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I am Setsuna Director On What’s Missing In RPGs Today From The Golden Age Of RPGs



Fans of RPGs from the ‘90s, such as Chrono Trigger and the earlier Final Fantasy titles, had something to cheer for when Square Enix announced I am Setsuna, the RPG inspired by the mentioned titles, is headed Westward this summer.


The aim of Square Enix’s development studio Tokyo RPG Factory is “to capture the narrative, depth, impactful storytelling, and masterful character development inspired by the golden era of Japanese RPGs,” and Siliconera got to catch up with the man in charge, director and Tokyo RPG Factory founder Atsushi Hashimoto, about his thoughts on what’s missing in RPGs today from the golden age of RPGs we saw in the ‘90s.


During my chat with Hashimoto-san at GDC 2016, he mentioned before the interview that he saw Western studios making classic JRPGs and was kind of inspired to make classic JRPGs again. We’ll have more on that later, but while on the subject of RPGs we discussed a bit about the classic RPGs of yesteryear.


What do you feel is missing from RPGs today from the golden age of RPGs when the Super Famicom was the leading system?

Atsushi Hashimoto, Director: One element that was distinct with titles developed in the 90s is because technology-wise the developers were not able to express everything photo realistically, there were elements for the player’s imagination to fill in gaps. Players would have to look at the screen and imagine parts that weren’t filled in. They would enjoy projecting themselves into a game and building the story in their mind. That was a key element from games in the 90s that I wanted to integrate with I am Setsuna.


I can see that. When players look at, say Terra from Final Fantasy VI, or even Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, the characters aren’t as detailed so players fill in the details with their imagination and everyone adds a personal touch to their view on a character. Comparatively, when you look at Noctis from Final Fantasy XV there’s only one way to look at him.

[Laughs] I feel there is a trend that a lot of games, even RPGs, have leaned towards action-oriented combat. Tokyo RPG Factory’s mission for I am Setsuna was to bring back the turn-based RPG battle system which worked really well in the golden era of JRPGs. We wanted to feature that in the game. I can’t say for all of our titles that will be a characteristic we will incorporate, but turn based battle systems were one of the charms in the 90s.


I am Setsuna will release in the West this summer for PlayStation 4 and PC.

Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera. Gamer, avid hockey fan, and firm believer in the heart of the cards.