During the 16-bit days when I was in high school, I was big into RPGs like Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger. But nowadays, not so much. Today’s RPGs are missing what I liked about the older ones, but luckily Square-Enix can still sometimes pump something out today that I enjoy. Such is the case with I am Setsuna. It may have modern visuals and sound, but it plays like an old school RPG. In the game you play as Endir, a masked assassin whose mission is to kill Setsuna, a sacrificial offering to keep down monster attacks for another year. But once you meet your target, you soon end up in a series of events that takes you on a quest with Setsuna and a host of comrades as you discover the history behind this practice and maybe even how to stop it for good. I am Setsuna was a downloadable launch game for the new Nintendo Switch (that version is what’s reviewed here), but you can also get it for PS4 and PC.
To say that I am Setsuna is like Chrono Trigger is an understatement. You travel around the world map in exactly the same way, and even the battles are alike. You battle enemies on the same map as you travel, and you can attack, use a Tech, or an item. Techs can even be combined with others to perform Combos just like Chrono Trigger, and even the names of the attacks are the same (Aura, X-Strike, etc.). They added a few tweaks to battles and magic, but the core gameplay is still the same. Heck, if they changed a few of the story elements slightly, this game could’ve even been like a side story to Chrono Trigger. I wouldn’t even mind if they used this game engine to make a remake of Chrono Trigger someday.
The game is great, but it’s not perfect, as there are a few problems here and there. The whole world you explore is covered in snow, so all the environments you tromp around in are frost covered forests and ice caves, with little variation (although the graphics are pretty amazing, especially how you leave trails in the snow). And the music is all piano, so the game could’ve used a bit more variety. How you obtain magic by selling items isn’t very well explained in the game, and kind of bogs it down anyway. And near the end the game gets a little grindy, meaning you have to defeat lots of enemies to level up so you can beat the unbalanced bosses.
But even with these problems, I still played the game all the way through, and I RARELY do that with modern RPGs anymore. The game is not too short but not too long either, but there are still plenty of sidequests if you want to extend your game’s life. There’s also lots of fun secrets to find, like a 16-bit town full of the developers that is reminiscent of the developer’s room from Final Fantasy 4 and the developer ending from Chrono Trigger. So if you enjoy classic RPGs from the 16-bit era like I do, you’ll definitely want to download this game!
I am Setsuna is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Fantasy Violence, Alcohol Reference, and Mild Language. You do hit monsters and enemies with weapons and magic, but they just disappear when defeated, and when your characters run out of hit points, they just fall on their faces. There are mentions of pubs in the text, and characters do spout a ‘damn’ a few times, but that’s about it. Even so, with the reading skill needed, high level of difficulty, and heavy subject matter, I’d say this game is probably best for teenagers anyway. I certainly didn’t fully enjoy these types of games until I was a teen, at least.