Rewind the clock some 120 odd years, turn history on its head by way of airships and magic, and you'll have the ground work for Ignition Entertainment's latest Nintendo DS RPG, Nostalgia. Developed by a lot of the same folk behind Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV for the DS, Nostalgia is a fully 3D adventure staring Edward "Eddie" Brown as he searches the world for his lost father. With strong titles under the development team's belt, one would imagine innovation and refined quality would lie within their latest foray, but a tale of adventure is bound to be full of surprises.
In the world of Nostalgia, adventuring is quite the industry. Eddie Brown is the son of one of the most well known adventurers around, Gilbert Brown. While tall tales of Gilbert's exploits are merely hinted at, one particular trip to a tower somewhere around the Middle East leads to Gilbert's disappearance. When word makes its way to his family home in London, England, Eddie immediately volunteers to search for his father when no one will, and so begins Nostalgia.
Lucky for Eddie, his father's airship was recovered from the Mediterranean Sea and brought back to London. Whereas most RPGs with explore-able world maps work their way up through different modes of transportation to eventually lead to some sort of airborne machine, Eddie is immediately given access to his father's airship, the Maverick. Setting out from London, in the first few hours of the game Eddie amasses a party of four - Pad, Melody, Fiona, and Eddie himself - and sets out across the globe on a search that quickly leads to bigger things as Eddie's father's disappearance is just what gets things rolling.
Gameplay in Nostalgia is typical for an RPG. Eddie can run around dungeons and towns on foot, but can only traverse the world via the airship. The game has a fairly consistent cycle of flying to a town or city, having a bit of story progression, followed by Eddie and crew heading off to a mission in a dungeon of some kind. Battles occur at random while both flying the airship and walking about in dungeons, with a turn based system for both. When a random battle occurs on foot or in the air, the screen simply swirls like many other RPGs in the past have done, and then loads a separate area solely for battle.
In battle, the order of player and enemy turns is displayed, and it makes strategizing quite simple and easy, but it really feels like a lack of effort to make the battle system even remotely unique or innovative. The battle system lets players select from five main options, Attack, Skill, Defend, Item, and Run, and each of the four main characters more or less are already set on specific classes as well. Eddie is a fighter with a sword, Pad is a marksmen with a gun, Melody is a sorceress (mage) with a wand for magic, and Fiona is the equivalent of the typical white mage, with healing-related magic. Their specific roles influence their strengths and weakness within their stats, as well as what Skills they have at their disposal.The graphics of Nostalgia look reminiscent of many Nintendo 64 games, as quite a few DS games tend to. This is about as good as graphics get on the DS, so in that regard Nostalgia does an admirable job. The game also makes a moderate attempt in the animation department, but it doesn't pull it off with any sort of fluidity or believability. Nonetheless, battles keep a good pace with constant camera angle changes, and animated attacks, spells, characters and enemies. The larger enemies are actually quite impressive to see on DS, though for whatever reason they're not fleshed out much at all as they usually only have two or three different attacks. The battle system, while functioning just fine, does absolutely nothing unique, and after only a very brief amount of time feels like a system gamers have played for generations of home and portable consoles. There's little depth to it, and unless players are new to RPGs, they're not going to find much engagement.
Battles in the air consist of the airship automatically flying in parallel with one or more enemy airships and function much the same as the on-foot battle system. The difference lies in that each character mans a different weapon on the airship, and enemy airships can be positioned in front, to the left, and to the right of Eddie's airship. Similar to how characters can get new weapons and armor, the airship too can be upgrade with new cannons, turrets, defense, and so on. Weapons also vary in their effectiveness when attacking to the left or right, compared to attacking forwards. It's nifty to see airships drop out of the sky when defeated, and the attacks are again animated okay for a DS game, but that's about it. It's good to seem some sort of originality in the game, but it's more or less a change of scenery, and again there is very little depth to it.
Eddie's adventure takes him around the globe at a fairly good pace. While there isn't much depth to the gameplay, there certainly is a lot of it. Side quests are plentiful, the story is meaty, and at least at first, it's fun to be flying around the various continents of world. Seeing what cities are open to explore, and where the dungeons of the world lie, is really a treat to anyone that enjoys geography. The story line does an admirable job of advancing exploration, but its weakness is in its delivery.
Characters are bland with personalities that just don't stand out past the stereotypes each one falls into. Eddie has some guts to him and rallies the group, Pad is a bit cold but coming out of his shell, Melody is two faced between cheery and bossy, and Fiona is plain innocent. The dialogue is very predictable, and is probably the element of the game with the most unused potential. A number of scenes are played out cinematically, spicing things up a lot, though with no voice acting it's much like watching a silent movie, but it's fun and it works. The story serves its purpose, but players likely won't become fans of it.
Nostalgia honestly does a lot of things right, but it doesn't do anything to be a unique game that inspires in terms of narrative or gameplay. The whole package covers all the bases well enough, but again, they cover them like so many other RPGs have, many times, over the past ten years or more. Unoriginal as it may be, the game is still quite enjoyable, and doesn't frustrate in any sense. For those looking for a good RPG to play on the DS, or those looking to give RPGs a try, Nostalgia 's the game to pick up. For those with a strong RPG background, you've played every element of this game many times before through many other games, so it's really a matter of if you need to fill an RPG craving, or if you're looking for something new and exciting. If it's the former, try Nostalgia , if it's the latter, proceed with caution.