ImaJAN Media Network
MeltedJoystick Home
   Games  Members
Search +
Searching... Close  
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
  Login Using Facebook

Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (461)

view profile + 
Biomutant 4/5
Dragon Quest Builders 2 4.5/5
Journey to the Savage P... 4.5/5
Wasteland 3 4.5/5
Daemon X Machina 3.5/5
Earthlock 2.5/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
SolSeraph 3/5
ActRaiser 4.5/5
ActRaiser Renaissance 4/5
The Outer Worlds 3.5/5
Cris Tales 3/5
Warframe 3.5/5
Immortals: Fenyx Rising 4.5/5
Boot Hill Bounties 4/5
Pathfinder: Kingmaker 2/5
Borderlands 3 4/5
Horizon: Zero Dawn 3.5/5
World of Final Fantasy 4/5
ReCore 3/5
I Am Setsuna 2.5/5
Assassin's Creed Origins 4/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
The Bard's Tale IV: Bar... 4.5/5
The Bard's Tale Trilogy 1.5/5

Prev 25  |  Next 25

I Am Setsuna   PC (Steam) 

I Am Bored    2.5/5 stars

In 2015, Square-Enix excited RPG fans everywhere by rededicating themselves to the videogame genre that made both Squaresoft and Enix into titans of the industry. Tokyo RPG Factory was to be an Indie-style development studio, free of the corporate structure of the main Square-Enix, and lead by long time company veterans who were around during the Golden Age of RPGs in the 16-bit era. Furthermore, staffers wouldn’t be ‘assigned’ to work on Tokyo RPG Factory projects, but would do so of their own volition, giving game designers who would otherwise be mere corporate drones some real freedom and agency.

The first game off The Factory’s conveyor belt was “I Am Setsuna” (“Setsuna”), which was released after a mere year of work by the dev team. While “Setsuna” was never explicitly hyped as such, early previews showed a game that looked and played remarkably similarly to that nigh-untouchable pinnacle of the RPG art, “Chrono Trigger.”

For my part, I was just excited to see any studio at Square-Enix working to make traditional RPGs again, after so many years of dalliance with MMOs, First-Person Stealth Shooters, and utterly irredeemable takes on what ‘Final Fantasy’ could (but not should) be. After waiting an unbelievable amount of time for “Setsuna” to drop significantly from its ludicrous launch price of $50, I finally picked it up during the Steam Summer Sale of 2021 for 60% off. Unfortunately, what I got for my money wasn’t a return-to-form for Squaresoft OR Enix, but a stripped-down, rather boring game, saddled with a plethora of unfortunate developer choices.

“Setsuna” is a modern 3D game built in the Unity Engine. Unity Engine games tend to look and feel a bit ‘lazy,’ and “Setsuna” is no different. Of course, the reason Unity games (and Unreal games) are associated with ‘laziness’ is because the engine does so much of the heavy lifting that the art department often doesn’t have to do much of anything to have a ‘functional’ game. Fortunately, “Setsuna” does actually have an artistic identity of its own… but it’s not exactly a treat for the eyes. Character models tend to be overly simplistic, evoking more of the PlayStation 1 era of polygon models (though without the hideous jaggies and blurry textures that marred the actual 5th Generation). For some reason, The Factory decided to make all of the human characters overly stylized as well, with huge mitten-hands and skinny peg-legs that end in no feet. Of course, this lack of feet might be overlooked by those not paying attention simply because the environments the characters must traverse are so samey: You have the choice of snow, snow, snow, and snow. Sure, the Unity Engine makes it easy for characters to leave deep trails through the snow as they move around, but the stunning lack of variety in locales is quite disappointing. Of course, “Setsuna” didn’t have to look so drab and uninspired; we know this because of a ‘secret developer room’ hidden in the game that looks… almost exactly like “Chrono Trigger” in all its 16-bit chunky-pixel glory. Alas, what could have been!

Audiowise, “Setsuna” is simultaneously impressive and drab. The entire soundtrack, which includes remixes of older Squaresoft RPG tunes, is done in solo piano. The ENTIRE soundtrack! Piano solos have their place in a game’s soundtrack, and a lone instrument does actually match the game’s generally somber mood quite well, but the lack of variety is just painful at times, sleep-inducing at others. The game is only partially voiced, with vocal quips for each character in combat, but no voiceacting for the dialog, which, in and of itself, is fine. However, the localized version of the game still only has Japanese voice quips, which, again, feels kind of ‘lazy.’

