Mediocre but not without some charm
Nostalgia is a project dreamed up by Naoki Morita (the creator of the Sakura Taisen series) as early as 1996, but wasn’t realized until more than a decade later. It stars a young British boy named Edward who wants to become an adventurer like his father, who has recently gone missing. It takes place in an alternate 19th century Earth, and includes famous cities such as London, New York, Cairo, and Tokyo. In his search for his Indiana Jones-ish dad, Edward discovers that a secret organization known as The Ancient Father’s Cabal is trying to gather 7 fragments of a mystical artifact. He’ll take to the skies aboard an air ship to solve the mystery, which sadly doesn’t capitalize on the game’s real world setting much.
Nostalgia is a traditional Japanese role-playing game, and it doesn’t deviate much from established conventions. The random encounter rate is a bit high and you’ll fall back on the same set of skills time and time again to get through them. One unique touch is that, while characters level up independently, they share attribute points which can be spent to upgrade individual abilities.
You don’t explore the world map on foot. You’ll fly from one destination to another on your air ship, which will eventually fly at three different altitudes. You’ll have to ascend to fly over mountains and clouds which block your progress, but you’ll face more difficult enemies the higher up you go.
Air Ship Battles
In battles aboard the air ship, each character mans a different weapon. It all plays out a little too much like a regular battle, and throws realism completely out the window. Despite having enemies attack from three different directions, there isn’t really any extra strategy required. This is rather disappointing since SEGA’s fantastic Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn, 1998) features a flying battle system that could have been copied to great effect here.
Likewise you can upgrade your ship throughout the game with new weapons and armor, much like outfitting a regular party member, but you won’t see any interesting customization options.
Matrix Software knows the DS inside and out, and Nostalgia features a competent graphics engine. Unfortunately the awful design work results in some pretty dopey looking characters (especially the monsters). However, the various settings based on real world cities can be fun to run around in.
The main problem is that the game doesn’t maintain the 19th century feel throughout, nor does it pay much respect to cultural differences. One of the main characters is from a small village in France, but is just a typical wizard (pointy hat and all). And there’s never any explanation given for the appearance of monsters. With so many of the world’s cultures to draw from, it’s rather disappointing that it relies on ideas regurgitated from pure fantasy games. And despite featuring characters from different parts of the world, only one character’s speech has a discernible accent.
Clearly, Nostalgia cannot be considered one of the great role-playing games available for the Nintendo DS, but it’s not a bad game. Had it stuck to a more faithful representation of the time period (using more human enemies and less magical stuff) Nostalgia would have been something special. But if you’ve already played the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games and are still looking for another old school RPG to play, Nostalgia is a decent back up to have in your roster. Its use of real world locations (even if they’re far from accurate) sets it apart, and luckily it doesn’t overstay its welcome (clocking in at around 20 hours).