gdc 2016

I Am Setsuna

Chrono Trigger Is A Launching Pad, Not The Destination For Square Enix's I Am Setsuna
by Javy Gwaltney on Mar 17, 2016 at 07:04 AM
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Rating: Everyone 10+
Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

At GDC 2016, I had the opportunity to meet with Square Enix and take a look at Tokyo RPG Factory's upcoming homage to '90s JRPGs, I am Setsuna . Tokyo RPG Factory says its desire is to revisit, "the methods used to develop past RPGs to create a completely new RPG series, which will introduce the authentic JRPG style to current hardware using the technologies of today."

When I sat down for the meeting I was skeptical about the game. The biggest thing we knew about I am Setsuna is it draws inspiration from the JRPG classic Chrono Trigger. Director Atsushi Hashimoto and his staff took some time to explain I am Setsuna is about a young woman and the sacrifices she must make to save her people, to reiterate that the game was an attempt to return to what the development team considers to be the golden era of JRPGs.

And then they showed me a demo. It was short with only two clips, each hardly longer than a teaser trailer. The first showed me a colorful open world map, with a party of chibi characters exploring it. The map was pleasant to look at and seemed like a  modern take on the map from Chrono Trigger (but with a different world, of course). The next video showed the party traversing a snowy forest and battling with penguins and other assorted creatures.I know I'm coming back to Chrono Trigger a lot, but the active-battle system I saw was nearly identical to the system in that game and even included zig-zagging combo attacks where characters team up to use their special abilities on enemies. When characters weren't battling, somber piano music played in the background and character dialogue was displayed in text, not voice-acted.

The demo ended and I liked what I saw: it was pretty and charming, and it knew what elements to take from Chrono Trigger. However, I'm still somewhat skeptical about the game reaching an audience of players who didn't grow up with the '90s JRPG. I asked Hashimoto how they were planning to draw in a generation of new players. He said he hoped the game's snowy, desolate unique environment and poignant story would bring in more players than just fans of Chrono Trigger and older Final Fantasy games.

I am Setsuna will be available on PlayStation 4 and PC this summer. Hashimoto told me there were no plans to bring the game to any other platforms (sorry Vita fans).