The Let's Play Archive

I am Setsuna

by The Dark Id

Part 1: Episode I: I Am the Tutorial

New Music: Beginning of the End

Welcome. Sorry, there’s no flashy introduction sequence. Just a somber piano piece and the title. By the way, I hope you all enjoy piano music! I am Setsuna’s soundtrack is composed entirely of just piano pieces. There’s some real good music but ehh… Your mileage may vary as to whether that music choice works. There are some bits where it absolute does and others where it feels like the scene is going to turn into a ragtime silent movie gag. But enough about that, let's begin...

We begin our tale taking a quiet, nighttime walk through the snow covered woods. At the time of the writing of this update, it’s the middle of one of the hottest summers in recorded history and my electric bill is being destroyed by constant air conditioning use. I wouldn’t mind trading places with this fellow for a bit…

Our late night stroll is interrupted by a tactical wetsuit clad man passing our field of vision, sending the entire base on alert and immediately jamming the radar. It’s gonna be one of those kinda days…


A bearded man with similar clothing to the first fellow wanders out from behind the trees…

I am Hapsper. I will be working with you on this mission.
*sheathes sword*
What is your name?

I am Setsuna, staying true to its old school RPG roots, allows us to rename our party members. Meet our main protagonist: Endir. We’ll be sticking with everyone’s default names, for better or worse. I like to stay traditional too. This game, being a RPG hearkening back to roleplaying games of old, is almost entirely text based. The only spoken dialogue is a few combat barks, which all remain in Japanese. So everyone will just use Endir’s name, instead of dodging around the altered title like certain other RPGs I could name…

Our mission is to recover a young girl who has been kidnapped by monsters. Your job will be to exterminate any monsters we encounter along the way. Once we are done, I shall return the girl to our client. Of course…
*takes a few steps and turns back* If she is still alive, that is. Let us begin right away… Are you ready to go?

Endir here is basically a silent protagonist. But he will often be asked questions, of which we can select the response. So he’s clearly saying those lines. I’ll go ahead and spoil that 99.9% of the time, these choices absolutely do not matter and will only alter the immediately following dialogue for a couple lines, before the conversation proceeds as intended. A game with deep moral choice and complex, branching storylines this ain’t.

Usually the choices are Endir just blandly going along with whatever or being a bit of a dick about going with whatever. I don’t think you need to ask which conversation choices I’ll be making in this case.

You need to ask?

Of course, I won’t be getting involved in the combat… except in an advisory capacity. It’ll be a good chance for me to see your ability! Come on, let’s go.

And with that, Hapsper runs off ahead leaving us in control. Our only available action is following behind. The first item of note is that Endir will leave a lovely trail in the snow as he runs through deeper patches. Clumps of snow will also shake free from tree branches as Endir bounds by as well. I am Setsuna does snow really well. I hope you enjoy snow environments because umm… that’s the VAST bulk of the game’s locales!

As we run ahead a few paces, we come upon Hapsper stopped up ahead. Let’s see what’s crackin’ with our non-combatant companion.

Time to get to work, Endir. Ready to go?
Wait a minute.
…You want me to fight that? It is… a penguin. Like a cute tubby little penguin. I was hired to slay monsters, not mascot characters.
A puny foe, but you can never be too careful… If you approach without it noticing, you should be able to strike first.
It is literally looking right at us...

Welcome to our first tutorial. You ever played Chrono Trigger? Guess what, this game’s battle system is A WHOLE LOT like Chrono Trigger. Though I don’t think gaining initiative depending on where enemies were facing was mechanic. All encounters play out on the field. There’s no separate battle field zone.

The battles themselves work on an ATB Gauge. If you’re interested in this game, you’ve almost definitely played an RPG with an ATB gauge. A little meter builds up. When it’s full we can select an action. Enemies work the same way, though their gauges are hidden. The ATB can be set to Active, where the gauges, both ally and enemies, are ALWAYS filling. Or Wait, where everyone’s ATB will pause when navigating menus or playing out attack animations. I usually just use Wait, which is the default.

