I Am Setsuna, the debut game from the newly founded indie studio under Square Enix Tokyo RPG Factory, could be one of the most important JRPGs of the year. Square Enix have set out to recapture the magic of those classic JRPGs of yesteryear for a new generation of players as well as nostalgia hungry fans of old , and the project is reminiscent of how Ubisoft created Ubiarts to provide smaller scale indie games that don’t aim to be bestsellers, but tell deeply moving stories for a smaller fan base.
What we have seen and learnt so far is that the indie team behind the game has set out to recreate a title fuelled by the hallmarks of what made those early 90s titles so memorable, with emotional stories, gorgeous music and battle systems that could be as simplistic or complex as the player liked.
Kaori Takasue from Square Enix Japan & Community manager of the US Playstation Blog Dan Seto have uncovered some tasty trivia about the game that points even more so to a JRPG that, while not having the fanfare of say Final Fantasy XV behind it, may still be one of the most important RPGs of the year.
- I am Setsuna is known as “Ikenie To Yuki No Setsuna” in Japan. In Japanese Ikenie means sacrifice, Yuki means snow and Setsuna means sorrow. The team felt that the word “Setsunai” (feeling sorrow) was a very heartfelt term in Japan, and it is one of the key themes of the game. Obviously that word doesn’t have any meaning outside of Japan so the name of the game in the West was changed to I am Setsuna because of the character Setsuna’s role in the story.
- The word “Setsuna” also means “a moment in time” in Japanese. This ties into the momentum system in the game where you gain SP (Setsuna Points) by letting the momentum gauge fill once the ATB bar is full. SP points can be used to add various bonus effects to a character’s attacks and techs.
- The characters leave trails in the snow as they run which slowly fill up again over time, covering their tracks. You can try to write your name in the snow!
- The game development studio behind I am Setsuna is called Tokyo RPG Factory and their goal is to carefully create RPGs of yesteryear, merging the nostalgic elements from the 90s with today’s technology.
- When hiring staff for Tokyo RPG Factory, applicants were not told that the studio was part of Square Enix. Yosuke Matsuda (CEO of Square Enix) wanted to hire people who were passionate about RPGs, rather than people who wanted to work for Square Enix.
- Tokyo RPG Factory is a micro studio of ten dedicated staff. A further 20 freelance staff make up the rest of the studio so it’s a small team like how games were created back in the day!
- Coincidentally, the director of I Am Setsuna (Atsushi Hashimoto) previously worked at Racjin and worked with Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi on a RPG called ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat.
- Atsushi Hashimoto stated in an interview that he wants people to reflect back on the game and remember the game as ‘An RPG of Snow’. He really wants to create a game that people can reflect back on that is impactful.
- Remembering the PlayStation and Super Nintendo era, the team crafted I am Setsuna by bringing rich story, music, simple turn-based controls and gameplay mechanisms that include dungeon crawling, shopping in the cities and carefully upgrading your party. I am Setsuna allows those who grew up loving these elements to enjoy what they loved. This is a game that will strike deep emotion.
- The concept of I am Setsuna was written in September 2014, development began the following month and, by August 2015, an alpha version (in Japanese) was complete.
- In the story, the main character Endir protects Setsuna as she journeys through the environments of snow and ice. There are also other characters that Setsuna will travel with and their names are Keel, Kuon, Yomi and Julion.
- The character design was done by toi8 — the team knew they wanted this character designer from the get-go. Not only is he known by the current generation, his art style matches up nicely reflecting a melancholy spirit and heroic defeat that is visually striking. Previously he has worked on popular anime series Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Attack on Titan.
- The original soundtrack for the game features 2 discs, packed with over 70 tracks that solely utilises the piano. The music was created by Tomoki Miyoshi who had his debut project on Soul Calibur V when he was 16 years old (he is now 22)! The melodies are soft and reminiscent of a yearning for calmness except during battle.
- The soundtrack includes the piano performance by Randy Kerber, who has worked as a studio keyboardist on many Hollywood films including Forrest Gump and Titanic.
- Unless you have an item in the game called Mistone, you cannot escape from battles.
I Am Setsuna launches digitally on July 19th for the PS4 & PC.