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Nostalgia (DS) artwork

Nostalgia (DS) review

"It’s nice to just pick up an RPG that doesn’t have you sitting through hours of pretentious dribble about how Villain X used to be valiant and brave until Fate stepped in and cock-slapped them, and play it."

Nostalgia starts with a nameless evil faction strong-arming a frail-looking young girl into retrieving an ancient artefact. There’s a commotion and a heroic looking hero bursts in, destroys all the evil minions and rescues the girl, as heroes are wont to do. The pair flee to a zeppelin conveniently parked nearby until the evil leader of the evil cult evilly appears and engages in a scuffle! He is, of course, unbeatable and the corresponding outcome is the frail girl’s escape while the hero’s fate is unknown.

It makes no bones about trying to live up to its name and provides an early RPG experience, offering a loose focus on the plot and instead inviting you to build them stats and wallop them nasties. And it effortlessly succeeds; after the clichéd beginnings, the game introduces the clichéd lead character who, as the son of the famous adventurer who is now MIA, vows to find daddy immediately! Before he sets out, he’s thrown into a beginner’s dungeon to test his worth. Here, he finds the laundry list of clichés continue. Within the stinking stone passages he finds:

  • His first party member; a spirited street punk with a firearm and a missing mother!

  • Random encounters!

  • Unopened chests full of booty!

  • Angry rats -- the universal RPG beginner’s monster since 1982!

  • You battle the rats in a turn-based fashion, spamming special attacks governed by Nostalgia‘s version of MP, to gain experience and raise base levels. Eventually, your party will grow to include a spunky spellslinger and a timid priestess who come complete with fire spells and healing buffs. Nostalgia has no shame in how deep its roots extend back into the 8/16 bit era, but that doesn’t mean it’s not afraid to branch out from there. Your party’s special attacks are spread across a skill graph, allowing you to spend special points gained in battle to power up learnt abilities or even unlock new ones.

    Once out of the dank sewers, you’ll find yourself in an alternative Earth circa early 20th century, replete with shiny new steampunk shenanigans and faithful geography. Nostalgia puts aside its main goal in several aspects, and exploration is one of these: the world is a huge blank canvas to explore, and rather than be led by the hand to each new town, dungeon and plot point, you’re given the rough direction and politely shown the front door without so much as a cup of cocoa. Along with the usual strain of combat, you also need to protect your airship from the giant eagles, pirate ships and angry genies that roam the skies. Your first trip away from stately London (and the tourist hotspot that is the sewers, always open for random exploration) might take you to sand-swept Cairo or ask you to brave the snowstorms to reach St. Petersburg.

    I like Nostalgia. I like how it makes a modest attempt to look back on an age that we, as antiquated, bitter gamers, always declare as a simpler and better time, and I like how it brings the charm inherent in that era out. I especially like how it takes that as a foundation and, instead of resting on its laurels and using that as an excuse, it strikes out further to try and find its own identity. Some ideas, like the ability to take on special mission for the Adventurer’s Guild, don’t pan out as well as they could have -- this feature often sends you back into already conquered dungeons to face new boss fights for varying rewards and little else, but the effort is appreciated. Other side tasks, such as chatting up locals for information and searching the globe for long-lost landmarks, can be undertaken or ignored to your desire, but a running record of how many lost locations you find to a complete monster list are kept for the completionist in us all to obsess over. I could complain the ease of the game -- and I will! Most of the boss fights can be completed by using the same tactic spammed over and over again. It’s made all the easier by the fact that, especially if you undertake the Adventurer Guild missions, you’ll often find your party several levels higher than they need be.

    It’s a shame, but it’s not enough to dispel the game’s invigorating look over its shoulder. The characters rarely stray past their respective stereotypes, the interactions between the party can be predicted a mile away and the plot shows open guilt the few times it strays away from the overall archetype of “justice-loving kids take on horrid and mean adults with vague world domination plans”. It’s nice to just pick up and play an RPG that doesn’t have you sitting through hours of pretentious dribble about how Villain X used to be valiant and brave until Fate stepped in and cock-slapped him.

    Sometimes, when we dust off the things from the past that we remember fondly, we get nothing more than a broken heart and the unwelcome stench of decay. Nostalgia could have ended up the same, but manages to take the highlights from the period it chooses to glorify and subtly builds upon them.


    EmP's avatar
    Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 10, 2010)

    Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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    board icon
    CoarseDragon posted April 22, 2010:

    It would have been interesting to include that battles are ranked C through S and S rankings give you better rewards after battle.

    Otherwise nice review.
    board icon
    EmP posted April 22, 2010:

    Thanks. I thought the ranked battles was a cool touch, but I'm not sure it warranted a mention in a review I wanted to keep purposefully brief. But, upon rereading, there's a couple of placing I might be able to fit it in without loss -- thanks for the suggestion!
    board icon
    CoarseDragon posted April 23, 2010:

    Seemed to me like a good spot was when you mentioned spamming attacks on the boss.

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