It's always a little tricky to review launch-window games. Are they genuinely good, or is it just us as gamers wanting them to be good for our new systems that makes us think they're better than they actually are? The Nintendo Switch didn't have a large library of games available at launch, but the few that were available were quality, for sure.
The first Switch eShop game that had my attention at launch was Tokyo RPG Factory-developed and Square Enix-published I am Setsuna. This had my attention for two reasons: 1. I am a Japanese Role-Playing Game fanatic, and 2. It has the feel of some of their older Final Fantasy titles and Chrono Trigger, some of my favorite games ever created. I didn't play the PS4 release, but I had heard good things about it, and I was itching for something else to play when I wasn't off exploring Hyrule. So, I downloaded it on launch night, and I finished it a few minutes before deciding to write a review. (I blame Breath of the Wild for that, because this is a good game.)
The story goes that the perpetually snow-laden land where Setsuna takes place is teeming with monsters. In order to appease them, a sacrificial maiden is sent to the Last Lands. At this point in time, a girl named Setsuna (hence, the name of the game) is chosen to travel from her village to there. Meanwhile, Endir (the silent hero) is tasked to assassinate her by an unknown man. When Endir and Setsuna meet, she convinces him to be part of her guard and accompany her on her journey.
More members join them on their quest, and the story takes a few twists and turns along the way, but this is the general goal of the game. It's a good story overall, and it was pretty touching by the end of it. Each character has their own reasons for joining Setsuna's guard, and you'll have some attachment to all of them by the end of the story.
Endir and Setsuna.
The game is very, very similar to Chrono Trigger in a lot of ways, but especially in combat. Enemies are visible on the map, and you can sneak up on them if you're stealthy. From there, it's classic Active Time Battle (ATB). Characters take turns, and if two or three characters the right Spritnite (combat techniques/passive skills) equipped, you can do a combo attack. There's more nuances, such as Momentum attacks/defenses, which involve timed button presses (ala Paper Mario) and Flux, which can be obtained by pulling off a Momentum attack/defense properly, but it's an otherwise pretty straightforward system if you're familiar with classic Square Enix RPGs.
The game looks good. There's nothing about it that's going to blow you away graphically, but the atmosphere is very nice. The character models and animation aren't stellar, but they work for what the game is. The framerate is generally consistent, but there are a few instances of slowdown or the game freezing for a second or two inexplicably, then resume. I did not encounter any hard locks.
Setsuna's music is incredible. If you like piano music, you will really enjoy it, as it is heavily piano-driven. That suits its snowy atmosphere perfectly.
*sniff* You're welcome...
I am Setsuna isn't particularly long for an RPG. I wrapped it up in a little under 20 hours, though I didn't do all of the game's extra content. There's not a lot of incentive to replay the game (there's no New Game+ option or additional endings), so the $39.99 asking price may seem a bit steep for some. I didn't have a problem with it (again, JRPG fanatic), but I understand if others do.
Sometimes I want to play an RPG that doesn't last 50+ hours, and this fits that mold nicely. I recommend I am Setsuna for that reason.
The Chrono Trigger inspiration is a big selling point for me, and the modest length is actually a good thing too for me at the moment. I can't deal with playing too many games that go on for hundreds of hours, like Breath of the Wild or any of the Etrian Odyssies, even though I love them.
By the way, does anyone know if the environments were inspired by Scandinavia at all? All the villages I've seen so far look exactly like small Swedish villages in winter. Well, small villages from 100 years ago, at least. Some of the village artwork looks like someone painted one of the small, now almost entirely abandoned villages outside the small community where I grew up.
Anyway, I'm definitely getting Setsuna at some point, but my backlog's too erect at the moment. Do you guys think this will be one of those games that will become exponentially more expensive to import as time passes due to small production or what? I'm trying to not go digital unless I have to.
I am very excited to finally play this. My brother is picking up a copy of this from Japan for me so I can own it physically. He will be home for my wedding in about three weeks. I can't wait to give it a go. my brother is in the navy and has lived in japan for four years, im a little jealous