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Video Game / I am Setsuna

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A tragedy in a land of ice and snow.

I Am Setsuna, or イケニエと雪のセツナ (A Sacrifice and Setsuna of the Snow) in Japan, is a Japanese role-playing video game developed by Tokyo RPG Factory and published by Square Enix. It was released for PlayStation 4 and Play Station Vita in Japan in February 2016, worldwide for PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows in July 2016, and on the Nintendo Switch in 2017.

The game begins on a snowbound island, which is regularly beset by angry demons. According to an ancient custom, a maiden is sacrificed to appease the demons. When the demons grow restless, a girl known as Setsuna is chosen as the sacrifice. Together with a taciturn mercenary named Endir, a former traveler named Aeterna, and a carefree veteran soldier named Nidr, Setsuna begins her journey to the ritual site on the edges of the known world where the sacrifice will take place.

The game takes heavy inspiration from 16 and 32 bits consoles JRPGs, most notably Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy X. The gameplay and magic system are heavily inspired by Chrono Trigger, except you can choose which move you want to equip or not with Dual Techs and Triple Techs.

A spiritual successor, Lost Sphear, was released in 2017.

I Am Setsuna contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Aeterna and Julienne. Freyja also fits, albeit as an NPC.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: Much ado is made about how horrible the monsters are, that they're an evil, unholy scourge on the land. But most of them look more like cute mascot characters than The Legions of Hell.
  • All Your Powers Combined:
    • Before Setsuna and Endir go to follow the Youth behind the Dark Samsara into the past, the rest of the party gives them their magical energy. As a result the Youth goes down in only a few regular hits when you actually get to fighting him.
    • Aeterna has two double techs (Astral Bloom with Julienne and Starstrike with Fides) that use all elements, making them good for elemental kill drop farming.
  • Amazon Brigade: Though Endir is nominally the player's POV character, there's nothing preventing you from using Setsuna, Aeterna, and Julienne as your party throughout the entire game.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Endir and Setsuna are thrown into the past to follow after Dark Samsara. They meet a human-like form of Dark Samsara, which Endir defeats quickly. Setsuna takes the monster's soul inside her and asks Endir to kill her along with it. Whether Endir kills Setsuna or not is left to the player's imagination. Roll credits. A post-credits scene shows Endir walking alone in the snow, as Setsuna appears behind him. Are they still in the past? Is Setsuna alive or she a ghost? The game gives no answer on any of this.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The room before the final boss has a portal that warps you back to the entrance of the dungeon, so you don't have to backtrack the whole dungeon again.
  • Bag of Sharing: NPC version. To get the Green Rocks that provide skills, you sell 20 Bear Asses to the local magic guild. Despite the lack of (visible) means of transportation between cities or information infrastructure, you can sell those components to the vendor in one town and then buy the Spritnite you unlocked with those components from a vendor in another.
  • Big Bad: Dark Samsara, the source of all monsters and their wills. The sacrifices die to give their life force to the Time Judge, who keeps the Dark Samsara contained, but as the Dark Samsara evolves in its sleep, the method begins to fail until the only option is for Setsuna, the final sacrifice, to destroy it.
  • Blessed with Suck: Kir's people possess a huge amount of natural magical energy, but it has the side effect of shortening their lifespans to an average of 30 years. To double that lifespan, everyone has their magic sealed away at birth but Kir demonstrates that you can trade them back in exchange for the years you have without them. He then goes with the party to try to find a better solution to their lifespan issue.
    • Tall Poppy Syndrome: There's a rare subspecies of rare-bloods who get even greater power and are near-immortal... except they're the first to be targeted by everyone. Three sisters with these powers were captured, enslaved, and tortured until they wanted the world to end.
  • Bookends: Endir meets Setsuna at the Falling Snow Monument, whereupon meeting her you are given the option to swing your sword or not. In the ending, at that same location and when she's absorbed the last essence of the Dark Samsara's original identity within herself, she presents Endir with the same options.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: Some of the Spritnite-eaten monsters can be far more dangerous than the bosses in the main story, and give you extremely large amounts of experience for your trouble.
  • Broken Bridge: When the party finally arrives at the Last Lands, they find that it is inaccessible; someone has taken a huge bite out of the landscape, resulting in a Floating Island within a huge crater.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • You are given a number of dialogue options with Endir, but pretty much all of them don't have any effect outside of maybe getting a few characters to yell at you. As Yahtzee Croshaw put it in his review of the game, the options that are offered to the player are often down to "agree with Setsuna" or "slightly sarcastically agree with Setsuna."
