I Am Setsuna Nintendo Switch Review - A Charming Homage

by Nicholas Friedman

I Am Setsuna 1
(Photo: Square Enix)

If you haven't been paying attention, it's an incredible time for video games right now, especially for fans of Japanese roleplaying titles. Games like Final Fantasy XV, NieR: Automata, Yakuza 0 and many more have been dropping one after another since late last year, so chances are you may have missed a little gem called I Am Setsuna.

Well, if you bought a Nintendo Switch last week and are looking for something else to play besides The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, then I Am Setsuna may be the game for you. With a base built from classic Super Nintendo RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy II and Secret of Mana, I Am Setsuna introduces players to an utterly charming, yet still completely tragic world.

I Am Setsuna drops you into the shoes of Endir, the main player character, as he is given the task of assassinating a young girl named Setsuna, who has been chosen as a timely sacrifice to demonic creatures that plague the land. Per legacy customs, a woman is sacrificed to please the demons, then some time passes, and the demons get unruly again.

SETSUNA_08 copy
(Photo: Square Enix)

Without spoiling too much of the tale, Endir is quickly convinced by Setsuna to journey with her, and the two recruit family, friends and warriors abroad to take on demons and find out who the one pulling all of the strings is. It's a fairly basic plot, but it's one packed with characterization and dialogue, something that is utterly complimented by the game's classic gameplay at every turn.

Players control a party of protagonists, each with their own skills, abilities and proficiencies. The game's over world is traversed top-down, and battle are engaged via contact, not random encounter. The battles are referred to as "Active Time Battle" encounters, something Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy players will quickly grow accustomed to. 

On the offensive, you have your basic attack with melee weapons and magic, and tech attacks that are enhanced or enabled by items found or given in the overworld. The dynamic between party members, magic, traditional weaponry, and techs like "Cyclone" or "Charge" keep the game interesting. When things get difficult, switch up your strategy and you'll find a winning combo somewhere. 

(Photo: Square Enix)

Then there's the "Momentum" special gauge, which offer buffs to player characters. These can range from boosting health or increasing your chances of a critical hit.

And with this new release of I Am Setsuna, there's the added bonus of the game's portability, something gamers outside of Japan had yet to experience, as the game's Vita version was exclusive to the territory. But the Switch version doesn't feel pared down at all, offering players a stable framerate and a more than solid control option.

Though, you'll want to watch out for battery life as you get sucked into hours upon hours of gameplay, but if you've been spending time with Zelda you knew that already.

Overall, I Am Setsuna is a charming homage to a generation of roleplaying titles long past. For fans of Chrono Trigger, while this may not be the long-awaited sequel you've been clamoring for, it will surely make the wait that much easier.

RATING: Four out of five stars.

I Am Setsuna is now available digitally on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Windows. 

By Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is a pop culture writer based in North Texas with work in The Dallas Morning News, GuideLive and ComicBook.com. He’s got a podcast on iTunes about creating superheroes from Wikipedia articles called Superhero Assembly Line, and enjoys spending most of his time reading comics, collecting records or playing games like Dark Cloud. Especially Dark Cloud.