I’m about ten hours into I Am Setsuna, which was purposefully designed to feel very much like the classic SNES RPG Chrono Trigger. The battle system is snappy, and the writing is competent.
The scenery is all snow all the time, which has been dampening my enjoyment (so to speak). The snow is pretty but unrelenting, and there are no lighting or physics effects of the sort that made the sand in Journey interesting and dynamic. The graphics are very pretty, but every time I enter a new area I’m like, I bet it’s going to be another snowy forest, and lo and behold it is. Almost all of the enemies have the same color palette of white and gray, with occasional touches of brown or blue. This makes them less lovable than they should be, because their designs are interestingly stylized and remarkably cute.
The piano music that serves as the score is also pretty but unrelenting, and I ended up turning the in-game slider for the BGM almost all the way down. I’m still having trouble dealing with the soundtrack. There’s a discordance between the pieces that seem to be performed by an amateur musician and the pieces that sound more like a traditional MIDI file played by the computer. The overworld music for certain sections of the game is kind of catchy, I suppose.
The voice acting is embarrassing, so I turned it completely off.
In terms of the game’s characters, Setsuna is basically Yuna from Final Fantasy X, a “sacrifice” who has been sent out from her village to appease “the monsters.” She will give her life in “the Lost Lands,” and that will for some reason keep everyone else in the world safe. Setsuna is accompanied by a Rikku character and an Auron character (the allusions to these Final Fantasy X characters are obvious), and the player-protagonist is not so much Crono as he is Squall from Final Fantasy VIII. So mercenary, much angst.
Despite the tedium of the music and graphics and the anime stereotypes used to differentiate between the protagonists, the story of I Am Setsuna has started to pull me in. What I’m picking up on is that the events of the game were proceeded by one or more failed pilgrimages, and that multiple people have been at pains to cover this up. What’s going on with these pilgrimages, and why is there a conspiracy surrounding them? There are small touches of darkness scattered throughout the game, especially in the dialog of the older NPCs. For example, an unnamed old dude at a way station says something completely out of nowhere about how “spatial distortions” have been getting worse over the past ten years. Spatial distortions? I’m intrigued.
It’s fun to play the game while I’m playing it, but I never really feel compelled to pick it up. To be honest, the strongest feeling I’ve had toward I Am Setsuna is nostalgia for Final Fantasy X. I never thought I’d prefer Tidus to… anyone, really… but so far I Am Setsuna feels merely derivative and doesn’t add anything new or interesting to the genre.
Still, I’d like to see how the story turns out, so I guess I’ll just keep going.
( Header image from Trusted Reviews )