I Am Setsuna unapologetically wears its its inspiration on its sleeve, with that inspiration being Chrono Trigger. In fact, that inspiration was the first thing I was told when I arrived for my demo of the game today. Invoking the name of such a beloved, timeless classic is a bold move that has seen many titles shamed due to the audacity. While my demo was brief, what I saw confirmed what I was told. I Am Setsuna is classic and nostalgic while still modern enough for newer audiences.
I Am Setsuna is set in a land plagued by a permanent winter, and follows the titular protagonist as she embarks on a heartbreaking journey to offer herself as a sacrifice. From a design perspective, the game is stunning. Aesthetically, it captures the desperation of the hero’s journey while also, somehow, managing to capture the hope that at the end of the journey all will be fixed. Evocative music punctuates these emotions, helping to craft the environment itself into a separate, yet integral, character in the story.
During encounters combatants move around the battle area, and even during my short demo I encountered a healthy variety of enemies. Some sacrificed themselves near-death by self-destructing while others delivered a spread of damage in a specific area. My characters’ abilities were equally varied, allowing me to charge into enemies, quickly dart behind them to attack from behind, and unleash combos and tech (the magic system) fluidly.
Timing is also an important aspect of combat, with the player determining whether to attack once their time bar is full, or if they would rather build up SP, which can be used to strengthen attacks. In fact, fluid is the most accurate word for battles overall, with sleek improvements modernizing turn-based combat in a way that is both respectful of its past and approachable to newer players.
I Am Setsuna is both nostalgic and new, taking the most appealing aspects of 90’s JRPGs and revamping them for modern players and modern technology. The game is presented as one that was created with the developers speeding forward while keeping their eyes diligently on the rear view mirror, striking an impressively seamless balance between the past and the future. When the demo finished, I felt both satisfied and hungry for more. Luckily I won’t have to wait too long – the full game releases on July 19, on PlayStation 4 and PC, and I cannot wait to fall under its spell.