I Am Not Setsuna
The I Am Setsuna devs return to grace us with another beautiful yet brutal JRPG.
Lost Sphear (no, that’s not a typo) is the latest project from Tokyo RPG Factory – developer of the equally oddly named I Am Setsuna. A strange title isn’t the only thing this game has in common with Setsuna, though: it has the same dazzling art style, top-down perspective, and ‘active time battle’ combat system as its spiritual predecessor.
This second offering from the studio introduces a brand-new world, with a more upbeat tone. The bright colours make Lost Sphear’s autumnal surroundings feel more spirited and inviting, and while there is still a sombre aspect to the narrative, it’s offset with a sense of adventure, heroism, and moments of humour.
In typical JRPG fashion, the plot is an epic tale spiced with peculiarity. It opens with the world on the brink of destruction, subject to an occurrence known as Lost. Reality is fashioned from memories, and when things are forgotten, they vanish. Objects, areas, and people are all replaced with an eerie nothingness.
When protagonist Kanata’s hometown of Elgarthe is on the receiving end of this affliction, he discovers he is able to combat the Lost using the power of Memory. This affects not only the story, but also what you do; in one instance we come to an impassable route, blocked by a rock showing the familiar pasty hue of the Lost. Only by defeating the nearby creatures and utilising their memories of the area are we able to restore the missing spot, and break the boulder with our snazzy armoured suits (but more on those later).
Enemies lurk in dungeons and, with no random encounters, can be easily seen, and potentially avoided. The turn-based
“a giddy satisfaction comes from using powerful abilities that hit multiple opponents”
combat is rooted in traditional RPGs, but there’s an element of individuality in its approach to the active time battle system. Selecting a character lets you place them wherever you please on the battlefield, and plotting a character within range of multiple targets allows you to deal damage to numerous foes with the one attack.
Your party is formed of four members. Each has a significant combat style and unique skills that can be used for maximum devastation, or support, during battle. For instance, Kanata can use his sword skill, Cyclone, to perform a dizzying spin attack to slice numerous enemies, or provide healing using his Aura ability to restore the HP of all characters within the spell’s radius. There’s a certain giddy satisfaction that comes from perfectly lining up your characters and using powerful abilities that hit multiple opponents. It’s not only enjoyable, but necessary. Beneath the painterly visuals lies a deceptively deep battle system. Fail to plan your attack strategy properly, or group your own characters haphazardly, and you’ll leave your party exposed to multi-hits from the opposition.
If you’ve got quick reflexes, you’ll benefit from the increased damage that the Momentum System offers. When a character is about to strike, a flash of light appears above their head. Time your button press just right and you inflict more pain than you can with a normal attack. It’s initially hard to get the timing down, but once mastered it’s an invaluable ace to have tucked up your armour-clad sleeve.
Now, back to those armoured mech suits. Known as Vulcosuits, they grant increased strength and defence, and allow for powerful co-op attacks to be performed. Each character has their own suit, but they can’t be used indefinitely. Using their abilities guzzles up energy, so it’s probably best to save them for the game’s tougher foes – and if the bow-wielding honcho we encountered is anything to go by, formidable boss battles.
Retaining the studio’s flair for creating emotionally charged narratives encased in enchanting visuals, Lost Sphear offers commendable strategic depth and choice in combat. If you’ve been lamenting the current lack of traditional JRPGs, this could be just the remedy.
Format Switch, PS4, PC Publisher Square Enix Developer Tokyo RPG Factory ETA 23 January 2018
Just how the mech suits fit into the story remains a mystery, but their helpfulness in battle is beyond question.
Position your characters well and you can deal damage to multiple enemies at once. Boost allows you to sprint past foes, handy for when you want to avoid overwhelming numbers of opponents, or reach your destination faster. You’ll still have to get through boss battles, though.