Game Review : Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna (I am Setsuna)



 

Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna (“I am Setsuna” in English) is a Japanese RPG developed by Tokyo RPG Factory and published by Square Enix on PS Vita and PS4. The English version will also be available  on Steam.. The game was released in Japan on February 18, and the international release will be on July 19.

<Setsuna> is a game made to take gamers for a stroll down memory lane. Everything about the game was made to be old-school, think of 90’s RPG, while utilizing current-day technology. As such, you have chibi-style characters like those of the early Playstation era, yet in beautiful current-gen graphics. The battle system is simple and very unlike modern RPGs. The soundtrack features nothing but piano pieces. The game has a well-established atmosphere; that of a cold and bleak world of sadness.

Here is the official English trailer of the game.

 

Story : 7/10

<Setsuna> starts with the main character, a mercenary named Endir, tasked with the assassination of a girl by the name of Setsuna. Setsuna is to go on a journey to the end of the world to offer herself as tribute in a ritual to stop fierce monster attacks on the human population. Endir decides not to kill Setsuna and joins her and her friend Quon in their journey instead, and they recruit party members along the way in a good old JRPG fashion.

Setsuna, the tragic heroine

A closer look at Setsuna, the tragic heroine.

There’s nothing amazing about the story. It is a short game made on a relatively low-budget, so that much is to be expected. Still, this game aims to strike the nostalgia chords of players, and it does accomplish that well. A mysterious masked man and a kind young girl travels from town to town fighting monsters, gathering new party members along the way to help save the world. Towards the end, the party gets an airship and is free to travel the world. Now that’s old school.

The story is on the more serious side, with only occasional light-hearted moments. After all, the whole premise of the game is about Setsuna going on a journey to offer her life. The bleak white world and melancholic piano tracks complement the setting well.

The characters don’t get much development, so they are not very memorable. I just finished the game last week but I already forgot half the party members’ names. That’s one aspect of the game that could have been done better.

Gameplay : 6/10

Gameplay is the weak link of the game. It is a turn-based RPG with an option to enable Active Time Battle (which Final Fantasy is well-known for).

The battle system is rather straightforward, with no overly complicated systems that plague a lot of RPGs these days. This is also to imitate the style of old RPGs.

The main things to consider during battles are :

1)      Setsuna system - This is arguably the most distinguished feature of the game. The setsuna system uses setsuna points (SP) to power up actions with the press of the square button after executing that action. This can range from increasing an attack’s area of effect, healing the party, increasing the effectiveness of items, to amplifying damage. There can be up to three setsuna points. Each point fills up when a character attacks or is attacked, or when a character stays idle after his action bar is full.

2)      Link attacks – When two or three characters have a full action bar, they can perform link attacks. The link attack depends on the ability stones equipped by each character. There are many link attacks in the game, but I finished the game seeing only around 10 of them.

3)      Positioning – Characters and monsters move around when they attack or are attacked. Endir has an attack that brings himself behind an enemy. If that enemy turns around and launch an AoE attack on Endir, the other two party members will be spared from that attack. On the other hand, monsters move around during battles, and you can wait for them to clutter together before launching an AoE attack on them.

4)      Area of effect – AoE is rather important when it comes to buffing and debuffing. Buffs and debuffs usually have a small AoE, so use them when the targets are close together. It can be quite difficult to manipulate the party’s positions though, as you cannot move them around freely.

There are some aspects of the game that I don’t quite like. Exchange of ability stones being the top of the list. Each character has their own sets of ability stones, and these stones have to be exchanged from a shop using monster drops. The drops depend on how the monster is killed. For example, killing a monster with the fire magic is a “fire kill”, and killing it with a time-element attack is a “clock kill”.

In this screenshot, I used the link attack "iron maiden" and killed three monsters. As I activated setsuna, I got three "setsuna kills".

Here’s the problem. I cleared the entire game not getting so many drops even though I did try to kill monsters in every way possible. Look at this screenshot.

There are quite a few Julion ability stones that I didn’t manage to get even though I already cleared the game. Even now I have no idea how to get those drops required for these stones. Without so many abilities, the number of link attacks I can do is very limited. There’s a great chunk of the game I will never get to see because of this exchange system.

Another major dissatisfaction I have is when the final party member Fides joins… right before the final boss battle! I couldn’t have used him for the final boss because I had absolutely no idea how he fights. Plus, he comes with only two abilities when he joins the party. You need to kill monsters with his element to get the drops required to exchange his ability stones, and that’s hardly something you will go out of your way to do right before the final boss. There are so few post-game quests in the game that you will probably end not up not using him at all. What’s the point of even putting him in?

Last problem, one that I read many other players mention, is the long load times. This never bothered me very much actually. They were 2-3 seconds on average. I suppose different players have a different level of tolerance for load times, but for prospective players with little patience for long load times, it can be daunting. .

Optional content : 3/10

This game has pitifully few side-quests to do. There are two towers where you can re-fight powered up versions of story bosses, and silver treasure chests placed all over the world that can only be opened with a key obtained towards the end of the game. There is no new game +, but you can load the clear data to do the extra character stone side-quests.

Graphics : 8/10

<Setsuna> has beautiful, beautiful graphics. The world of <Setsuna> is all about snow, snow, and more snow.

As characters walk through snow, they leave a trail behind. The trail gradually disappears due to snowfall.

Trees shake off snow every once in a while.

Constant snowfall in the foreground with snowflakes of various sizes.

This game really brings out the beauty of snow!

Music : 8/10

<Setsuna> has a wonderful piano soundtrack composed by Tomoki Miyoshi, and they are performed by Randy Kerber. Admittedly, I am not familiar with either person, but thanks to this game I have a great first impression of them. The soundtrack fits the theme of the game perfectly well, and I found myself putting down the controller to just listen to the BGM several times during my playthrough.

Do note that all BGM in the game are purely piano pieces, so there is not much in the way of variety of instruments.

Overall Score : 7/10

<Setsuna> is a game with a beautiful world and a generic JRPG save-the-world plot. Battles are not exactly fun, which really detracts from the overall enjoyment. I suppose this is what an old school RPG is like, but it’s not enough to satisfy me. The purely piano soundtrack fits the theme well and breathes much life into the otherwise gloomy world. The main story is a short 20-25 hours with few side-quests, so it can be finished and put aside quickly. Still, for its price tag, one shouldn’t expect too much. Take it as what it is meant to be – a nostalgia trip, and nothing more. However, if a nostalgia trip is what you are looking for, don't even hesitate!