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The title of the game has a dual meaning.
on November 8, 2009
A dual meaning, and one of those meanings is the reason it's getting blasted unfairly in game reviews across the Interweb. But I digress. If I had to summarize Nostalgia, I would say it would be what you'd end up with if you tried to put the prequel to Skies of Arcadia on the DS. Of course, very few people played the Dreamcast classic, so I'll try to be as detailed as possible.
Nostalgia takes place in an alternate, possibly near future, version of today's world. You will visit many famous cities, such as London and New York, and landmarks, such as Mt. Fuji and the Easter Islands. Your hero is Edward (Eddie) Brown, the son of Gilbert Brown, a famed adventurer. As the game begins you'll take brief control of Gilbert who is trying to save a young lady from someone. Peril befalls him and the girl is stranded aboard his airship, which later crash lands. Eddie sets out to become an adventurer, primarily to find out what happened to his father and bring him home.
The game being called "Nostalgia" could not be more appropriate. This is as old school as they come. The graphics are reminiscent of Final Fantasy IV on DS, using polygonal 3D drawings. There are no voices, no animated scenes, nothing. It's as barebones as they come. The battle engine is simplified turn-based - meaning there are no flashy combos to be had here. There are some co-op attacks that you get later, much later. Beyond that it's as I said...old school. If you don't like them to be this old school, skip the game, because it's the primary reason the reviewers on gaming sites are blasting the game - because it "sticks too closely to its roots". For some, that's a big positive, for some it's not. The story is very lighthearted, easy to understand what's going on, with not too many plot twists or loopholes. It's easy to tell that the story was not the focal point of creating this game; a lot of it seems thrown together and not really thought out. Characters develop bonds out of nowhere with no real background, and plot development was lacking.
Once you become an adventurer, you'll be asked to take on optional quests. These range from simple search-and-destroy missions to navigating a dungeon to find something else. As you defeat the missions you get experience and an explorer rank - neither of which are critical to beating the game, although the experience does help. In truth, the quests are a front to the true purpose of the game...which I won't reveal as it's a slight spoiler, but bottom line, the quests are not in any way required, none of them. As you defeat enemies you also get skill points, which can be used to build up your special attacks. There is a branching structure to this. For example, you might have one or two skills that have to be at a certain minimum level in order to unlock the next skill. So on and so forth, until you've locked all except your hidden attack, which is unlocked near the end of the game.
Outside of the basic team battles are ship battles. These take place aboard the airship you'll eventually encounter, and are an extremely simplified system where instead of your regular attacks from your team members, each uses a different component of the ship: hull blade, gatling guns, cannons, or orb shooter. If you're ever going to get wasted in this game, it'll likely be the ship battles. The ship doesn't have enough energy to sustain itself once you start getting into the game, and even near the end, some enemies do attacks that will blow away half of your energy with one shot. It's extremely frustrating, especially when you're forced to do ship battles at parts, considering you might have just waxed your way through enemies and bosses in the regular fights.
So with that, here's what's happening:
-=- What Nostalgia Does RIGHT -=-
* Easy to learn, easy to get into.
* Normal battle engine, makes efficient use of the DS's buttons.
* IT calls itself "Nostalgia" and that's what it is - a refreshing trip down memory lane of what RPGs used to be.
* A lot of attention to detail: sprite animations, mouths moving with text, wheelchair movements, etc.
* Using real landmarks was an interesting approach to things (although, see WRONG below).
* More bonus dungeons after you beat the game.
-=- What Nostalgia Does WRONG -=-
* Ship battles are quite annoying and not well done at all. Some won't even let you escape even though you have a path clear.
* The encounter rate is a bit steep. Not Albert Odyssey or Beyond the Beyond bad...but it can get annoying after a while.
* It would have been nice if more cities were represented even if they weren't central to the story.
* Characters develop bonds out of thin air. No build up or development whatsoever.
* The whole ship part should have been more fleshed out. Buy/build your own ship, more outfit options, etc.
In short, is it recommended? Not at its full retail price. I would wait until it's had at least one price drop because quite frankly, while you will get a lot of gameplay out of this one (well over 30 hours with questing and bonus dungeons), it doesn't offer enough compelling content to justify the full retail.