Nostalgia is aptly named, for a few reasons. The idea of the game has existed for over a decade, though development of it on the DS did not begin until much more recently. As you play through the game, you will see a varied set of influences from an expansive and rich period of gaming in the genre–you may have played many of the games Nostalgia’s developers got their muse from, but you’ve probably never played them all together in one place. At times, this makes Nostalgia a special RPG, as it pays tribute to the past while using its own ideas to craft a memorable and long-lasting experience, but at other times, it makes the game feel like Dƒ©jƒ Vu was a more appropriate title than the one on the box.
Developer: Matrix Software/Red Entertainment
Oct. 27, 2009
You play as Eddie Brown, the son of world-famous adventurer Gilbert Brown. You’re in search of your father, who has gone missing–the opening to the game finds you in control of Gilbert, so while Eddie isn’t aware of what has occurred, you, the gamer, are. You decide, using the same character traits that make Gilbert who he is, that you will go out on your own to find out what’s happened to dear old dad, and make a name for yourself as an advennturer while you’re at it. Your first task as an adventures involves clearing rats out of London’s sewers–the game uses real-life locales in the 19th century (with a steampunk twist)–and you meet your second party member there, Pad. From there you get your airship, find out a little more info about what happened to your father, and then spend the rest of the game exploring caves, dungeons, towers, ruins, jungles and the skies in search of your father and eventually, as the force capable of defeating an evil organization bent on world domination.
The characters are generally likable, though there are some issues. While there’s no groan-worthy character in your main party, none of them are particularly endearing either–this may have more to do with the dialogue than the characters themselves, as there isn’t that much talking in Nostalgia, or a least, not that much exposition to expand on the character’s personalities. This causes the story to have less of an impact on you, since you don’t have as much of a connection to the characters.
One thing I do enjoy is the fact that a fifth member of the party often joins, and it rotates among many of the game’s important NPCs. While you can’t control them, it’s just one more layer of strategy for your battles, as they either heal you (freeing up your healer for attacking) or are very powerful attackers, which helps you finish battles more quickly. There are stretches in the game where you will always have a fifth person, even if it’s a bunch of different people filling that role.
The story, while predictable at times given its obvious hat-tips to the genre, stands on its own two legs and succeeds, in spite of the lack of particularly interesting characters. Whether you like the characters or not, the game does push you to what to find out more about what is going on in the main story. You also get the chance to flesh out the main characters through side stories: Fiona has memories of a past life, Pad doesn’t know who his mother is, and Melody was an orphan in a village full of wizards–it’s up to you to learn more about them. These side stories open up brand new locations not available to you in the main story, and they also give you chances to take on some difficult bosses and earn loads of experience and money. What’s also nice is that you don’t have to do any of that before beating the last boss–the endgame allows you to continue with your save so you can complete Nostalgia at 100%, regardless of whether you’ve saved the world or not yet.
Setting is a strong point of Nostalgia. The use of real-world locations gives the developers more freedom than you would expect, as they can give their own steampunk version of London, St. Petersburg, or New York. While the cities themselves are not affected much by the steampunk elements, the locations near them–high-tech, secret bases, airships, magic and the like–make the surrounding areas that much cooler to explore. The developers also did a wonderful job with the music in this title. The soundtrack is great, from each city’s respective music that fits the setting–eastern-influenced tracks for Japan and India, fitting jungle tunes and desert songs for South America and Africa–to the battle, boss and dungeon music. It’s one of the highlights of the game, and one of the better RPG soundtracks I’ve heard in awhile.
Graphically, Nostalgia looks much like of Matrix Software’s other DS efforts (Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV) though sometimes it looks better or worse depending on your location. The 3D models are nice to look at though, and the art direction for the game–including enemy, dungeon and town design–works well. Some areas can be a little more boring or graphically behind than other parts of the game, but they don’t detract from the experience too much overall.