The highly anticipated I am Setsuna was designed in the shadow of legendary JRPGs to fill a void. While newer Western RPGs take a leaf from a grittier book and classic JRPG titles constantly evolve in order to keep fans, there is an emptiness where masterpieces once told epic stories. This was a time where battles revolved around an active-time battle system. A bi-gone era that had gamers searching sprawling maps for secrets, probing NPCs for much needed clues, and scratching their heads behind well-developed ‘plot-walls’ that granted restricted freedom. Modern RPGs have taken a different route, involving more exploration, focusing less on controlling a group of characters, and incorporating more action-based combat. With all of these changes in mind, Tokyo RPG Factory developed I am Setsuna for the PS4.
Story First Look: I am Nostalgia
I am Setsuna follows the journey of a hired swordsman as he tries to fulfill a contract. What starts as a simple ‘hit’ mission becomes a sprawling adventure as our main character, Endir, escorts his former mark, Setsuna, on her quest. It’s her duty to reach the Last Lands and sacrifice herself to stave off the impending monster invasion. Without giving too much away, the story is a simple trope that pays homage to many previous JRPGs. We have a motley crew taking part in a very somber journey where many parts feel familiar and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our semi-silent protagonist, strong-hearted girl, and many other characters create an enjoyable, if short-lived, tale. I am Setsuna provides the audience with interesting twists and a compelling story that fits the genre very well.
Second Glance: Sacrifice for the Sake of Time
While the story has a lot of potential, there are times when I am Setsuna misses the mark. Many of the main characters had interesting back stories, but others needed little extra development – including the silent protagonist. Endir’s involvement in the game was refreshing and different, but he was basically flat, and understandably so. Other characters in the past had the same design, but Endir wasn’t some youth in a coming of age story. There is mystery behind the mask and it would have been interesting to explore it. The development of the villains also falls a bit short. At first, our main villain is menacing. However, as time passes and the true ‘villain’ is revealed, the build-up is rather anti-climactic.
Another pain point is the ending. With much effort to leave out spoilers, the ending felt fast, forced, and somewhat confusing. It was almost as if the developers meant to carry on a greater story, but ran out of time. There were many little things I discovered in game exploration that could have added layers to the story, but the writers didn’t build upon them. Instead of taking a place next to some of the great JRPGs, I am Setsuna‘s story fell a little short on expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, the story was decent. However, there were certain aspects that could have been expanded upon and the plot could have come together more seamlessly.