This week, Zero Punctuation reviews I Am Setsuna.
I am Setsuna... in my lucrative side venture as a transvestite camwhore.
But by strange coincidence I Am Setsuna is also the name of a game that came out last week. It's a JRPG, because with a title like that of course it was going to be either a JRPG or a visual novel about an innocent young schoolmate and all the ways you can fuck her on a subway train. According to the Steam page, the game purports to be 'inspired by the timeless classic Chrono Trigger', with no apparent pun intended, and I was down for that because Chrono Trigger was a game from the SNES period of actually tolerable JRPGs before they became overwritten overdesigned claptrap full of interchangeable characters who have to get up at three in the morning to be properly dressed for dinner.
Sadly I Am Setsuna hasn't taken inspiration from any part of Chrono Trigger that mattered, such as the unique characters, imaginative plot that develops in interesting ways, or variety of environments with more than two colours, and merely recreates the combat and party mechanics somewhat faithfully, which is like claiming that your movie is inspired by Apocalypse Now because you also recorded it on film and employed sound engineers and pointed your camera at a fat bloke for ten minutes.
The plot of I Am Henry VIII I Am is that the titular Setsuna has been nominated to sacrifice herself to calm down all the world's monsters or something and has to make the difficult journey to the sacrifice shop because it never occurred to anyone to put on a fucking bus service, and a party of adventurers assembles to protect her on the way. I'd like to take a moment to draw your attention to one of the user-defined tags that was attached to this game on Steam: "Story rich". I take slight issue with it because you don't get Story Rich just from mugging Final Fantasy X in an alleyway and nicking their wallet. Final Fantasy X itself is only Story Rich in Zimbabwean dollars. Thankfully I Am Setsuna only nicks the pilgrimage plot device and not the rest of Final Fantasy X's plot and the player character as far as I know isn't a ghost footballer from the future.
Which brings me to the second user tag I want to bring up: "Female Protagonist", an outright stinking lie because the player character is a mercenary who becomes Setsuna's guardian. Setsuna's the important one, yes, and you can rearrange the party to put Setsuna in the vanguard if you feel you need a human shield, but it's still the mercenary whose dialogue we choose, when we make the recurring vital decision between agreeing with Setsuna or slightly sarcastically agreeing with Setsuna. Perhaps there's an argument to be made that the playable character needn't necessarily be the protagonist of the story, but if I'm honest I don't want Setsuna to be the protagonist because she's wetter than a fishing trip to Seattle.
Part of my disdain for JRPGs is that most of them read from the same cast list of stock characters - the angsty taciturn hero, the scarred veteran warrior who calls himself past it 'cos he's in his late twenties, and the pure and innocent girl who urinates lightly sparkling springwater and thinks a dildo is a character from Lord of the Rings. Setsuna's so fucking sweet and forgiving she gives me ice cream headache, but there's a point where we go beyond naively trusting into the realms of mental handicap. When she insists on you joining her party the only thing she knows about you is that you're a hired killer, specifically hired to kill her. "Oh player-san, I feel so comfortable around your upraised dagger and coppery stench of blood money." I made myself laugh again by imagining Setsuna meeting a rabid grizzly bear. "Oh I just know there's goodness in your heart, Mr. Tufty-" RAWR MAUL MAUL.
So I wasn't sure if I was going to review Ich Bin Ein Berliner so I said to myself, maybe I'll just play up to the end of the snowy area with the repetitive sad piano music and see how I feel, but the joke was on me because turns out that was the whole game. Which reminds me of another Steam user tag I take issue with - "Great Soundtrack". Exhibit Q in the ongoing case for standardized sarcasm quotes. It's a soundtrack produced by a hotel pianist locked in a studio for eighteen hours with a hockey mask on to stop him chewing his own hands off.
Your ongoing task is to show up at a settlement and solve whatever issue prevents you from proceeding to the next one, which usually involves acquiring a new party member so keep talking to NPCs until you find one whose name we are invited to change if it really matters to us that our adventuring party consists entirely of people named after breakfast foods. This process also involves a lot of combat with weirdly adorable monsters. You encounter groups of reject beanie babies knocking about in the overworld and you can get the surprise attack if you run into them before they notice you, but you have to have one foot in their breakfast burrito before they notice you so why would you ever not get the surprise attack.
The combat is like most televised news media in that it has something of a balance issue. Setsuna's claim on the protagonist title gets shakier by the minute because she's supposed to be the healer, and the player character gets a low cost full party heal spell early in the game. Admittedly it's only full party heal if everyone's standing next to each other, but they usually are, it's turn based combat, strategy straight from Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. On top of that, several other characters have attacks that also inexplicably dole out full party heals if you use the special sort of quick time event but not really power up thing that grants additional effects, so with only three slots for active party members Setsuna can spend the game in my back pocket frantically jilling herself off with the neck of a potion bottle for all I care. I'm wondering why I'd want to use any of the squishy magic-focused characters when the others all have perfectly good magic attacks as well as useful standard attacks and can take hits without immediately folding up like a hotel room ironing board, except you never know when some plot development will force you to use them for a while and leave you facing the fuzzy horde five levels behind and armed with a spoon.
The monsters do their bit for the lack of balance, too, most of the random encounters are completely trivial until once in a while one of them gets off that one spell that ups all their stats and they proceed to turn you into a pulled pork sandwich. And then there are the optional elite enemies, which are distinguishable from the others only by their different colour - which doesn't count for much since half the enemies in the fucking game are palette swaps of older ones - and by the fact that the moment you enter the fight they fucking pound you into the coleslaw that came with the pulled pork sandwich.
You know what, I almost felt bad about complaining that the entire game is one big ice level, not every game has to be a fucking sightseeing tour and maybe it wanted to focus on something else, until I was looking for tips for a certain boss and realised I had no idea what to fucking google. "Ice caves boss?" That narrows it down to roughly all of them. Besides, if the game was focusing on something else, what the fuck could it have been? The emotional impact of Setsuna's tragic inspirational story? I got more emotional parting ways with my fucking yeast infection.
- I am legend: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- It's not inspired by Chrono Trigger unless there's an animation of a princess slapping her arse
- And after the sarcasm quote, the rhetorical question mark