Technically, “Setsuna” is pretty solid. Though I’ve read some accounts of users running into issues with the game failing to run or corrupting their saves, I never had any such dire problems. My only real gripe with “Setsuna” from a technical perspective is that EVERY time I launched the game, it would pop up an annoying graphics configuration menu, instead of just doing that once on first-run. Likewise, the game fails to hide the mouse cursor, even when playing with an Xinput controller, which, naturally, the game supports out of the box.

“Setsuna” starts out by introducing us to our somewhat-silent protagonist, a mercenary from a Masked Tribe named Endir, who will do anything for money. After rescuing a lost woman with the help of his aged mentor, Endir receives a new contract to travel to a remote village and assassinate a woman named Setsuna.

Upon meeting Setsuna, though, Endir – and seemingly everyone/everything else in the world – becomes infatuated with her Christ-like selflessness and caring demeanor. Setsuna, it turns out, has been chosen as ‘The Sacrifice,’ and must journey to a far-away place known only as ‘The Last Lands’ in order to offer herself up in order to grant the scattered populations of humanity a reprieve from endless – and increasing – monster depredation. Seeing as Setsuna is going to die in the end anyway, Endir decides to join The Sacrifice’s Guard in order to see her to her destination.

Along this somber journey the player is introduced to the game world… and discovers that nothing really makes any sense. Sacrifices have been sent to The Last Lands for generations, yet nobody seems to know the ins-and-outs of how the sacrificial process works. In a land of perpetual Winter with no visible economic structure, how do these scattered pockets of human civilization even survive? The Magic Consortium seems like a Big Deal in the game’s economy, but there’s no actual headquarters anywhere on the map. And Endir's Masked Tribe? They don't seem to exist.

The game attempts to remedy its nonsensical world-building and lore via a handful of info-dumps that provide ‘plot twists,’ which are neither interesting nor helpful. While there are a number of hints dropped that “Setsuna” does indeed take place in the same world as “Chrono Trigger” and “Chrono Cross,” just millennia later, everything about the game world feels woefully underdeveloped compared to those older games. Sure, one of the plot twists goes all – to quote “Doctor Who” – wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, but saving that kind of information for the very end of the game and never giving the player any meaningful interaction with it is a complete cop-out.

Furthermore, none of the characters that join The Sacrifice’s Guard along with Endir and Setsuna are anything more than stock anime archetypes. You’ve got the old washed-up samurai (in a world with no other samurai-themed… anything), the cat-boy (instead of a cat-girl, but simply changing a character’s gender does NOT MAKE THEM INTERESTING) with super-high magical energy that he keeps sealed away for his own health, you’ve got the cold and stoic female knight with a hidden health issue, you’ve got the mysterious advisor who knows more than she’s letting on – but who also wears an EFFING stupid bear-themed hoodie , and you’ve got the silver-haired bad-boy who joins the party near the end for no good reason. All of these characters do at least have dedicated side-quests that help flesh them out a bit, but the game’s bizarre pacing puts ALL of them right at the very end, and many players who just power-through the final dungeon and boss gauntlet might not even realize that these quests are there, since even finding them involves exiting the final dungeon and running around the world map again, talking to every NPC with every possible combination of characters in the active party.

It’s just… MINDBOGGLING that anyone at The Factory can look at what they made in “Setsuna,” with regard to plot, worldbuilding, and character development, and think that it compares favorably in any way to the 16-bit classics they’re trying to emulate.

Because of the rushed pacing and easily-missable side content, “Setsuna” clocks in somewhere between 20 and 30 hours, depending on how thorough the player in in revisiting areas and talking to absolutely everyone. A very dedicated grinder who wants to engage with the game’s more opaque gameplay mechanics, though, can look forward to spending more time than that.

It takes a certain level of dedication and anti-skill to cock-up a Turn-Based RPG… But Tokyo RPG Factory has demonstrated that they are, indeed, capable of such a feat.

On the surface, “Setsuna” does look like a simple, clean, straightforward game that employs the same basic combat engine as “Chrono Trigger.” It is and does. You’ve got an active party of 3 characters at a time. Each character has an Active Time Battle (ATB) meter that fills up in real-time to give them their turn. There’s an Active or Wait mode that either allows the ATB meter to continue filling while sifting through menus, or not. Each character has a stable of unique Techs that only they can use, and 2 or even all 3 party members can combine specific Techs simultaneously to unleash devastating Combo Techs. I mean, that’s bog-standard “Chrono Trigger” right there… how can anyone screw that up?

