pax east 2016

I Am Setsuna

Square's I Am Setsuna Captures Active Time Battle RPG Nostalgia In A Contemporary Package
by Mike Futter on Apr 23, 2016 at 08:33 AM
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Release:
Rating: Everyone 10+
Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

When we got our first look at Square Enix's I Am Setsuna at GDC, it wore its Chrono Trigger inspiration on its sleeve. At PAX East, we got our first chance to play the gorgeous return to Active Time Battle RPGs of yore to learn more about how it resembles classic titles and how it diverges.

The demo was brief, but structured in a way to give us a chance to understand how the game improves on the static lineups of turn-based 8- and 16-bit RPGs. Instead of standing in place when encountering enemies, all of which are visible on the field, combatants move around the small battle area.

The elegance of this becomes clear when encountering enemies that can self-destruct or deal damage in an area. Your party members only move when attacking or using tech (I Am Setsuna's magic system). But some skills allow you to charge through foes, sweep for area of effect damage, or push enemies back to give your hero clearance. The shift to a more fluid battlefield is a brilliant change that modernizes the classic turn-based JRPG without sacrificing what we loved about those games in their heyday.

Using attacks and techs to jockey for position is only one aspect of I Am Setsuna's strategic combat. Players also need to decide if they are going to attack as soon as their time bar is full. If not, each hero can build up SP points and store up to three. These can be unleashed with timed button presses that amplify attacks and techs. The more you use this Momentum Mode, the more likey you are to trigger a random Singularity to boost your party's performance.

I Am Setsuna is a blend of nostalgia and modern sensibilities. Its visual style is reminiscent of Bravely Default. Its music is stirring and emotional. The combat is elegant and strategic while keeping one foot firmly in a beloved past.

We're eager to play more, and we won't have too long to wait for the full game. I Am Setsuna will be out on July 19 for PlayStation 4 and PC.