Paige FTW: Going Old School

Playing the Final Fantasy VII Remake demo last week made me feel nostalgic for a good turn-based RPG. I dug around my enormous, embarrassingly large backlog and decided to give I Am Setsuna a whirl.

The debut title of Square Enix’s Tokyo RPG Factory branch, it was released to middling reviews in 2016. I wasn’t expecting anything crazy. I just wanted a nice little 30-hour romp to whet my appetite before I tackle something meatier.

I Am Setsuna is a game about “sadness,” according to the developer. The plot is ripped directly out of the Final Fantasy X playbook: Setsuna, a beatific young girl, is set to travel to the Last Lands, where she must offer her life as sacrifice to prevent monsters from overriding the land. Along the way she collects guardians to accompany her on her journey; you are Enkir, a mercenary hired to assassinate Setsuna only to swear allegiance to her instead.

The story is fine. It is not original and rather cliché, with uninspiring writing and very abrupt jarring plot transitions, but it gets the job done. The art is appropriately beautiful and subdued. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of soothing piano scores.

The familiar active time battle system is utilized with a few quirks that require strategy and the occasional real-time button smashing. There’s also an immense and rather poorly explained system of character customization that can be very deep and strategic, if you can figure out what exactly everything does and what triggers what. The game is very reticent with the nitty-gritty details. (In that sense, it truly lives up to its minimalist retro roots.)

Really, I Am Setsuna is the most average game that could possibly exist.

So why play it?

Sometimes, you just want to … return to your roots. You want to return to that simpler time when things weren’t all triple-A production feasts, where every hair is lovingly rendered and the game takes 100 hours to play. Sometimes, a game is just a game, and not an experience. And sometimes, that’s just what you want it to be.