Winter Blues – Why I am Setsuna is Leaving Me Cold

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder typically starts “in the late fall and early winter.” It continues throughout the winter, eventually subsiding in spring to early summer.

There are many symptoms of SAD and the resulting depression, but one in particular stood out to me in regards to I am Setsuna: “losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.”

Initially, I am Setsuna felt like a launch day dream come true. A polished turn-based JRPG from Square Enix inspired by my favorite role playing game of all time, Chrono Trigger that’s showing up on Switch launch day? And I can play it on the TV or in portable mode? Needless to say, I purchased the game at launch.

At first, I was smitten. Setsuna provided a chill(y) break from the sometimes-punishing Breath of the Wild. I appreciated being able to curl up on the couch in portable mode and play a traditional JRPG on the Switch’s gorgeous screen.

However, as time went on, the game began to wear on me with its oppressive linearity, slow combat, and bleak-yet-awkward-and-emotionless-story. While the predominantly-piano soundtrack felt like a bold choice during the first few hours, by hour 12 I was desperately craving a cheesy prog-rock boss battle theme.

But mostly, I just wanted to get out of the cold.

What I’ve played of Setsuna takes place entirely in a dreary winter bummer-land, with white and grey as far as the eye can see. Although this color palette approach felt like a thoughtful artistic choice initially, now I feel that even if the game were to introduce some new environments, it would be too late.

While I appreciate that Square Enix continues to cultivate young talent and make JRPGs inspired by those of the 16/32-bit era, Setsuna has left me cold and numb. At about 14 hours in, I am more than halfway through the game. Yet those remaining 8-10 hours feel like an impossible task that I can’t seem to find the motivation for.

I guess that’s why they call it the blues.

Note: I’ll be honest- I was somewhat uncomfortable bringing up Seasonal Affective Disorder and Depression when discussing a video game, no matter how cleverly it “fit.” I certainly didn’t want to make light of any of these disorders, and I justified these allusions because “it takes one to know one.” Despite having a total kick-ass life, I’ve suffered from incapacitating bouts of anxiety, hopelessness, and other symptoms of depression.

With that said, I wanted to provide some resources for understanding (the first step!) and treating these more-common-than-you-think disorders:

The National Institute for Mental Health

To Write Love On Her Arms

Of course, my DMs are always open on Twitter and you can email us at nintendofunclubpodcast@gmail.com. I’m not saying I’ll always (or ever) have an answer, but I know from experience that sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to listen and empathize. We’re a community, and we’re all in this together.

Thanks for being here and being cool,

-Ryan

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