Here it comes!
…Really making me do this, huh?

New Music: No Turning Back
(You should probably listen to the default battle theme.)

Alright, time for our first battle against the fearsome… Pengy. I cannot say there is much to it, given it’s the “we’re assuming you’ve never touched a RPG before” school of hit Attack to Attack school of tutorials.

Enemies can and will scurry about the field during battle. Unfortunately, our protagonist is locked in place unless he takes a special action which is currently not available. Spacing and enemy placement is important in I am Setsuna. But, that’s a bit advanced for this course.

After 2-3 hits, Pengy is sent to the great big mascot character marketing center in the sky. Mission: Penguin Pulverizing is a success!

New Music: Astounding Victory

At the end of every battle, the entire active party receives some experience points, regardless of whether they actually did anything or not. Which is nice. We’re also almost always dumped with an assortment of items. Item drops in Setsuna are… a bit weird. But we’ll get to that later.

Music ends…

Let’s head on. *walks off*
*frown* …It didn’t even fight back. It just walked in circles.

You know what, let’s just get the snow tracing elephant in the room out of the way early, eh?

Continuing further into the woods…

Use a tech to take them all out at once. You have spritnite stones on you, I presume?
*shrug* Spritnite? What?
I don’t do that kinda stuff on the job, guy. Gotta keep a clear head.
You mean to say you have never used spritnite? What astonishing natural talent you must possess… Equipping spritnite allows you to use techs. Try this stone out.

Special abilities, both physical and magical, fall under the banner of Techs. The first one Endir learns is Cyclone. Again… by chance, have you played Chrono Trigger? As this is the same exact ability titling and first attack Crono learns.

So during the course of Setsuna, we’ll be picking up different equipment for our characters which we can stick stones into in order to use different abilities. Equipment in this game is kind of strange and a bit backwards. But we don’t need to concern ourselves with that right now.

We do need to equip our spritnite (I look forward to typing this as spiritnite a bunch) in order to use our Techs. Which requires a bit of menu shuffling. There’s quite a bit to look at in the menu screen. But we’ll save all that for another day. We can learn that we’re apparently in the Hymncott Forest.

Spritnite can be equipped and unequipped from equipment at will. It’s pretty much Materia from Final Fantasy VII in that regard. There’s no cost to learn Techs or grinding to unlock ‘em. Endir is now just good to go with Cyclone.

Music: No Turning Back

Now for the battle at hand. Endir is faced with TWO Pengys. Pengies? Pengi? I’m not certain. There’s two penguins pissed at our hero while completely ignoring the bearded old man just chilling out and bringing up power point presentations to teach us how to fight. Convenient.

Remember how I said enemy positioning matters? Cyclone strikes everything in a certain radius around the targeted foe. So if both of the chubby penguins are bunched up near Endir, he’ll strike them both with the attack. But if one were to have some weird pathing and wander off to the bottom right of the map, it would evade the blow. This doesn’t really matter when there’s just one character in the party, as all enemies will gang up on him. But monsters tend to spread out a bit more when we get a full party.

Techs all use MP. It’s the blue bar on the bottom. Green is our HP. Orange is the ATB bar. The snowflake is another mechanic we’ll see shortly.

As we add two more cutesy mascot character design creatures’ notches to our belt, you’ll notice we’ve gotten an “Exact Kill” on both of the enemies. Setsuna rewards players with different loot drops based on how they finish enemies. For instance, an Exact Kill means the killing blow drained the enemies HP to just about exactly zero. So if the enemy had 25 HP left and we did 26 HP of damage with the killing blow, that’s an Exact Kill since there’s a bit of leeway. I’ll go over the types of finishers later.

Music ends…

Come on. Let us hurry on.

The two run off further into the woods. But Endir stops short upon noticing this strange ring of light.