Well, those were the ‘classic’ mechanics, now we can discuss the ‘novel’ mechanics that The Factory bolted onto that solid chassis. Instead of simply learning Techs as they level up, characters must equip magical rocks called Spritnite in order to gain access to Techs, with each Command Spritnite granting a single Tech to a single character and each Support Spritnite granting a passive to the equipped character. How does one get Spritnites? Well, some of them are found in treasure chests, some are obtained from optional side-quests, but most are obtained from the Magic Consortium shop, which works very similarly to the Bazaar System in “Final Fantasy 12,” in that the player must sell specific numbers and combinations of monster debris collected after battle in order to make a single copy of a given Spritnite available for purchase. Monster debris is a HUGE component in “Setsuna,” as killing monsters in different ways causes them to drop different debris, so each element in the game’s set (fire, ice, and the like), as well as combos, debuffs, Momentum, overkills, and exact kills grants different rewards at the end of a fight. Selling monster debris is also the ONLY way to earn money for buying weapons and consumables. What, you can’t buy armor? No, you can’t buy armor, as there IS NO armor, with defense stats tacked-onto character weapons instead.

If acquiring Spritnite by farming debris out of monsters wasn’t annoying enough, there’s also the Flux System, which is a 100% pure RNG method of upgrading Spritnites. When using any Command Spritnite in Momentum Mode – that is, a timed button-press right before the Tech fires that is only available if the tripartite Spirit Meter next to the ATB meter has at least one full charge – it has a small chance to mutate, gaining a permanent buff based on which Talisman the character is wearing. Each command Spritnite can Flux 10 times, thus gaining 10 stacking bonuses. A fully Fluxed Spritnite will be MUCH more powerful than a basic one, but the process is so time-consuming, random, and tedious that I never bothered with it. Even worse, though, are Fluxes in Support Spritnite, which can see any given Support Spritnite gain a weaker version of the effect of a different Support Spritnite equipped on the same character… but this only ever happened to me ONCE in my playthrough, and I really didn’t want to engage with such an arbitrary, capricious mechanic. Sure, there are specific Talismans and consumables and yadda yadda yadda that can be used to more predictably manipulate Fluxation, but this is the type of nonsensical min/max end-game grinding I’ve always found tedious in RPGs, and adding so much RNG to it that it’s all but useless in a ‘normal’ playthrough is just idiotic.

“I Am Setsuna” could be called a ‘Somber Piano and Snow Simulator,’ but it should never be called a ‘Return-to-Form Modern Classic RPG.’ Between the somewhat-lazy presentation; the boring, nonsensical narrative; and the tedious gameplay novelties bolted onto a functional chassis, nearly rendering it non-functional in the process, there’s not a lot to like here. I didn’t even go into “Setsuna” expecting a full-blown sequel to “Chrono Trigger,” but the teases indicating that that’s exactly what it was supposed to be made it even more of a let-down. Ultimately, “Setsuna” feels less like a ‘heart-and-soul’ effort by old Squaresoft employees to recapture their lost magic than it does a quick attempt at cashing in on nostalgia, like the dozens of bland, lifeless RPGs pumped into Google Play by Kemco.

Presentation: 3.5/5
Story: 2.5/5
Gameplay: 2.5/5
Overall (not an average): 2.5/5



Recent Comments
Comment On Review

Log In
For members wanting to use FB to login, click here
remember me

What Members Are Doing

Comments about...

New Game Reviews

Greak: Memories of Azur game review by Nelson Schneider
Dead Island 2 game review by Chris Kavan
Yaga game review by Nelson Schneider
Riverbond game review by Nelson Schneider
Saints Row IV game review by Chris Kavan
Assassin's Creed Odyssey game review by Matt
The Last of Us Part II game review by Chris Kavan
Metroid Dread game review by Nick

New Game Lists

Top Wii Games by Megadrive
Backlog by Nelson Schneider
Games I Own: Switch Digital by dbarry_22
Top Nintendo (NES) Games by Nick
Top PC (Steam) Games by Chris Kavan
Backlog by Matt
Top Game List by SIngli6
Top Game List by Jonzor




Contact Us Public Relations MeltedJoystick Friends    

Advertise and Business

Contacts Us


About us



Support Us

FAQ and Help

News and Press

Terms of Use


Are you sure you want
to delete this review?