    • Early in the game, you have the "choice" of having Endir guard Setsuna on her journey to become the sacrifice, or just leaving her to her fate. The game doesn't let you refuse, giving you the options of either accepting or "taking more time to think about it."
  • Cast of Expies: A number of the characters seem to be based strongly on specific characters. Setsuna and Nidr are Yuna and Auron, Endir is Crono, and Fides is Magus.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The save points are actually trails of magic that persist across timelines, following the journeys of the party in the "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • The Chosen One: Setsuna is the girl chosen to be the sacrifice and die at the Last Lands to placate the monsters. However, you learn from Sayagi that someone can take her place. There needs to be a sacrifice, but it doesn't have to be the sacrifice. Sayagi knows this because she too was a sacrifice, but her twin sister took her place, successfully.
  • Combination Attack: In pure Chrono Trigger fashion, you can combine two or three character's spells to make stronger spells. Some combined spells are truly game-breaking.
  • Cool Airship: The airship the party gets has a cool little history. It's part of an old myth that the royal family Julienne descends from escaped on it when the Dark Samsara began its attack on their kingdom, and it's sealed away in ruins that require someone with royal blood to access. From there, the royal's character is tested by the ruins and the royal family's old guardian. Only upon passing the tests and defeating the guardian can the royal and their companions use the ship, whose key also grants them access to everything with the ship's associated symbolnote  on it — from locked chests to ruins. You can name it, too, but the default is "Diange".
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Monsters explode into purple smoke when killed. Bosses do so on a much larger scale, complete with Pre-Explosion Glow.
  • Developer's Room: It is in one isolated island. It can be reached with the airship.
  • Dungeon-Based Economy: Justified; adventurers sell monster parts to the Magic Consortium, who then turn the monster parts into the magic-granting spiritnite which is vital to everyone's survival. Selling monster parts is considered a way of life for anyone who can kill monsters.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the tutorial forest where Hapsper guides Endir through a job, Endir encounters the first save point. If you ask Hapsper "What's this?", Hapsper evidently doesn't see it, and figures Endir simply senses monsters up ahead. This oddity only comes up again at the very end of the game, where you learn that the save points are magic trails across timelines that only Setsuna and Endir can see.
    • Aeterna's Snow Chronicles entry says she "often says and does things with an accustomed air, as if she's done them before," but shrugs it off if anyone asks about it. Turns out she's secretly been through Setsuna's journey hundreds of times before, in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where only she has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory.
  • The Four Gods: The four monsters that are part of the Dark Samsara's power are based on them: the Vermillion-Winged Beast, the Azure-Scaled Beast, the Onyx-Shelled Beast, and the White-Fanged Beast.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Even if you choose the most callous and insensitive options as Endir, most of the characters still treat you as a reliable friend and confidante.
  • The Goomba: Pengies. They're monster penguins with giant-toothed maws hidden behind their adorable beaks. They don't do much. Even their spiritnite-infused elites are fairly easy to farm.
  • Green Rocks: Spritnite, a Materia-esque system that adds Techs. Each character has 16 unique Command (active) Spritnites, and there are also dozens of Support (passive) Spritnites which anyone can equip. This system has the unintended side effect of ripping the bottom out of the whole "Combination Attack" idea: while every Command Spritnite has at least one Double or Triple Tech associated with it, there is no guarantee that you own all necessary Spritnites in question (a lot of them are hard to find), nor that they will be equipped once you have them. Besides, even if you get all of them and the best equipment, you're still limited to a maximum of 12 slots per character.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The game is set in one where the Time Judge has constantly reset time when the party chooses to avoid fighting the final boss, essentially forcing her to rewind the clock until a major deviation appeared (Endir and the Reaper weren't in past loops, monsters didn't grow intelligent, there wasn't a giant chasm surrounding the Last Lands, etc.).
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The components for some Spritnite, and thus those techs, will only drop if you kill the carrying enemy with an attack of the right element. Finding the component you need is often a matter of luck (kill the right enemy in the right way), but many later techs have multiple elements as part of their damage, making the task much easier to do as the game progresses.
    • Like Chrono Trigger, several character-specific subquests open up near the end of the game. Unlike Chrono Trigger, there are no hints to where they are or even that they've opened up at all, aside from a vague hint that you might need more powerful Spritnite.
  • Ice Magic Is Water: Killing enemies with Julienne's Ice magic counts as Water Elemental Kills.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • Around Purikka, there are two possible BFS-wielders who the game hints might join your party. You are given the option to rename one of them. Guess which one joins.
