The maker of I Am Setsuna, Tokyo RPG Factory, have announced a new game that is in development called Lost Sphear (PC, PS4, Switch). They also have a trailer which you can catch below or on YouTube. Lost Sphear looks good so far but it is still very early days. Tokyo RPG Factory’s last project, I Am Setsuna, was a decent first attempt but had its shortcomings which should be avoided for their new game.
I Am Setsuna was an enjoyable experience that had us following Setsuna and her friends as they journeyed towards unknown lands. But the game had its flaws which detract from the overall experience and restricts the game’s potential. Let’s examine some of these issues and traps that I Am Setsuna fell into which Tokyo RPG Factory should be mindful of.
The first major issue is the lack of variety. The entire game takes place in a winter setting, with snowy mountains, snowy villages, and damp caves. The same applies to the music which is comprised completely of piano tracks. You won’t get the same variety in music like there was Chrono Trigger, the inspiration for this title. This was obviously a creative choice and not due to any restrictions or limitations. However, it doesn’t work entirely well because after a while the snow scenery and homogenous music gets a bit stale. It would have been nice if they mixed it up with some different locations and music. From the trailer for Lost Sphear, we were immediately treated to a lot of different looking locations so they seem to be on the right track this time. Hopefully they improve the music and have tracks that use different sounds and instruments.
The battle system also needs an overhaul. In I Am Setsuna, the combat was ripped in its entirety from Chrono Trigger. The Active Time Battles, techniques, combos and the importance of positioning. I am Setsuna had nothing “new” about it, it was just like playing Chrono Trigger. Why is this a bad thing? Well, if anyone wanted to play Chrono Trigger, they would just play it. When starting up a brand new game, you would expect to see some new ideas. Yes, Chrono Trigger had fun battles (and by extension so did I Am Setsuna), but they should have taken it one step further and made the system their own. However to give credit where it is due, I Am Setsuna had upgradeable weapons. This is a great feature that lets you use early game weapons that might have had useful abilities well into the late game. You will want to keep all of your old weapons as they all have different abilities that can prove useful at some point. I would love to see this feature expanded upon in Lost Sphear, maybe through augmenting weapons with materials.
The boss fights in I Am Setsuna also seem to lack any personality. There are some very awesome enemy designs when it comes to bosses but they have little context. In Chrono Trigger, nearly all the bosses had some type of background or story. The first boss Yakra was impersonating the King’s advisor. Rust Tyranno hid underground for millions of years, waiting for the chance to exact its revenge on you. And of course, Lavos was built up as the final boss throughout the game. You grew to fear the beast that had the power to wipe out planets. The bosses in I Am Setsuna were just large monsters that happened to be in the neighbourhood. Even the final boss was introduced very late in the game and lacked the same presence as Lavos. It didn’t have that feeling of impending doom.
Arguably the biggest issue with I am Setsuna was the story and tone of the game. It had the goal of trying to re-create the type of stories JRPGs had during the SNES/PS1 era. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver on this. Chrono Trigger is beloved because of its unique time-travelling story and lovable characters. It was a fun journey that knew when to take itself seriously and when to sit back and have a laugh. That’s what journeys are like. Sometimes they full of enjoyment and laughter, other times they are more serious in nature. There was excitement, dancing, battles and parties. But it also had tragic moments like the fall of Zeal and Crono’s sacrifice.
I Am Setsuna suffers from being too monotone. The game attempts to take itself very seriously, not leaving much room for fun. There are times when characters throw a joke or two, but they don’t have much of an impact. The journey is a sombre one, but also a predictable one. Aside from perhaps a twist or two, there wasn’t much in the story to keep someone constantly invested and desperate to know what happens next.
I Am Setsuna had its work cut out for it when it attempted to recreate classic experiences. However it didn’t have the right approach. The era of those old RPGs is over. Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VII and the others are relics of the past. Ultimately we have to look forward, not back. I Am Setsuna tried too hard to bring back the magic of the past, only to realise that it isn’t something you can just conjure up at will.
Tokyo RPG Factory have both the talent and the passion. For their next game, they just need a new direction. They should look towards the future and see what new elements they can add to the genre. Lost Sphear shouldn’t be a tribute to 90s RPGs. As soon you claim to “bring back the magic”, expectations are set unrealistically high. It’s a double edged sword. You have that nostalgia factor, but what about the people without nostalgia? It gives them the wrong impression about older games.
No, Lost Sphear needs to be its own thing. It doesn’t need to shoulder the responsibility of living up to its inspirations. It just needs to be a fun game that shows the world how far JRPGs have come rather than trying to be something it clearly isn’t.
For a more information and news about the game, head towards the official website of developers, Tokyo RPG Factory