiceovers were rarely ever heard.
Lastly, I would like to commend Tokyo Factory on the beautiful and heartwarming soundtrack to the game. It is easily my favorite soundtrack of 2016, and it captures the moment and feeling of loss and regret and foreboding tragedy all too perfectly. Piano keys and classic old school FF'esque tunes will have you in the moment and feeling the theme of what makes I Am Setsuna so special.
It is rare to see a game like this made anymore and is great to see something as classic and genuine as this succeed in their goals. I Am Setsuna proves that a game doesn't have to be AAA or action oriented to succeed, and that if it has heart and good fun gameplay, that fans are sure to give notice. I Am Setsuna is a beautiful tragic tale and one that I recommend everyone who is a fan of JRPG's should play. It is easily one of the most underrated and overlooked games of 2016!