    • Character portrait = party member, every single time. Even major villains like the Reaper don't get them until he joins the party.
    • After Julienne joins, the player might notice there's room for one more party member in the menu...
  • It Can Think: To everyone's surprise, the otherwise feral monsters have grown brains recently.
    • There's an entire monster type called 'intelligent monsters', implying that sapient monsters have not been seen long enough to divide them into proper subtypes.
    • Vespera-type monsters are kitsunes who have learned how to mimic humans, with higher tiers learning more mannerisms and fine details.
    • The Carboceros Beetle, a shapeshifting physical adept, manages to fool the party into charging into the lion's den. He's angry about losing his mother. Setsuna manages to convince him to try and make friends with the other humans.
    • Stout Sheep manages to command the other monsters into fighting with strategy instead of charging blindly, and even has a taste for fashion.
    • The Final Boss has, over a thousand years, developed sapience and even manages to reverse-engineer and improve upon the Time Judge's magic, creating a time portal in a last-ditch effort to rewrite his defeat.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: The Game Over screens come with a subtitle that changes according to the circumstances. Typically it's something like, "The pilgrimage ended in failure..." but in the last part of the game, it says "You were unable to the change the future..."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: You can play Endir like this if you want, albeit it doesn't have much of an effect on how characters treat you.
  • Lady of War: Julienne is absolutely brutal in her hunt for monsters. Turns out she's not herself, having suffered a Grand Theft Me.
  • Lazy Backup: Only three party members can be active at a time. If they fall, you can't resort to using the inactive ones to save yourself from a Game Over.
  • Leaked Experience: Present for the Lazy Backup characters; they receive about half the exp.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Nidr, the BFS equipped soldier, is actually Setsuna's father, but he never tells her directly. The game implies Setsuna connected the dots.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: After it's beaten by the party, the Dark Samsara makes a last-ditch attempt to go back in time and stop them from there.
  • Meaningful Name: Endir is named エンド/Endo/End in Japan. Feeling it's a strange name, especially for an English release, they changed it for Endir. His Japanese name foreshadows that Endir is the only character with Setsuna during the ending, and possibly her executioner (in other words, her ender).
  • Metal Slime: Owl monsters. They occasionally replace a normal monster in a squad, they have high evasion, and they'll usually use their first turn to flee. They also carry a variety of high-quality spiritnite materials. Did we mention that one of their rarest items involves somehow hitting this high-dodge enemy with a regular attack while they're poised to flee the first chance they get? Thankfully, you can always find a crystalline owl in a specific spot in Mistleigh Woods. It's near an exit, so you can quickly farm them.
  • Minimalism: The entire soundtrack is solo piano except for battle themes, which involve percussion, an electric bass, and sometimes a second piano track.
  • My Greatest Failure: Nidr's is that he failed to protect the sacrifice during the last pilgrimage and she died before she got to perform her duty as the sacrifice. (Though she died of illness, not violence, so there was probably nothing he could have done.) He eventually gets better during his personal quest.
    • Lord Dumas ignored his family to staunchly protect his kingdom, until his wife died due to his negligence. This also turned his son ruthless and conniving, driving Dumas into self-imposed exile.
    • Sayagi's party couldn't overcome the tiger monster guarding the detour and they got creamed. Sayagi and her sister survived, but Sayagi suffered near-fatal injuries, so her sister had to take her place as the sacrifice. Embittered by the whole experience and survivor's guilt, she spent decades brainwashing the nearby town into forgetting its existence. The party eventually convinces her to help.
  • Optional Boss: Every boss from the personal quests is optional, but completing the quests gives you the character's ultimate spiritnite and sometimes their final weapon. Once you have cleared all the resurrected bosses in the three ruins, you face The Ruler Of Time.
  • Palette Swap: A big offender, almost every enemy has at least one reskinned version, and some have two or three. Some of the bosses get reused as well, mostly for sidequests.
  • Party in My Pocket: the three characters in your active party all run in a line, as in Chrono Trigger. However, during conversation scenes, the Lazy Backup characters fade in out of nowhere.
  • Peninsula of Power Leveling:
    • Spiritnite-infused monsters in general are monsters that somehow managed to consume their polar opposite (spiritnites) without dying, and are generally stronger than their counterparts but give high-tier rare items and a ton of exp. Here are some examples:
    • In Morbrise Mountain, towards the exit, there is a Spritnite-eaten monster called a Glow-poly. It has very high evasion, making it difficult to damage, but its actual damage output is quite low, meaning it's easy to just wait the battle out until your hits eventually connect. It gives one thousand EXP per kill at a time when other enemy encounters aren't even hitting 100, and it respawns. It's enough to get your characters several levels up in a short amount of time.
