The JRPG genre has been in a state of flux for the last several years. Many of the base elements that make up the gameplay experience of a classic JRPG have been tossed aside, or otherwise tuned in order to more closely match modern tastes in game design. However, there are still millions of gamers out there who grew up on these classics, and find things like turn-based combat, level grinding, and all those other mechanics to be a core element of what makes for a good JRPG.
Square Enix has been trying to please this group for some time, with games like Bravely Default that are a return to form for the genre. They are taking their next step in this process with the release of I am Setsuna, a game that is heavily inspired by the JRPG classic, Chrono Trigger.
I am Setsuna comes from the newly created Tokyo RPG Factory, a development studio whose express mission is to recreate the classic JRPG feeling in the modern era. The result of this is I am Setsuna, their first title, and a true representation of classically styled JRPG mechanics. However, while the mechanics might be the same, the technology driving the experience is all up-to-date. I am Setsuna might not be a technical powerhouse, but it runs very well, and looks fantastic on the PS4.
The gameplay is all old school though, with combat that is wholly inspired by Chrono Trigger. That means turn based combat, but in an active time sort of way. This means that during combat, you have a meter filling up for each character. Once it does, they can attack, with team members even being able to work together for more devastating hits if they’re both available. There’s regular attacks and Tech, which sort of acts like your magic.
Truthfully, I’m not as knowledgeable on JRPGs as I’d like to be, so many of the intricacies of I am Setsuna escaped me. Luckily, Square Enix allowed me to capture my entire session and share it with you, so I’ve included that below. This is the entire demo that was on display at PAX East 2016, offering up a village to explore, characters to chat with, and finally a cave to dive into, and a boss to defeat. Along the way you’ll note just how closely I am Setsuna mirrors the older JRPG experience, though it is certainly a modern game in all the ways that matter.
I am Setsuna hits PS4 and PC on July 19th, 2016.