Nostalgia - Reader Review  

Up, Up and Away
by Jerry Gallen

20-40 Hours
+ Final Fantasy X meets Skies of Arcadia.
+ Tight control.
+ Nice music and graphics.
- Earth is donut-shaped?
- Some missables.
- Story is a tad generic.
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   Wind of Nostalgio, developed by Red Entertainment and Matrix Software, the latter company responsible for the Nintendo DS versions of the third and fourth Final Fantasies, saw its English release in 2009 as Nostalgia. Many have labeled it a “traditional old-school RPG,” a throwback to older titles in the genre, given its supposed archaic mechanisms, although since the game borrows far more heavily from RPGs made in the current millennium rather than true “old-school” RPGs like the Dragon Quest games, these allegations are, at best, misleading, if not completely false.

   Nostalgia takes place on that world map with which most people are familiar, Earth, and follows the adventures of Edward “Eddie” Brown, a boy from a nineteenth-century steampunk London, who travels on his airship with his friends in search of his missing father, visiting many familiar, and in a few instances original, places in the world. Through his journey, Eddie and company will ultimately come into conflict with an organization known as the Ancient Father’s Cabal.

   Nostalgia features two modes of combat, ground battles in dungeons and airship battles on the overworld, both turn-based. However, aside from random encounters, the game doesn’t have a “traditional” turn-based battle system like the Dragon Quest games, where the player inputs all commands for their party and lets them and the enemy beat each other up in a round, with no telling whatsoever who will go when. Instead, Nostalgia features a structure of combat similar to that in Final Fantasy X, where the player’s party of up to four characters and the enemy appear on a turn order gauge, with their order dependent upon speed, and the player’s characters execute their commands immediately after input.

London, Enguhland Home to bad food, crappy weather, and Mary Poppins

   Ground battle commands include attacking normally, using MP-consuming skills, defending, using an item, or attempting to escape (while this option doesn’t always work, a certain consumable item guarantees escape from battle). Every command, after use, has a certain recovery time before the acting character takes their next turn, with skills tending to have the longest wait times. After a victory, each character gains experience, and the player acquires money, occasional items, and shared Skill Points they can invest into each character’s skill tree to level their skills, which can decrease their MP use and wait time, and ultimately unlock more powerful skills. Winning battles quickly will net the player bonuses among these typical battle rewards.

   Airship battles follow a similar structure to ground battles, with each of the four characters controlling a certain airship weapon, and each taking turns depending upon speed alongside the enemy. Commands include attacking, using a character-specific ability, using special MP-consuming airship skills available in each ally’s skill tree alongside ground skills, using items, and attempting to escape, with consumable flee Stones again guaranteeing escape if desired. Victory results in the same rewards as ground battles.

   Since the player will encounter more ground battles than airship battles, some might get the temptation to invest Skill Points solely in ground skills while ignoring airship skills; this is a huge mistake, as airship battles can easily slaughter the player if they’re not careful, and there are a few airship bosses, as well. All in all, the battle system is enjoyable, unless players think that simplicity in RPGs sucks, with the only real flaws being that the escape option, for some reason, is still available in inescapable boss battles, and that the game leaves players clueless about how to use airship plans found occasionally in dungeons.

My dumb-dumb wishes to speak! "Hey dumb-dumb! Where's my gum-gum?"

   Interaction is just as solid, with easy menus, controls, and a quicksave, and the player able to get a reminder on how to advance if ever lost, and aside from some missable opportunities to complete automaps and items, not to mention some genius developer thinking that earth is donut-shaped, this aspect doesn’t leave much room for improvement.

   Nostalgia is not a terribly inventive game, filching elements from Final Fantasy X and Skies of Arcadia, in spite of airship combat not being the same, and the story isn’t exactly original either, borrowing from titles such as Illusion of Gaia and Arcadia as well. The story itself is pretty much the only part of the game one could consider “generic,” given the typical goal of stopping a group of villains from taking over the world, with character development being nothing special, either, although some sidequests do occasionally add a little plot. The translation is passable, aside from some minor errors, and overall, the plot isn’t a big reason to pay the game, but neither is it a great deterrent.

   Nostalgia’s soundtrack is inarguably one of the best on the Nintendo DS, with a sweeping, epic central theme, plenty of catchy town themes, fitting dungeon tracks, and energetic battle themes. The 3-D visuals are nice as well, aside from some pixilated texturing on close-up, and that they definitely won’t satisfy those who think DS 3-D sucks. Still, a nice-sounding and looking game.

   Finally, the game will last players about twenty to forty hours, though plenty of post-game content, such as acquiring 100% completion, can make it last beyond sixty hours. All in all, Nostalgia is a simple but fun (for those who don’t mind simplicity) RPG that borrows good elements from other titles and makes them work well together, in spite of a somewhat-generic plot. If you want a true “traditional old-school RPG,” play the Dragon Quest games; if you want an enjoyable modern RPG, play Nostalgia.

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