    • In the Twallusk Mountain, there's a set of enemies called Silvara near the entrance. They're extremely dangerous due to their high damage output and ability to inflict Freeze on your party, which counts as a "dead" status effect. However, if you can scavenge the spiritnite needed to form a triple combonote , they'll go down fairly quickly and yield an enormous 3000 experience points. An hour or so of grinding them, and you'll barely have any troubles for the rest of the game.
    • After you get the airship, more spiritnite-infused species will show up. Most will wipe the floor with an unprepared player, but right at the west entrance to Floeberg Waters is a group of Spritnite-eaten Pengies. Get the drop on them and kill them with a Blowbeat or your favorite Triple Tech, and you'll get a whopping 5000 XP (7500 with the XP-boosting soup). Then exit to the world map, come back, rinse and repeat.
  • Rare Random Drop: While monster families typically share their drop pools, most monster species have a unique rare item on their drop table, especially the spiritnite-infused versions. Have fun farming.
  • Recurring Boss: The Reaper. He becomes Last Episode, New Character since he's playable just before the last boss.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: The world routinely sacrifices people every so often to prevent the monsters from overwhelming the human villages. Setsuna is the latest among them. It's noted for being dangerous enough that very few sacrifices actually make it to the Last Lands, most of them dying mid-journey or giving up; examples of the latter include Setsuna's aunt or Sayagi.
  • Shop Fodder: Almost all monsters drop items that need to be sold to the Magic Consortium to unlock Spritnite.
  • Shout-Out: The game gives a LOT of Shout Outs to Chrono Trigger, and is explicitly designed to be a lot like it. There are some others too, though:
    • Every party member gets a late-game weapon that is an explicit reference to Chrono Trigger (Endir gets the Rainbow, for example), and Nidr's Paladin's Sword is closely modeled after the Buster Sword in Final Fantasy VII.
    • Setsuna throws chakrams in battle, reminiscent of Collette, another Chosen One who was Friend to All Living Things.
    • Julienne's possession by the monster blood in her system, and by extension the Big Bad and her tech set, including Jump, a triple tech called Highwind, and self-endangering skills that cost HP or trade defense for offense, let her character reference Cecil's Dark Knight abilities as well as Kain's and his character from Final Fantasy IV.
  • Sidequest: One per character. They become available after you beat the penultimate boss.
  • Snow Means Death: It's constantly snowing in the game's setting, and as the party travels there are plenty of reminders that they're on this journey to take Setsuna to the place where she has to die. There are also many snow-pelted ghost towns and plains where civilization has died off or fled. That said, Setsuna takes many opportunities to show off the flipside and talk about how valuable life and the future are.
  • Take Your Time: All sidequests unlock between the final and ultimate bosses, when story-wise you should be in a rush as the magic barrier sealing the final boss is supposed to be broken.
  • Time Master: The Time Judge, who possesses phenomenal magic power, can rewind the entire world's time, and clone herself to give her a way to take action without leaving her post keeping the Dark Samsara at bay.
  • Title Drop: For the English release, Setsuna drops the title when she introduces herself not even one hour into the game.
  • Too Long; Didn't Dub: While all of the game's text has been translated to English, the Japanese voices were not redubbed.
  • Tyke Bomb: Kir. It's also his village's hat. They have extremely powerful magic, but it is Cast from Lifespan. Most of them choose to surrender most of their power in exchange for a longer life. Kir ultimately decides he'd rather be powerful than old.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Lord Avalo made a deal with an intelligent monster to sacrifice refugees in exchange for a monster army to protect his kingdom.
    • As a lesser example Sayagi brainwashed an entire town into forgetting about a cave path in order to prevent anyone from meeting the murder-tiger hiding inside.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: A land ravaged by monsters and general malaise requires a sacrifice be made, typically a young maiden who goes on a pilgrimage with a party of hand-picked companions to the ruins of an ancient civilization, where the woman will give up her life in order to create a temporary respite from the monsters. This cycle has lasted for hundreds of years... but the male protagonist, a Wild Card, is here to break the cycle. It's the third video game this century to feature this plot, after Final Fantasy X and Tales of Symphonia.
  • Where It All Began: Setsuna and Endir follow the being behind the Dark Samsara back to the same Falling Snow Monument where they first met on Nive Island.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Setsuna is very prim, proper, and polite, despite being cast as the sacrificial maiden.