I Am Setsuna

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I Am Setsuna
Project Setsuna cover art.jpg
Developer(s)Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher(s)Square Enix
Director(s)Atsushi Hashimoto[1]
Producer(s)Kengo Uchibori[1]
Writer(s)Hirotaka Inaba
Makoto Goya
Composer(s)Tomoki Miyoshi[2]
ReleasePlayStation Vita
  • JP: February 18, 2016
Windows, PS4
  • JP: February 18, 2016[5]
  • WW: July 19, 2016[4]
Nintendo Switch
  • WW: March 3, 2017

I Am Setsuna[a] is a Japanese role-playing video game developed by Tokyo RPG Factory and published by Square Enix. It was released for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita in Japan in February 2016, and worldwide for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows in July 2016. It was released for Nintendo Switch as a launch title worldwide on March 3, 2017.[6]

The story, set in a land gripped by perpetual winter, follows a mercenary and his charge, a maiden named Setsuna who must offer herself as a sacrifice at a sacred shrine to appease hostile demons. The story's central theme is sadness. The gameplay, which is deliberately designed to evoke role-playing games of the 1990s, uses an Active Time Battle system based on those used in early Final Fantasy games and Chrono Trigger.

The game was moderately well-received critically and commercially, and a spiritual successor, Lost Sphear, was released across 2017 and 2018 in different regions.


A battle within I Am Setsuna showing the player party, their individual displays, the command menu, and their opponent

I Am Setsuna is a role-playing video game in which players take control of a party of characters, navigating environments from an angled top-down perspective. Locations such as towns and dungeons are reached by navigating the game's overworld. In towns, the party can talk with villagers to reveal plot elements, and find treasure chests containing useful items. Various items such as healing potions or "Fogstone" items for escaping from battle are sold in shops in towns and across the world.[7]

Enemies are represented by icons: contact with the icons initiates a battle. Battles take place in the environments where the enemy is encountered rather than shifting to a specific battle arena. Characters' health and magic meter are respectively represented by HP and MP. Characters fight using a version of the Active Time Battle System featured in games such as entries in the Final Fantasy series: after each action is taken by a character in battle, an ATB gauge must fill again before another action is taken. Available actions include attacking with weapons; using special combat abilities or magic, which are lumped together as "Techs"; or using an item. If more than one character's ATB gauges are full, they will perform actions in the order in which instructions are issued to them.[7][8]

Each character may equip "Spritnite" crystals on their gear. These crystals grant both passive bonuses and the abilities on the "Techs" menu. Some of these Techs can synergize together into a new attack; for instance, the spinning "Cyclone" and rushing "Charge" techs can become "X-Strike," a two-person attack directed at one enemy. If one of these "Double Techs" are available, the "Techs" menu will change to "Combo".[8]

Each time an action is taken, or a character's ATB gauge is allowed to remain full, a separate "Setsuna" gauge begins to fill. When full, it grants a "Momentum" charge which may be expended at the player's discretion to grant power boosts to the character's actions. These boosts can include dealing multiple versions of the attack, recovering health, or dealing critical damage to an enemy.[8]


The game begins on a snow-bound island, which is regularly beset by angry demons. According to an ancient custom, a maiden is sacrificed to appease the demons. The demons grow restless once again, and the girl Setsuna is chosen as the sacrifice. The story begins with Endir accepting a mission to assassinate Setsuna, when he finds her, she convinces him to accompany her in her pilgrimage alongside Aeterna. While on their journey, they meet Nidr, the previous sacrifice guard and Setsuna's real father, who after regaining his confidence, is convinced to help Setsuna on her journey. Then, they meet Kir, a rare blood whose village is under attack by monsters. The party defeats the monsters and Kir joins them. On their way to the Last Lands they are attacked by the Reaper several times. Later on they come across Julienne, a female knight who wishes to see her kingdom restored. She travels with them, and when they finally arrive to the Last Lands, they find it unreachable due to a Vanished Land. Aeterna disappears, and Julienne leaves the party.

When all of them reunite again, Julienne opens a path to ruins belonging to her kingdom to attain an airship; they use it to travel to the Last Lands, where they find the Time Judge, creator of Aeterna, she explains to them that the Sacrifices pass their magical energy to her so that she can rewind time and keep the Dark Samsara, a mass of evil magical energy, from destroying the world. However, she believes that Setsuna and her guards might be able to destroy him completely because she did not foretell Endir's coming. The Time Judge resurrects the Reaper, now called Fides, and send him with the party to destroy the Dark Samsara.

When they arrive to his realm, Setsuna and the others defeat him. It is revealed that The Dark Samsara is an innocent youth who possessed an immense amount of magical energy who meant to help with the experiments to preserve magical energy in the world. As a result, the youth was destroyed, and he became a mass of ever growing energy known as The Dark Samsara. The newly created monster destroyed the royal kingdom and was sealed away by the Time Judge before he could commit further destruction to the world. His consciousness flees to the past in an attempt to change it by killing the Sacrifice. When all hope is lost, Endir and Setsuna are revealed to have the ability to travel to the past as well. They go after the Dark Samsara in the same place Endir and Setsuna first met. There, they fight the Youth, and Setsuna fuses him with herself, showing her kind, selfless nature, and asks Endir to destroy her body.

