The main story opens with a lone mercenary traveling through the snowy banks of a desolate land, his legs carving a path through the mounds of soft powder. The masked man takes on different tasks in order to survive this harsh arctic environment, seeing them through to completion no matter how arduous they may be.
Approached by an unknown figure after completing a job, he is told to visit a small village on a tiny isle off the coast of the mainland. In that village, once every ten years, a ceremony is held where a sacrifice is chosen. That person must set out on a journey to the Last Lands to fulfill their prophecy. There resides a young girl there who is about to reach the target age, and he is ordered to eliminate her.
I Am Setsuna is a game reveling in its simplicity, from the battles to its user interface, the game does a great job in doing little to obstruct the inherent beauty. Given the environment, even the menus and dialogue bubbles have a frosted tinge to them, bringing an organic aura to a living world.
While many games in this genre are weighed down by their high production values and cluttered construction, I Am Setsuna is a delightful breath of fresh air. There are even places to visit that exist solely to provide the world a meticulous sustenance.
The seamless battles compliment this coherency. As you may have already heard, I Am Setsuna takes plenty of inspiration from Square’s magnum opus, Chrono Trigger.
When you encounter a visible enemy out in the field, party members move into position, the music changes to something a tinge more dramatic, and combat commences.
Utilizing its own take on Chrono Trigger’s ATB (Active Time Battle) combat system, a gauge begins to fill right away. Once that bar is full, party members can perform an action. Once they are done, the bar is depleted and recharges. This cycle repeats itself until the battle is done.
Unlike turn-based combat, the enemy is free to act whenever. I always loved this realistic approach to combat strategy, and it works well here to keep the excitement levels high. Of course, those who oppose this style are able to change the Battle Mode to “Wait” to give time to choose items or techs.
Once a turn is initiated but you have yet to select a command, there is a Special Power gauge to the right that will also fills up. This gauge also charges when the party performs an action or takes damage.
Once it does fill up, the group is granted one SP point, then it accumulates again until you have hit a maximum of three points.
Momentum mode can be prompted using one of these points that will add various effects to a character’s attacks and techs. Using it during attacks will generate more damage, cause critical hits, or even inflict status ailments. Likewise, it can also provide additional HP or increase the duration of status effects when using support techs.
During combat, a temporary special bonus effect called “Singularity” can randomly occur, providing various bonuses to the party like having every attack deal elemental damage. The more the party uses Momentum Mode, the greater the chance of Singularity occurring.
This has proven essential during the many boss encounters I found myself in, providing a unique take on player support. Of course, they can also be hindrance, such as preventing combo attacks for the next 30 seconds.
There are other mechanics built in to the game that will help others during their adventure. While out in the field, players will come across special metals that can temper weapons and raise their stats. These items can also be purchased at the apothecary, but the game encourages players to explore every corner of the world.
Another resource important to the game are spritnite stones. Spritnite are imbued with magical energy that have different effects in combat – think of them like materia in Final Fantasy VII.
Command Sprinite are active techs that can be used during battle while Support Spritnite have effects that occur automatically. New spritnite can be procured by finding and selling materials to Magic Consortium members.
These stones can be equipped into different slots, so you are limited in the amount you can carry at a time. This can also unlock combo techs with other party members. The number of slots provided is affected by the talisman the character has equipped.
These talismans may also come equipped with a Flux bonus that can randomly trigger Fluxation when using a tech in Momentum mode. This in turn creates new Flux bonuses that can be used to customize spritnite stones. These bonuses include reducing the amount of MP a tech consumes or filling the ATB gauge after use.
It didn’t take long for me to fall completely in love with the elegant tones of piano music that wove in dynamically with the action happening on-screen. As someone who felt this instrument is underutilized in video games, having an entire soundtrack dedicated to that focus made the experience exhilarating. From the inviting tempo of walking around town to the lively allegro as combat reached a fever pitch, it was spellbinding all the way to the end.
The only real knock I can give the game is its reliance on backtracking. Even worse, there is no map found here. Instead, you will be relying on journal passages that try to spell out their connection to other landmarks.
The fields try to give you some shortcuts to make the navigation bearable, but not all of them do this service, made more apparent towards the end of the adventure.
That’s the only thing I took issue with, however, and it’s a minor gripe at that.
I Am Setsuna bestows upon the player a strong sense of warmth and contentment. The beautiful scenery pulls you in, and the delicate soundtrack keeps you enthralled as you progress through the long journey filled with well-developed characters that had me genuinely caring about their plight.
While much of its charm comes from its attention to traditional design minus the frustrating elements, those with the patience to explore the opposite spectrum of big budget, hollow excursions may find satisfaction in this wonderfully mature experiment in the modern era.