What is this?
Hmm…? What is what?
This. The glowy thingy.
Sensed the presence of monsters further inside the woods, did you?
No… THIS thing. Right here. In front of us. The bunch of floating rings and the ground farting up some mystical energy. Are you not seeing this thing?
All the more reason for us to hurry on… *walks away*
Wait… No. But… The hell is this thing?! Hey! HEY! Oh… forget it.

So this is a save point. Hey, you see the very last couple lines in this tutorial. READ ‘EM CAREFULLY! This game is going so old school that it has neglected to make auto-saves. Which… No, Tokyo RPG Factory. Fuck off there. Nobody looks fondly back on losing hours of play because they neglected to save and they got wiped or the power went out or what have you. That shit sucks! It doesn’t help that this is also keeping with the old school aesthetic of no continues. A Game Over is a booting out to the menu.

I am Setsuna will make no further efforts to remind us to save. The onus of that is entirely on the player. When we reach the world map, we’ll be able to save again. Indeed, the world map is the primary place where the game can be saved. There are save points in the world. But they’re mostly reserved for the ends of dungeons, prior to a boss. Towns don’t have save points, non-dungeon but enemy filled regions rarely have save points. Indeed, I think the next actual in-game save point is a good 90+ minutes from now.


Endir follows Hapsper, saving his game diligently beforehand…

Although not for long, at this rate…

The team’s investigation of what appears to be the lost girl we’re rescuing is interrupted by a less than friendly sounding roar…

New Music: Deadly Gamble

MAN BEAR! And he is pissed we’ve been slaughtering his Pengy buddies frolicking about.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting out of here alive without defeating it…
Ah. So you’re pitching in this time?
No matter how powerful, every foe has its moments of weakness. You must seize such moments to strike!
…I’m noticing the emphasis on ME doing this. Again.

A couple more tutorials for us. Momentum Mode. This makes the ATB system a bit more interesting. There is a secondary gauge that fills when our ATB meter is full or when we attack/take damage. This allows us to do a timed button press to buff our attack. The timing is quite generous and there’s little reason not to use Momentum Mode whenever it’s available.

I couldn’t really tell you the specifics of this mechanic. What you read here is pretty much what you get. If the meter is full, we hit the Momentum button and something cool will happen! We don’t get a whole lot of control over it. There’s some RNG where it could buff the entire party involved. It’s kind of a vague, weird system. Super Mario RPG timed attacks this ain’t.

New Music: Relentless Advance

Now we have our first boss encounter: Jaboo the Manbear. Or Bearman. I’m not sure what they prefer to call themselves. Regardless, it’s a bear. It’s bad news by its very nature! Jaboo isn’t too tough of a customer given… you know, him being about fifteen minutes into the game. He’s got around 200 HP compared to the 50 or so of the penguin fodder we’ve been tackling. On the other hand, it’s pretty darn slow. Endir can usually take two turns for every single one the angry bear can take.

The Jaboo can claw Endir at close range from around 25 HP of damage. At least it says claw. The monster is clearly wearing massive gauntlets obscuring its claws. But details…

Additionally, the Tutorial Bear can grab Endir and bite him twice for 20+ HP each chomp. Though in this case, it managed to whiff once. C'mon bear. How do you whiff a bite? That's like your entire thing!

The Cyclone Tech works quite nice in shoving back Jaboo, who needs to lumber back to our position to attack with his close range melee abilities. Timing it right can let Endir get a third turn before the bear gets one go.

Additionally, we can try out that whole Momentum Mode thing. Assuming we have a spare Momentum Gauge filled, when performing the next action, a strip of lightning will appear above our character’s head. If we tap the attack button when that flashes on screen…

Our character will follow up with… something. In this case, Endir’s standard attack got a secondary sweep for near double damage. I’ll take it.

