I Am Setsuna: Turning Back Time to Chrono Trigger

I Am Setsuna: Turning Back Time to Chrono Trigger

Square Enix' latest RPG is aimed right at JRPG fans' nostalgia.

I Am Setsuna is a throwback to the Super Nintendo era of JRPGs. This is Square Enix looking at fans who have called for the publisher to return to a style of gaming that made it great and saying, "Sure, why not?" Tokyo RPG Factory is a small development team created within the company to aim at classic JRPGs built on modern technology.

Winter is here.

What they've created is heavily inspired by one RPG in particular: Square Enix' Chrono Trigger.

Visually, you can see the resemblance in facets like the world map with tiny versions of the cast and the three-member party on the combat screen. Mechanically, the combat is just like Chrono Trigger's variant of the Active Time Battle system, wherein characters are laid out in a free-form style and enemies can change position as the battle progresses. Your party can move about the battlefield, but only through the use of certain Techs like Backstab or X-Strike. (Yep, they're called Techs, just like Chrono Trigger.)

This encourages some tactical use of your Techs and some understanding of your enemies' abilities. A charging slash is best used when you can hit multiple enemies in a row and one enemy in the demo I played actually exploded into a poison cloud after death, so it was better to kill them while they were far away. Even basic attacks have a small frontal cone, meaning it's preferable to attack when enemies are bunched up. I admit, I still have the same issue I had with Chrono Trigger's combat system back in the day: there's no way to manually move a character for a tactical advantage. I'm sure most players probably won't have the same problem.

The world of I Am Setsuna is where the game marks out its own territory. The game is set in a world trapped in the vice of endless winter. Snow falls, icy drifts, and roaming monsters have forced the people of this world to retreat to small towns for safety. The eponymous Setsuna is a maiden sent out by her village as a sacrifice to appease the demons at their door. With the help of masked mercenary Endir, skilled traveler Kuon, and grizzled warrior Yomi, Setsuna has to make a journey to where the sacrifice will happen.

I Am Setsuna isn't breaking down the doors technology-wise, having been built in Unity, but the small team at Tokyo RPG Factory did a solid job. The character designs by artist toi8 are great. The environment has this watercolor feel to it, especially when it comes to the forests you'll wander your way through. The world is bathed in snow, so wherever you walk, footprints and paths are left. Wind blows, leaves twist and turn, and the snow drifts down. It's a good-looking game if you set your expectations right. And the soft, haunting soundtrack, crafted by Soulcalibur V and Steins;Gate composer Tomoki Miyoshi, is performed entirely on piano.

I Am Setsuna is a style of game that fans have been asking for. It is very much in the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mold of game design. Tokyo RPG Factory obviously started with a love of Chrono Trigger and laid their own story on top of that. It's a throwback and sometimes a great throwback is exactly what fans want.

I Am Setsuna is coming out on PlayStation 4 and PC (Steam) on July 19, 2016.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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