Video Game Review: I Am Setsuna

I Am Setsuna takes place in a fantasy world of monsters and magic. Every couple of years in this world, a human must make a pilgrimage and sacrifice their life or else monsters will overrun the world. You play one of the guards on this pilgrimage and journey with the sacrifice to their final destination. This is not an original concept and a blatant copy of the core plot of Final Fantasy X (both games were made by the same company).

With that said, I enjoyed this story. It’s simple and mostly straightforward with some small twists. It’s a sweet game, fitting for the genre.

Gameplay is almost and exact copy from old Japanese role playing games. There’s a world map you can walk around. You visit towns and enemy filled areas that litter the world map.

Combat uses the active time battle system, which was made popular by the Final Fantasy games. In this system, you basically wait for a bar to fill. When it fills, you get to do an action, like attacking, casting a spell or using an item. Enemies also have their own bars that periodically fill, though you can’t see them. In this way, every character takes turns doing actions.

One of the two major parts of the combat system are the Spritnites… which really aren’t original at all. It basically works like materia from Final Fantasy VII. You can equip various stones that let you cast spells or have other passive abilities. These Spritnite stones can develop additional passive abilities as you use them. It’s not that complex of a system and can get pretty broken really fast if you spam combination attacks.

The other system is the Momentum system, which the game does a terrible job at explaining. Basically, anytime you perform an action, you fill a visible sphere during combat. When that sphere is filled you get to do special attacks like combos, or you can add damage or special effects to your normal actions. The key that the game doesn’t explain well is how to make these things happen.

Basically, if your sphere is filled to at least one level, a sparkle will appear during combat right before you perform any action. It is then you have to time and press a button and then the effect will occur. On the Nintendo Switch, that button is the Y button. It’s a simple, very forgiving system that I had no idea of until I googled it. The game doesn’t explain this system well even though it is extremely easy to perform. In later battles, use of Momentum system can be essential.

The equipment system is a also bit simplistic. There’s not armor or anything. All your stats are based on what weapon you have equipped.

The nicest thing in this game compared to the games of old is that there are no more random battles. In the old days, you’d wander around and randomly get dragged into a battle. In this game, enemies are on screen and if you want to battle, you just walk up to them. It’s nice to see the antiquated random battle system done away with because it was just so annoying.

Visually, the game looks like it was made for the console generation of the Gamecube or the first Playstation and Xbox. It’s not a spectacular looking game on a technical level (but most games on the Nintendo Switch look like trash compared to the other competing platforms). It’s got some artistic flourishes, but it’s a mostly bland, snow covered world.

In regards to the audio, there is pretty much no voice acting in this game and what is present is all in Japanese. What I mean by that is that a song is sung in Japanese and when you attack, the characters grunt and cheer in Japanese. That’s it. The whole of the game is told through text.

The music is mostly played through a piano solo. It sets the tone, but definitely makes the game feel like it was made with a shoe string budget. All they could afford was a piano player for the soundtrack.

Overall, I enjoyed the game and its story. It’s not a magnificent, ground breaking role playing game, but it is entertaining for those who enjoyed old Japanese role playing games.

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