This time I review Nostalgia on the Nintendo DS, a game that throws in all the elements of RPGs in the past and delivers a game that many RPG fans will play through with a smile on their face. It came out sometime in October in the States but I only played it recently so here’s my late arrival to the party.
The game starts off with a slideshow of artwork (this is the intro, nothing like Final Fantasy IV‘s impressive one). This sets expectations for Nostalgia at a really low level and the initial storyline makes little sense with the typical “hero saving an unknown girl and risking his own life” and this is commonplace throughout this game. Of course, it’s all about nostalgia so I can’t really complain, can I? Well what else is reminiscent of RPG characters of the last decade? Yup, the unknown girl suffers amnesia. This makes for one cheesy and over-the-top game and I loved every minute of it.
The game revolves around Eddie, searching for his father who happens to be an explorer and you go off around the 19th-century real world to find him. I saw most of the twists coming in from a mile off (thanks to the all those RPGs I’ve played already) but to be fair, the game does try to break up the play with the Explorer’s Agency dishing out side quests which prove vital to levelling up your characters without getting too bored of grinding (that’s another item checked off the cliché list!).
The places to visit are very diverse as you would imagine and I enjoyed exploring every inch of London, Cairo, Siberia, Rio de Janeiro and the other locales in the game. There were the mandatory dungeons as well which were okay but the nature of the game dictated that it should have the ever popular random battles while you solve puzzles. This spoilt the fun a little as the battles in this game can see you go down very easily if you’re not managing your MP well enough or you get lazy and decide to spam the action button. It’s a good thing then that the puzzles in this game are very basic; they are nothing as complex as the ones found in Zelda games.
So that brings me nicely onto the combat system and it’s not nothing new. If you played Final Fantasy IV then take that and minus the waiting system and there you have it. A traditional turn-based system with a few additions including the battle order on the bottom screen along with the usual magic, skills, items and run options. Overpowering your enemies grants you experience points, money and skill points (SP). The latter are used to upgrade your character’s skillsets which give more reason for you to grind to make life a little easier in this game. If you aim to max out the skills, it will take a lot of hours that will run into double-digits. As long as you are well-stocked with healing items to use in-between battles (levelling up also heals you which helps a great deal in the larger dungeons), you shouldn’t need to do any SP grinding. Some skills cannot be obtained by levelling alone and are learnt as the story progresses.
Outside of dungeons, you have what some may notice from Skies of Arcadia, airship battles. These occur when you transverse over the world map and running into certain enemies can mean you die quite easily. On the topic of travelling, it would’ve been nice to see some names to the map as finding some of the places when you’re off to start a sidequest can get very frustrating (I didn’t use an Atlas). Just worth mentioning, the game directs you to the next location by highlighting an area in the world map when you’re following the core storyline so that isn’t a problem in this case. The airship can be customized at the docks with the option of buying new parts for the ship.
Graphics are like a roller-coaster in this game. The battle animations are great while at other times, the quality seems to suffer a bit. You’ll need to see this yourself to understand my point. Likewise, the music in this game has it’s moments. Some are very memorable and most are appropriate for their settings. The victory fanfare is probably the only one that will stick in your head once you finish this game.
Other things worth mentioning are that equipments can be brought in shops and the rarer ones are in the dungeons themselves. The game encourages exploration and completion, this can be tracked by the journal found in the menu. The fog on the map screen (like Final Fantasy IV) can be cleared as you walk around every inch of the map. NPCs will also help you out through various parts of the game, some will just whack the enemies while others provide useful healing at the start of each round.
In conclusion, Nostalgia is like a product of many bygone RPG classics. It doesn’t really have anything new to show for itself but it does everything else well. It doesn’t have a frustrating random encounter rate like Black Sigil and it encourages exploration and really that’s all I asked for when I saw this game. A must-have for anyone that loves a light-hearted RPG.