I Am Setsuna First Impressions

My first impressions of Tokyo RPG Factory's first game, I Am Setsuna.

While, I'm sure, to many, I Am Setsuna is like eating a familiar dish from a new restaurant - to me - it's like trying a different country's cuisine for the first time; and, quite frankly, I'm not sure how much I like it. I'll level with you - I'm no JRPG expert: I don't know the genre's ins and outs, or ups and downs through the ages, but I'd like to. They're a type of game I'm hugely eager to delve into more deeply and, I was hoping, this would be a good place to start.

Over my around-eight hours playing thus far, I've been going back and forth between liking and disliking the game. One thing's for sure - hate is too strong of a word, but, conversely, so is love. I Am Setsuna seems to fall in this "middle lane" - while it's gorgeous score, visuals and character designs are huge bonuses, the actual gameplay is - obviously - an enormous focus, and one that really doesn't shine or do itself any favours.

As it stands, my main problem with the game is the levelling system and the repercussions from it not being very good. The way to level is through fighting monsters that plague the World of the game, through which your maximum HP and MP increase....and that seems to be it. But that means you have to fight quite a lot in order to level up and, quite frankly, the battle system isn't that fun. With a combination of ordinary attacks and those that use require MP, from what I've seen so far, strategies and ways of battling have very little variety and, for a game that largely relies on these for content, they become incredibly boring and feel incredibly similar after just a short time playing.

In the same vein, I've seen very little mixture in the enemies I'm fighting throughout my time so far, with the same type popping up again and again and, eventually, becoming so easy that I feel as though I don't really want to even bother. Likewise continuing with the same weapon as I found very early in the game (to replace the one from the start) becomes boring too and, again, I feel myself wanting more variety.

But, it isn't all bad; I Am Setsuna's score is genuinely beautiful and one I can imagine listening to while not playing - one of my litmus tests for truly excellent accompaniment to a video game - even if it too becomes a little repetitive after a while and does, on occasion, especially after extended time playing, leave me longing for something other than the piano.

While the enemy design may be somewhat lacking, the game certainly has an interesting, very well fleshed out cast of main characters who are the reason I continue to play: in order to find out more about them and their story. At the heart of this is Setsuna, the sacrifice sent from her village in order to rid the World of monsters once more. After being accepted as part of her guard, you - Endir - must protect her at every step of the way. Along the journey you'll meet other fascinating characters in really interesting places all of which have a authentically tantalising story to tell and add weight to the argument that Tokyo RPG Factory have nailed the story and the sad tone of the game that flows throughout.

From the very beginning, I Am Setsuna does a really bad job of teaching you its systems. In the form of huge walls of texts, one after the other, it offers a deluge of information that doesn't really make sense at the time, having not seen any of the game properly. As many games have opted to do through the history of them being created, teaching through gentle example is a much more effective way of showing mechanics and, ultimately, means the whole experience could be a lot more fun.

While it is, by no means, bad, I Am Setsuna looks - so far - as if it could have done with a little more polish to help bring the actual game mechanics to the level of the score and visuals and, more importantly, so they actually become fun. I can't comment on whether the game would be satisfying for a JRPG fan, but - for a newcomer to the genre like me - it seems like there could perhaps be superior places to start that would cause you to really fall in love with them and better show off what they can actually offer.


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