And that counted as a Momentum Kill to finish off this first boss. Yep, we’re done already. Assume there were a couple Cyclones and a few standard attacks thrown in before the beast was slain. It’s not like a tutorial fight is ever particularly flashy.

We also leveled up thanks to our slaying of the fearsome Jaboo. Leveling comes fairly fast and quick early game in Setsuna. Our stats are slightly buffed with each level. But the big thing is that all our HP and MP is restored with levels. Indeed, leveling up will be our primary means of restoring our characters for the first several hours of the game. It’s weird.

We also gain some new materials of unknown use. Sure, let’s just shove some bamboo and a beehive claw into our pockets. It’s fine. You never know when it may come in handy!

New Music: A Moment of Respite

Oh. Right. We should probably check on the girl we’re meant to be rescuing. I don’t think the pay is as good if they come back slightly bear-manhandled.

Huh? What’s…
You don’t need to worry now.
Umm… I…
! Th-The monsters! Where are the monsters!?
Do not worry... He took care of them.
At least you’re giving the right guy credit for doing all the work.
Oh… so… I’m safe… Thank you… But… why?
This is our job.
Your job?
That’s right. We are from a tribe of people who make their living as mercenaries. We came here because we were hired by your father.
Yeah, kid. So your college funds went right out the window and in our pockets after you got kidnapped by a bunch of penguins and a bear. I’m not even gonna ASK how that situation even arose…
I see… Thank you so much… I’ll… I’ll be able to see everyone again… Thank goodness. Thank you… Thank you so much…
*nods* Take this, Endir.

Gettin’ paid, son. Granted, we have no point of reference to know if this is a healthy sum of a reward or if we’re working fantasy minimum wage for our efforts.

This had better be like a 20/80 split here, old man. Combat pointers or not, the effort spent in this gig was not equal.
It’s what was agreed to.
I’m a little fuzzy on that negotiation.

It is time for us to go our separate ways, Endir. I shall take this girl back to her father. Take care, Endir.
Yeah, alright. Say, if anyone back at the village asks… just tell them the part about how I wrecked the bear dude. You can leave out all the little penguin guys that barely fought back. That kinda just… I mean. Dilutes the heroic narrative, eh?
Worry not. Nobody wants to hear about any random encounters in the first place.

*nods and walks off*

Hapsper begins to follow the girl but stops after a few paces…

How long do you plan on staying in this line of work?
*shakes head* I’ve never even thought about it.
I *did* just learn how to spin with my sword. That’s gonna open a lot of exciting new career opportunities in this field...
How strong you are, Endir… Even if some very difficult decisions are forced upon you, I am sure you will prevail. Please treasure your time.

And with that, Hapsper departs along with the girl. Welp. Mission done. But our evening in the woods is not quite over…

New Music: Feeling of Unease

When a man wanders out from the darkness of the woods with music like that, I feel like you should draw your sword. But that’s just me.

Were I a foe, I would have already attacked you from behind, would I not? Not that I think there is any way I could possibly defeat a swordsman of your caliber, of course…
*sheathes sword*
Just so we’re clear, I noticed you coming. You try anything and you’re NOT getting that full ATB gauge at the start.

I have a mission I would like to ask you to complete on behalf of my master.
And you think I’ll accept, do you?
*nods* Yes, I believe so. You will see through any mission, no matter how arduous… That is what I have heard.
I’m listening.
Just off the coast of the mainland there is a small isle, and on that isle there is a small village… In that village, there is a young girl who shall turn 18 years old this year. My mission for you, Endir…

And that concludes the prologue of I am Setsuna. A mysterious man tasks our mercenary protagonist with giving the gift of assassination to a young woman for her birthday. What could possibly go wrong?

Endir Official Art – The two-tone neon ponytail really brings the whole design together.

Pengy Render - D'aww. Look at this goofy little dude Endir gutted multiple times.

Jaboo Render - Upon closer inspection, this guy has a few more problems than being a dopey tutorial bear.

Video: I am Setsuna Opening Credits