Video games can mean a lot of things to us. They can be a fun pass time, a bonding experience between friends, or even a place to escape to when things get rocky. I Am Setsuna holds a special place in my heart. When I first started playing this gem I was in a pretty dark place and the melancholy atmosphere of this game really resonated with me. This game definitely isn’t for everyone but for a depressed young adult it was the right medicine at the right time.
Setsuna is likely derived from the Japanese word Setsunasa. Setsunasa is a feeling of hopeful sadness. This game really lives this emotion and you can feel it throughout the world. Every character has something missing that they are trying to gain back. Every town feels like it was once so much grander than it is today.
I Am Setsuna starts off with a pretty grim story. You play as the character Endir and its your job to kill a girl named Setsuna. You ultimately ignore this mission and decide to help her with her quest to faraway lands. The quest is a bleak one because you are escorting Setsuna to her death. Setsuna is a sacrifice to the world, in the hopes of calming the monsters that have been attacking the towns.
This game is your standard JRPG. You play as up to 3 characters at a time, battling monsters, leveling up, and snagging new equipment wherever you can. Nothing really innovative here but why fix what isn’t broken? I Am Setsuna wants you to feel like you’re playing an RPG from the SNES era.
The combat may be the best part of this game. It's a very engaging and pleasing experience. The creators of the game were obviously going for a Chrono Trigger feel and it works very well. I never found myself avoiding battles when they came up because the combat was so delightful.
The game’s atmosphere definitely gets a lot of complaints. It's almost entirely snowy landscapes with very little variation. I, however, would argue that the landscape helps convey the sadness of the story better. The world that you’re playing in is bleak and it's your job to make things better. I never felt bored by the aesthetic of the game but if you’re the type of person that needs tons of variety, it might not quite hit home for you.
One criticism I have about the game is the main character is pretty bland. Back in the day this would have been okay as you, the player, were supposed to fill in the main character’s personality. Nowadays though, games tend to have stronger and more fleshed out main characters so by comparison this game’s lead is a little stale. The supporting characters however are great! Some of them are a little cheesy and again remind me of RPGs from yesteryear but its still a treat to learn more about them. I definitely felt a connection to the characters Setsuna and Julienne.
Maybe the best part of this game is the soundtrack. I am definitely not a snob when it comes to video game scores and generally enjoy video game music but this game takes it to a whole 'nother level. A single quiet piano track makes up the music and it does a perfect job of building this atmosphere that’s calm, sorrowful, and beautiful. Even after the game was over I still put on the soundtrack to relax.
If you’re in a slump and need a game to get you through these cold winter months, I might suggest I Am Setsuna. It's not a terribly long game (can be easily completed in a dozen hours or so) but you’re going to enjoy the experience all the way through.
Get I Am Setsuna now on PS4, PC and even the Nintendo Switch.