You play as Endir, a masked tribe mercenary, who has been tasked to assassinate a young woman from a snow covered island. The young woman, Setsuna, has been chosen as a sacrifice to appease the demon monsters that regularly attack the local town. The sacrifice happens once a decade to a fiend on the island. I am Setsuna was designed to create an authentic JRPG experience, similar to that of Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. There’s no Voice Overs in game so all narrative is purely from interacting with characters and following the text, and there’s a lot of text. The game is very story heavy which evokes a classical RPG style.
The artistic style feels like a 2.5D painting and portrays a beautiful eeriness. The story of I am Setsuna is sad and sorrowful and the game does a good job creating that mood. The very Studio Ghibli inspired soundtrack does a good job of adding to that ambience. Gameplay is mostly walking around various locations and interacting with characters and gaining more information about your quests. You can often find loot in treasure boxes scattered around the map or after destroying enemies. Something I found strange in game was that you are prompted to rename characters, even Setsuna! It kind of defeats purpose of the game’s title if you rename the character it is named after.
The combat is in a very typical JRPG style with the battle sequence taking place once coming into the vicinity of an enemy. Combat uses Active Time Battle gauges that are recharged over time that allow you to use attacks or actions once full. You can also equip different tech such as Spritnites, which gives the character a range of various powers. These can be collected and swapped out once more slots are available. Over time, you can fill up your special power meter and trigger momentum attacks, which add additional damage, generate critical hits or special bonuses. Later on in the game you have more members in your party so strategically using their abilities becomes a useful tool. While the combat isn’t quite turn based like a lot of JRPG’s, I found the ATB system quite slow and frustrating. You’re often left standing there waiting for it to recharge while the enemy does the same which ruins the flow of combat.
In conclusion, JRPG fans will enjoy I am Setsuna for it’s authentic experience. I personally haven’t played many JRPG’s so couldn’t fully appreciate its attempts to replicate the classic RPG experience. I enjoyed the mood of the game, but found the story dragging at times and combat a little repetitive. I am Setsuna has been a great example of a game smoothly being ported over to the Nintendo Switch and I hope to see more.