The company has finally given in to fans: Classics JRPGs on modern tech are coming.
Among Japanese Role-Playing Game fans, few eras are so dearly remembered as the one that started way back with the Super Nintendo.
The console saw the cementing of the genre´s pillars in titles like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy (IV through VI), the birth of cult classics that didn’t quite make it to the present, like Terranigma, and some that had more luck after their time, like Earthbound.
I Am Setsuna if Square Enix throwback to the golden era. Or rather, the first project of their new “Tokyo RPG Factory”, which aims to build classic JRPG experiences with modern technology.
The combat system is borrowed from Chrono Trigger’s own Active Time Battle one, where enemies are moving around the battlefield in real-turn-based time and your special Techs cover certain areas to hit 1 or more enemies.
Each enemy has its own movement pattern and some are better off dealt with at certain distances (you don’t want one exploding right after a melee slash right?), so it’s up to you to find openings and clusters in their formation to exploit.
The game sets itself apart from its predecessors in its story. The game’s world is one of eternal winter, and regular sacrifices serve to satisfy the ancient demon that rules over the (if angered enough, frozen) land.
After the fiend’s impatience for the annual offering turned him violent (and with him, so did the weather and monsters), Setsuna was chosen, thanks to her unique magical powers, not as a hero of her tribe, but as a worthy sacrifice to appease the fiend.
With the help of masked mercenary Endir, veteran warrior Yomi, skilled traveler Koun, and more characters she’ll meet in her journey, Setsuna the maiden’s mission is to arrive at the ceremonial land where her sacrifice will take place.
Just going by the visual style the influence of SE’s early works (and JRPGs in general) is palpable: the anime-styled drawings, the isometric view, the overworld with tiny sprites, the entirely of your party (for some reason) standing still around the battlefield as they use their special, flashy techniques that squish numbers out of the enemies’ heads… the trailer doesn’t show it but there’s no way a jingle won’t play when you level up to the sound of a “You Win”.
In technical aspects, the game was wholly made in Unity (one of the best-looking games in this software for this year at least), and Tomoki Miyoshi, composer of Soulcalibur V an Steins;Gate’s music, performed the entirely of the soundtrack on piano (always a good signal for fans).
I Am Setsuna doesn’t look like it’s trying to reinvent the wheel (hello, Final Fantasy VII reboot), but as an honest try to go back to simpler times and get some of that magic that lasts decades.
And that’s perfect.
It’s pretty much the game Square Enix fans have been waiting for (Final Fantasy VII non-reboot remake notwithstanding), and a story with potential to hold against its own ancestors, namely “Best RPG Story Ever” popular nominees like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger.
How much will it add to the original formula is yet to be seen, but as Bravely Default huge success demonstrated, keeping it simple seems to be the key.
Now Square Enix only needs an experimental department to pump out more The World Ends With Yous and Chains of Memories and we are talking.
The game will arrive somewhere this year for PS4 and Steam.