I Am Setsuna Review: A gorgeous yet weak RPG

I Am Setsuna Review: A gorgeous yet weak RPG

In the tranquil realm of RPGs, where tales of heroism and grandeur often unfold, I Am Setsuna emerges as a poignant whisper amid the cacophony of epic adventures. Developed by Tokyo RPG Factory and released for the Nintendo Switch, this game beckons players into a world veiled in eternal snow, where mysteries lie buried beneath its serene surface. This game has garnered a reputation, some loving it and some hating it, and some caught in the middle. Where do we stand on this game? That's a good question. Without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... an I Am Setsuna Review: A gorgeous yet weak RPG.

Battle System - 8

I Am Setsuna Battle System Explained

This game's battle system does a good job of making things fun and fluid while not making random encounters a chore! While it is occasionally overly random and it is consistently too easy, there are a few things that make this system very fun. Some attacks move allies and enemies around the battlefield, sometimes making for intriguing battle situations. The Momentum system adds an interesting layer to battle, allowing for a timed attack system akin to Super Mario RPG. However, the twist is that there is a Momentum mode gauge that functions similar to an ATB gauge, which means you can wait for your attacks to get stronger, but you sacrifice the fact enemies may target you. The best part would have to be the loot drop system as, depending on how you kill enemies, you get different loot drops, which makes killing enemies incredibly satisfying. Overall, while this battle system is very easy, it is very satisfying!

Customization System - 8

I Am Setsuna beginner's guide - Polygon

My biggest problem with this customization system is the brevity of the game it's in and the lack of explanation that make many of its enemies feel trivial. However, if it weren't for this, this would be a near-masterpiece of a customization system. Every character gets to equip one weapon and one talisman. The weapons can be upgraded multiple times with various upgrade materials, and they also all boast unique properties. Talismans have three functions: hosting Spritnite, causing ability Fluxations, and boasting unique traits such as raising stats or viewing enemy HP. Spritnite functions similar to Final Fantasy VII's Materia, but without the linking and more depth to the support abilities. Action Spritnite have tons of unique abilities that can be smartly equipped to utilize fantastic combo moves and the support Spritnite gives tons of interesting buffs that allow for unique support abilities. However, there's more: Fluxations, of which there are two types. Action Fluxations occur through transferring innate moves on Talismans to action Spritnite. For example, if a Talisman has "Combo Power" on it, whenever Momentum Mode is utilized while using an action Spritnite, there is a chance a Fluxation will occur on said ability. Once an ability hosts a Fluxation, that buff now becomes a permanent boost on that ability. This allows for a lot of cool customization on abilities, and I'd love to see more systems like this in games that have much longer runtimes (similar to what this game's follow-up Lost Sphear did)! There are also support Fluxations, very rare Fluxations that randomly occur upon using Momentum Mode in general. These Fluxations transfer the effects of one support Spritnite to another, making it possible to micromanage innate abilities to be something so much stronger. And the best part of Fluxations? You can have multiple copies of each Spritnite with different Fluxations, allowing you to min-max each of your abilities however you would like! Ultimately, this game has a brilliant customization system, but due to the rarity of Fluxations, the short runtime, and the overly vague tutorials, this system simply can't achieve the perfect score I desperately want to give it.

Story - 5

I Am Setsuna review: "Obtuse combat and monotonous pacing keep it from  reaching lofty heights." | GamesRadar+

Behind the weak execution of I Am Setsuna's story was a pretty intriguing plot that felt like an interesting blend of the story in Final Fantasy X and, of all things, the Bible. However, while there were interesting notes of friendly monsters, time travel, déjà vu, and preemptive killing of the world's savior, all of these intriguing plotlines went pretty much nowhere. Ultimately, my favorite plotlines were sparing a sentient monster and having save points actually play into the story, something I've never seen done to this degree before. This game had a lot of potential but, unfortunately, its execution was super subpar.

