Chrono Trigger is my favorite game… of all time. So when I first heard about I Am Setsuna and its comparison to the SNES RPG classic, I just knew I had to check it out at Square Enix’s E3 booth. What I came away with was the next best thing to a proper sequel and one of my favorite titles on the show floor.
The demo started off with you playing as a soldier named Endir along with a mentor in a snowy forest. It is here where I fought with adorable looking penguin creatures – that is until they bore their ravenous teeth! These low level enemies served as perfect fodder for the tutorial of I Am Setsuna which shows you how to attack, equip and use techniques, and how to use the momentum system. That last part came into play during the boss battle with what I can best describe as a polar bear wearing armor. As you attack and defeat enemies, you will raise a meter and earn a node in stock (up to 3) which can then be used to increase damage to attacks, the area of effect for techniques, healing potency, and more. In fighting game terms, think of it like an EX version of all of your moves.
At first glance, I Am Setsuna is a gorgeous looking game with 3D model characters that animate beautifully, especially as they move through the snow in the previously mentioned forest. When actually controlling it, however, old school fans will feel right at home controlling from the topdown viewpoint and utilizing the tried and true Active Time Battle (ATB) combat mechanics. Even the music is spot on with melodic tone through piano and harp instrumentals truly solidifies the timeless classic feel that this game exudes.
Speaking of the combat, you can tell right away where the influence of Chrono Trigger seeps in. The use of “techs” are very similar, right down to the name. Double techniques come into play in which two characters whose turns are ready can combine forces for a more powerful attack. In this case it was Endir, along with a girl I met later named Aeterna, who join forces to execute the classic X-Strike attack. Crono and Frog will see you in court!
Despite how familiar I Am Setsuna feels, the fact it’s not based on an existing franchise helps keep it feel refreshing. You just don’t see the ATB mechanic used anymore these days, even from Final Fantasy games that helped revolutionize it. The overall theme of sadness and sacrifice is also strong in the plot of a young girl chosen to be killed for fear of monsters taking over the land. By the end of my session, I felt compelled to continue and learn more about where these characters were going and what hardships they will experience next.
My hope is that by the time this game makes it’s long awaited US release we will see triple techniques come into play (again, much like Chrono Trigger) and the future party members you come across will be as memorable and compelling as Endir, Aeterna, and Setsuna. Based on what I’ve played so far, I trust in Tokyo RPG Factory’s take in the classic RPG style long thought forgotten by the industry. The fans certainly haven’t forgotten, and they are certainly in for a treat when I Am Setsuna comes out on July 19th for PlayStation 4 and Steam.Related: Chrono Trigger, E3, E3 2016, I Am Setsuna, MMOGames, PlayStation, PS4, RPG, Square Enix