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Platform

DS

 

Genre

Role Playing

 

Publisher

Ignition Entertainment

 

Developer

Matrix Software / Red Entertainment

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

October 27, 2009

 

 

- A mechanically solid JRPG that doesn't really do anything wrong

 

 

- Fairly bland JRPG that doesn't really do anything interesting

 

 

Review: Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)

Review: Blue Dragon Plus (DS)

Review: Lux-Pain (DS)

 

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Nostalgia

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

nostalgia          nostalgia

 

The Japanese role playing genre has been pacing a bit of a dilemma lately. It's no secret that Japanese development in the HD console era has been lagging behind, causing many to concentrate on the more lucrative portable platforms. As a result of technological constraints, most new JRPGs have tended to hearken back to the ages of 16-bit (and early 32-bit) RPGs - not necessarily a bad thing, for those who prefer more straightforward games to trendy, CG-delivered excess.

 

Here we have Nostalgia, developed by Matrix Software, published by Tecmo in Japan and localized by Ignition. As the title not-so-subtly implies, it too is meant to be a throwback to simpler times. It includes stock characters, random battles, and unironically begins with a sewer maze. The game focuses on young Edward Brown, who aspires to be like his adventurer father, who has mysteriously gone missing.

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Naturally, Edward decides to take off in an airship to search the globe, gather some compatriots, find his dad, and make a name for himself.

 

The atmosphere is superficially similar to Sega's excellent Skies of Arcadia, especially with a young girl named Fiona who wields mysterious powers, although the themes of grand adventure are

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also shared with Game Art's Grandia. While Skies of Arcadia used a world suspiciously similar to our own Earth, Nostalgia doesn't pull any punches and mimics reality almost exactly. While the game begins in Europe, you'll travel to the pyramids in Egypt, St. Petersburg in Russia, Mt. Fuji in Japan, New york City in the USA, El Dorado in South America, and even the Acropolis in Greece. Some of the sidequests revolve around the lost city of Atlantis or the lost continent of Mu. The style is something similar to late 1800s Victorian Europe, although people here travel with airships that look something like blimps. The real world locations might sound cool, especially seeing the different locations that you visit, but this excitement is quickly quelled when you see that

 London has been reduced to a simple, two screen JRPG town. As such, it feels like a real missed opportunity.

 

The battle system is a fairly standard turn-based affair, with character and enemies portraits appearing on the lower screen indicating the order of attack. The battles play out slowly and uninterestingly, and although there are random encounters, the frequency is fairly low, and there's rarely any case where you need to resort to grinding. While the standard battles are fairly traditional,  the airship battles change things up a little bit. Instead of characters attacking individually, each one mans a different weapon on the airship, each with different properties. The main difference is that there's a single shared HP meter for the whole ship, and there are different items to cure it. Because of this, they're also substantially harder, unless you're really careful.

 

nostalgia           nostalgia

 

All battles award you extra experience and gold based on your performance, and while it's easy to quickly deplete your skill points with special attacks - an issue in the early stages of the game when resources are limited - save points will replenish everything. There's a fairly straightforward skill system tree to choose new skills at level-ups, but otherwise character customization isn't too involved. The Royal Exploration Agency, which you join at the beginning, offers several subquests, although a number of of them involve replaying old dungeons.

 

All of the visuals are 3D, and the music is unmemorable, which is one of Nostalgia's biggest missed opportunities - if you want to remind gamers of the days of old, why not used Square-style pixel graphics and SNES-style music? (Then again, the Western-developed Black Sigil: Blade of Exile tried something similar and worked pretty well in that regards, but failed in every other aspect.) To be fair, the polygonal graphics are pretty okay for a DS game, mostly because it was developed by the same folks that did the Final Fantasy DS remakes for Square, and some of the environments later on look pretty decent. But the character designs, which should logically draw from the 80s/90s anime style, instead just look amateurish.

 

There's nothing that Nostalgia does that's explicitly bad - the storyline isn't great and the writing is drab, but it's serviceable, and the battle system is solid without doing anything really interesting. Rather, it faces a crisis of purpose - Skies or Arcadia and Grandia are both much better games in every area, and even if you're looking for a classic portable RPG, you're much better off with the Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest remakes. It's the sort of generic title that you only play if you've exhausted everything else.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(December 15, 2009)

 

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