Nostalgia is a RPG published by Ignition Entertainment for the Nintendo DS, released on October 27th, 2009. The developers of the title include RPG veterans from Tecmo and Matrix Studios, well known for the 3D remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV on the DS. Does the game capture the magic of those DS titles in more than just visual style?
The game takes place in an alternate 19th century in which steampunk elements reign. London is the setting for the story and we meet Eddie, the son of a famous explorer who has gone missing. In order to obtain an airship to look for him, Eddie must join the Adventurer's Association. Upon seeking membership, Eddie is tasked with eliminating the monsters in the nearby East End sewers. Then the game begins.
Graphics are in 3D with that somewhat grainy presentation that fans of Final Fantasy III will be familiar with. These graphics serve the game well, but I can't help but think how much high-res 2D would have benefited Nostalgia, for ...nostalgia purposes. This minor point aside, the graphics do a great job at presenting the alternate world of Nostalgia, with its well-rendered depictions of London, Cairo, and other areas. I also like the design of the airships, which remind this reviewer of the Dreamcast classic, Skies of Arcadia. Enemies are also expressive, even if their attacks are pretty standard. The enemies feel right at home in many of the reimagined environments, be in mummies in Egypt or the oddly humongous eagles in airship battles. Could they be, "as big as a battleship?!"
Music is standard RPG fare, with rousing melodies for encounters and more contemplative tunes for friendly environments. I really like the airship battle theme a lot, more so than the standard battle theme. It reminds me of pieces from Final Fantasy IX by Nobuo Uematsu.
Gameplay plays like most any RPG in history, with turn based battles, MP for spells, unique skills for each member, and experience for leveling up. Skills are learnt by leveling up as normal, but they must be unlocked and upgraded using the AP that characters earn in battle. These skills differ from each character, and do a lot to prevent the battles from becoming boring.
This is as such because characters like Eddie function toward physical attack power, so strategy dictates that you use his attacks on the stronger enemies while Pad and others provide backup. This reminds me of the system in Final Fantasy IV, in which certain characters had to work in tandem with the stronger members, as they often had difficulty killing monsters on their own.
The addition of airship battles brings something new to Nostalgia. While these battles function like regular battles; each party member mans a different weapon on the Maverick and enemies take positions on multiple sides, requiring the player to watch their surroundings carefully. However, it should be noted that airship battles can be deadly early on due to enemy preemptive attacks, which brings the challenge up a few notches.
As with other RPGs, Nostalgia is as hard as you want it to be; grinding is the solution to any challenges you encounter in the game. That aside, the boss encounters are quite easy, you rarely need to do more than just use all your skills and MP. Regular encounters are strangely the opposite, with many basic enemies having a surprising amount of HP. Be sure to make careful use of your skills so as not to wind up high and dry. Overall, I would say that if you are experienced with different kinds of RPGs, you will do just fine with Nostalgia.
Replay value is high in Nostalgia due to the customizability of the character ability system. While each character has only one pre-determined class, you can choose which skills to power up and others to ignore, allowing Eddie and the others to play quite differently each game. Much like Final Fantasy III, another Matrix game, there are many different ways to mold your characters, be it through varied classes or utilizing upgrade shards. There are also secret dungeons to find and other treasures. Best of all these sidequests can be done even after completing the final dungeon, turning the game into an open-ended quest, with even more secrets becoming available after you've completed this area.
In summation, Nostalgia is another fine RPG from the development team known as Matrix. They are fast becoming a force to be respected in the handheld RPG playing field. I would very much like to see them tackle a console RPG; a field that I feel is becoming increasingly stagnant in the last few years.
Handheld games are no less ambitious in scale or scope, only budget, than their console counterparts. If Matrix could make a game with the care and dedication we see in games like Nostalgia, fans of the RPG genre could very well be in store for one of the greatest games in years, possibly even comparable to the great role playing games of the Super Nintendo.
- Ugly Bob