If you grew up playing 8-bit and 16-bit RPGs like the early entries in the Dragon Warrior series or Final Fantasy series, you have to check out Nostalgia.
Taking place in a steampunk version of the 19th century, Nostalgia liberally borrows from 8-bit and 16-bit RPGs. Airships, young kids traveling the world, a variety of personalities ranging from evil to hilarious, straightforward turn-based battles, and a simplistic upgrade system combined with pixelated graphics make Nostalgia’s name very appropriate. The main storyline follows a young English boy named Eddie, who is on a mission to find his world-renown missing father. Some of the people he meets along the way decide to join him, and as they continue on their adventure, it becomes clear that finding a missing adventurous father isn’t the only hardship they will have to deal with.
The strangest thing about this game is that even though it is designed with obvious influences, it still feels creative and original. It’s really weird; the storyline pulls details from all of the major early-90′s RPG franchises, the music sounds like a cross between Breath of Fire and Final Fantasy, the simplistic turn-based combat is technically outdated and overly simple…yet, this still feels like a wholly new creation. I’m not sure if it’s because of the Steampunk setting, or the presentation, or what it was, but somehow this game feels like a nice break from the same old same old that we gamers have had to put up with lately.
The biggest difference between Nostalgia and it’s ancestors is the difficulty. There are some portions of the game that get tough, but for the most part you should have no problem finishing this game. Thanks to a fairly generous save system that (like everything else) feels like an improved version of what came before, Nostalgia is an easy game to pick up and play for 15-20 minutes when you have a little bit of down time. It’s never too difficult to figure out where you need to go, and you can save whenever you want to, except while in a dungeon. You can only quicksave and quite while in a dungeon, or you can go the old school route and save at specified points. None of the dungeons are all that huge though, so quicksaving will likely be a rare occurrence.
Visually, the game does a good job of mixing modern DS-capable graphics with old-school designs. For a full-blown nostalgic experience, I would have liked to have seen the developers go with a 2D sprite-based visual style rather than the pixelated 3D that Nintendo’s handheld is capable of producing, but the visuals don’t detract from the experience too much. The game does however make some of the best use of the DS’ two screens I’ve seen to date.
Since many of the old 8-bit and 16-bit RPGs combined magic with technology, an alternate Steampunk universe is the perfect setting for a game whose intention is to ignite nostalgic thoughts. It’s very difficult to describe just how effective this game is at bringing up memories from my younger gaming days…but don’t worry if you weren’t into RPGs back then: while having experience with those kinds of games in your youth will enable you to enjoy Nostalgia much more (similar to reading the book before seeing the movie), this is still a great game for people new to the genre. In fact, I could see this game piquing the interest of younger gamers to check out things like Dragon Warrior or non-3D Final Fantasy games. Despite its nostalgic intentions, it has been put together well enough to stand on its own merits.
Whether you are looking for a trip down memory lane, want to try out a genre you thought had dried up (the old-school JRPG), or are just looking for a fun game you can either pick up for short bursts of time or spend the entire afternoon playing, I highly recommend you give this one a try. Nostalgia is a stand out title for the DS, one that is deserving of your attention.