The player is presented with two choices, to kill or spare Setsuna. However, both led to the same outcome, Endir killing Setsuna. The ending shows Aeterna vanishing after accomplishing her mission of seeing the sacrifice pilgrimage through. Nidr goes to see Setsuna's adoptive father. Kir returns to his village, Julienne reunites with her subordinates, Fides sets on a journey with an airship builder who helped the party in several occasions, and Endir roams the snowy land with Setsuna's spirit watching over him.[8][9]


I Am Setsuna was developed by Tokyo RPG Factory, a studio created by Square Enix and staffed by external staff to produce role-playing video games (RPGs).[9][10][11] The concept for I Am Setsuna was written in September 2014, with development beginning the following month. The alpha build was completed by August 2015.[12] The concept originated from plans to re-create a game similar to classic RPGs from the genre's golden age. The staff was made up of developers who agreed with this vision. In keeping with this, the battle system was adopted from role-playing games like early Final Fantasy titles and other games like Chrono Trigger. The game's playtime was designed to be similar to SNES games of the 90s, going against the prevalent trend of added content with the scale and power of gaming technology. One of the difficult elements was balancing the game's difficulty so it could be enjoyed by both casual and hardcore gamers.[9] The battle system was specifically based on the Active Time Battle system used in Chrono Trigger.[8][13] According to Hashimoto, Chrono Trigger was used as inspiration due to its popularity, it being a favorite of the assembled development team, and the fact that there were few spiritual successors to it on the market.[13] I Am Setsuna was developed using the Unity game engine.[3]

A key theme running through the game is "sadness". The story's setting, in a land covered by snow, and its general tone carried this theme, alongside evoking the emotional stories of classic role-playing games. The theme also extends to its title, which stems from the word "setsunasa": while it holds a variety of meanings in Japanese, the meaning used by the production team was sadness or sorrow. "Setsuna" also translated as "a moment in time", which tied into the game's SP battle mechanic.[9][11][12] Much of the effort in writing went into the game's language, with the team obsessing over how players would respond to different words. For this reason, they used katakana as little as possible, instead using native kanji expressions for terms like "monster". Despite lacking katakana, the setting used writing schemes akin to those from European literature, giving the world a unique feel.[1] The game's central themes, which focused on life and death as represented by Setsuna's sacrifice, was included as part of the callback to earlier role-playing games. One of the main features of the hero's design was his mask, which made it harder for players to fully empathize with him.[9] The character designs were done by toi8; he was brought in at an early stage, and his designs were likewise meant to reinforce the atmosphere.[1] The game's music was composed by Tomoki Miyoshi, a young composer whose first notable score was for Soul Calibur V. Almost all tracks were performed on solo piano played by Randy Kerber, who had worked on major films including Forrest Gump and Titanic. The music incorporated the game's themes.[12][2]

The game was first announced at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo as a game for the PlayStation 4 under the title Project Setsuna.[14] The game was designed as a new IP, with its future developments to be decided after Square Enix reviews its post-launch reception and success.[11] Its next showing was at that year's Tokyo Game Show, where its official Japanese title was revealed, alongside its release on the PlayStation Vita.[15] There are no differences in content between the two versions of the game, with the only exception being that the PlayStation 4 version looks better on a large screen due to resolution issues. They also wanted to enable players to have a portable version, accommodating different playstyles.[9] At the event, it was described by Square Enix as a "pure fantasy, true role-playing video game".[16] As of September 2015, development was reported as 60% complete.[17] In November of the same year, the game's Japanese release date was revealed to be February 18, 2016.[5] In March 2016, Square Enix announced details regarding the game's English release, including its English title, I Am Setsuna, and the fact that it would only be released on the PS4 and Microsoft Windows platforms, not on the Vita.[18] According to Hashimoto, this was due to a trend in Western gaming for full immersion in a gaming world. Another factor was the smaller Vita market in the West when compared to home consoles and PC gaming.[13] Despite this decision, he said that there was still a chance for a Western Vita release if there was enough demand.[19] I Am Setsuna was released internationally on July 19, 2016.[4] The game was later announced as a launch title for the Nintendo Switch worldwide on March 3, 2017.[6] It was available at retail in Japan, whilst being a Nintendo eShop exclusive in other regions.


Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave both versions a score of 32 out of 40.[24] Positive comments were made on the overall atmosphere, its old-school design, "tasteful" graphics, somber story, and the piano score. Points that were criticized were the lack of novelty in its design, and frequent loading times when navigating town environments.[33] Dengeki PlayStation found the game worth its low cost, and commented positively on its serious story, character customization options, and the balance of "quality and quantity". The reviewers were less positive about other aspects, such as difficult-to-handle battle system, repetitive combat, and difficulties with buying and selling equipment.[32] GameSpot praised the "delicate" writing, "Beautifully tragic" story, combat system, tech combos, and boss battles, but criticized "promising story beats" for feeling rushed, "too easy" common enemies, and "Random elements" disrupting combat balance.[27] IGN said it "has some combat balance issues, but that doesn't keep it from delivering a highly emotional tale."[29]

According to Media Create, the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita versions of I Am Setsuna debuted at #6 and #7 respectively. The PlayStation 4 version sold 33,629, while the PlayStation Vita version sold 27,994, bringing total sales to roughly 66,000 units.[34] By the following week, the Vita version had dropped out of the top 20, while the PlayStation 4 version had sold a further 6,619 units.[35] The Nintendo Switch version debuted at #22 on the Media Create chart, selling roughly 4625 copies.[36]


I Am Setsuna was enough of a success for Square Enix to greenlight a second game from Tokyo RPG Factory.[37] A spiritual successor, Lost Sphear, was announced in May 2017 for the Switch, PS4, and Microsoft Windows platforms. It was released in October 2017 in Japan and January 2018 in the West.[38]


  1. ^ Known as Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna (いけにえと雪のセツナ, lit. "Setsuna of Sacrifice and Snow") in Japan


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