Characters - 5

I Am Setsuna is a wonderful throwback to the golden age of Japanese RPGs |  The Verge

Like the story, this game's characters had a lot of missed potential. Endir started as a very unique protagonist with a mysterious past and motives, but this plotline was dropped before it came into fruition. Setsuna was a cute character, but her unwavering trust in many questionable circumstances made her feel anything but human. Aeterna, my favorite character, actually does get better and better throughout the game, making for some solid endgame plot twists. Nidr gets an interesting backstory with Setsuna and a past sacrifice, but he soon loses its intrigue. Kir starts as an interesting character when he chooses between magical prowess and a long life expectancy, but he soon becomes a weak, cringey imitation of Harry Potter. Julienne, yet again, starts interesting as a princess controlled by a demon, but yet again, she becomes uninteresting. And the game doesn't have a main villain until the final hour of the game, making the general idea of saving the world feel weak and rather unmotivated. In the end, this game's characters are nothing special, and there was a lot of missed potential here.

Art & Graphics - 9

15 Things to Know About I Am Setsuna, Out July 19 on PS4 – PlayStation.Blog

This game has beautiful 2.5-D graphics, stunning AI and animations, and a beautiful, snowy world. While this game certainly doesn't have the type of graphics that are conventionally beautiful, they are stunningly artistic in their own special way. I'd love to see more RPGs in the future with a simple art style like this, as the developers could then spend more time on style, story, and gameplay instead of overdone hair physics. Heck, I kind of wish Final Fantasy XVII would go with an art style like this one... I want those games to come out every year or two again!

Music - 8.5

I Am Setsuna : Original Soundtrack | SQUARE ENIX Store

A lot of people criticize this game for the exclusive use of the piano and occasionally some percussion but, in my opinion, this gives the game a stellar and standout style that reflects the tone and atmosphere of the snowy world. My criticism with this game is not the repetitive use of the piano, but instead, the repetitive melodies and short loops present in the songs. Too many songs felt like repeated twenty-second clips, even though those clips were great. Ultimately, this game has very solid music, but it could be better.

Locations - 5

I am Setsuna Part #67 - Episode LV: The Village of Heroes

I'll defend the decision to make the whole world map filled with snow until the day I die. It's a perfect world and atmosphere that reflects the story very well, and I'd honestly be down to see more games with more exclusive, atmospheric settings like this. My problem is the lack of variety in dungeon and town design. Each town (save Kir's hometown) felt exactly the same as the last, and each dungeon was either a generic snowy mountain, cave, or ruins. If this game was able to be as fun and explorative in its snowy locations as a game like Golden Sun or Sea of Stars, I'd have fallen in love with these snowy landscapes. But, as-is, they were solely mediocre.

Sidequests - 5

How to Unlock the Legendary Spritnite - I Am Setsuna Guide - IGN

This game's sidequests aren't long and offensively time-wasting like, say, Tales of Symphonia or Final Fantasy X-2, but they certainly aren't anything to write home about. There's refighting bosses, taking out difficult enemies scattered across the world, collecting recipes, entering a pixelized world, and obtaining ultimate Spritnite for each of the characters. It isn't bad at all, but it isn't quite impressive either.

Quality of Life - 6.5

Shovel Knight, I am Setsuna and Good Nostalgia vs Bad Nostalgia – Dodging  Barrels

With no auto-saving, quick-saving, fast travel, quickly exiting dungeons, amongst other things, this game has some questionable design choices that make it feel like a classic RPG for all the wrong reasons. This game was pretty poorly optimized, something that always felt apparent.

The Verdict

Review: I Am Setsuna (Switch) - Pure Nintendo

Fun Factor: 7
Overall Score: 67%
Letter Rating: B

Yet another game that tried to be the next Chrono Trigger and unfortunately couldn't succeed, I Am Setsuna is still a commendable RPG experience that I had a good time with. While the game was very shallow, it was beautiful and had fun, satisfying combat backed by a unique progression system. While I Am Setsuna was still a little far off from what it aimed to be, it had a lot of potential and is a worthy purchase for avid fans of classic RPGs.

Primary Version: I Am Setsuna (Nintendo Switch)