The developers of Nostalgia have repeatedly stated that they've been putting the game together for the better part of a decade. While this might seem like an exaggeration at first, when you begin playing the finished product you'll quickly see the many different eras of RPG influences that make up the game. We've already seen quite a few solid RPG releases on the DS system, but Nostalgia attempts to bring a more realistic experience to the system using real-life locations that you'll visit throughout the game, not to mention offering up a very colorful 19th Century theme to further enhance the experience. So was the lengthy development time really worth it, and can Nostalgia offer up the inventive Japanese RPG experience DS owners are expecting?
At its core, Nostalgia plays pretty much like any other traditional Japanese RPG title. You've got one giant story playing out that involves quite a number of fetch quests surrounded by an inherently large number of battles to be fought. The game even tosses in quite a few side quests to make the game a little less linear and give the player more opportunities to level their characters up and earn more money. However, as traditional as many aspects of the game tend to be, there are enough unique twists to make things a bit more interesting.
Instead of traveling on foot to and from the vast majority of locations in the game, you get about on a giant airship, and much like travelling on foot you'll run into your fair share of random enemy encounters along the way, just as you will when you delve inside of the game's many dungeons. You'll even be able to choose to fly your airship at varying altitudes if you manage to upgrade it properly. Of course with these higher altitudes come much stronger enemies to battle as well, and while the enemy battles in dungeons tend to stick with the more traditional turn-based combat scheme, airship battles toss a few new gameplay twists your way and ultimately give the game its fresh appeal.
As with any RPG, outfitting and levelling up your characters plays a key role in your survival throughout the game. You'll be able to purchase better weapons, armor and speciality items in the various cities you'll visit using money you earn in battle. You'll even run across airship ports that will allow you to repair and upgrade the various parts of your airship in order to make it more formidable in battle. Failing to outfit your characters and airship with better equipment can cause a quick end to your party if you're not careful, but you'll also need to take part in your fair share of battles in order to level your characters up. You'll quickly find that keeping your party and airship up to speed combat-wise will play an integral role in your success throughout the game.
There are two different types of battles in the game: dungeon combat and airship combat. Combat inside of dungeons is fairly standard and requires you to take part in a turn-based battle where you'll be allowed to select various commands for each of your active characters. You can attack with weapons, use magic skills and even make use of special items during battle. There is no active time battle system in this game as combat is taken in turns, giving the player all the time they need in order to make battle command selections. You can even glance down at the bottom screen to see the current combat order along with various other stats such as your current hit points and magic points. Winning these battles will earn your characters much-needed experience points and money.
Airship combat is similar to dungeon combat, except that your characters will take control of the airship's various weapons. Your characters don't take damage during an airship battle, instead the airship itself takes the damage: like your warriors, the airship has a certain number of damage points and if this meter reaches zero, it's game over just as it would be if all of your party members were knocked out in a dungeon battle. You can make use of mechanic tools in order to make repairs on your airship during combat, but it will take a turn much the same way an attack would. The effectiveness of your weapons also depends on whether or not you're facing your target or they're off to your side, and you'll even be forced to deal with weather conditions such as sandstorms and blizzards that can decrease your airship weapon's accuracy, not to mention your visibility. In this respect, the airship combat tends to be a much more strategic battle than your typical dungeon fight.
The play control in Nostalgia gives you all the tools you need to be successful. The turn-based combat system is very easy to use, yet offers plenty of variety to give the battles a very strategic feel to them. Likewise, the added dimensions of the airship battles also make for a nice diversion in the game's enemy encounters and keeps things feeling fresh. The game even makes more trivial functions like purchasing and equipping weapons very intuitive and much less tedious than that of other RPGs. It's clear that the developers have learned from past mistakes of the RPG genre and tried to implement many of the more successful and useful gameplay ideas in this title, and the end result is a very playable RPG system that allows you to spend less time trying to come to grips with the control system and more time enjoying the adventure that's unfolding around you.
At times the graphics in the game are truly amazing and show a solid degree of detail, while other times they look like they just stepped out of an early Playstation title. By choosing to go with 3D visuals, the developers have created a very smooth visual experience, but it often lacks the type of detail we've come to expect in more recent DS RPGs. That's not to say that the visual presentation is below average, it's just a bit inconsistent and given how impressive some areas of the game are, you can't help but be a little disappointed those times when the visual quality dips a little. Thankfully, the quality visual moments greatly outnumber the bad, so at the end of the day, it's difficult to be too critical of the visual performance in the game, especially given some of the extremely impressive touches that pop up from time to time throughout the game.
Over the years, we've heard some monumental musical scores in various RPGs, but very seldom do we hear a soundtrack that so perfectly fits not only the game itself, but the individual locations of the game they're featured in. Not only are the musical pieces in Nostalgia extremely melodic and epic in nature, but the style of each track is somehow able to perfectly complement the city or dungeon you're currently located in. You can almost tell where you are in the game just by listening to the current musical track. Of course some tracks are better than others, but there honestly isn't a bad tune in the entire game and they tend to get more diverse and catchy the further into the game you progress. In fact some of the tracks in the latter portions of the game are absolutely amazing. It certainly would have been nice to have heard some voiced dialog in a game of this caliber, but it's difficult to fault the game given the top-notch musical score.
While Nostalgia never strays too far from the more traditional gameplay elements that have made Japanese RPGs so popular with fans of the genre, it does toss in enough unique design elements to make it stand out from the many other DS RPG titles available. In fact, aside from being a bit predictable at times, it's honestly difficult to find much to complain about: the real-life locales and fluid story-driven quest offer RPG fans something to really sink their teeth into, and the side quests turn an already epic main quest into an even meatier adventure for those who choose to take them on. Combine all of this with not only a very well-executed traditional turn-based combat system, but also some extremely enjoyable airship battles, and what you have is easily one of the more refreshing RPG releases to hit the DS system and a game that no RPG fan will want to miss out on.
Cool, I love RPGs(who doesn't?)and will probably get this in the future. Speaking of DS RPGs, I'm really, really enjoying Mario and Luigi at the moment so I might wait until I finish that to buy this one!
Brilliant review Corbie! I have been waiting for this game for a long time and I am extremely glad that this game turned out to be so good. I'm am currently awaiting my copy to arrive from Amazon. I just can't wait to sink my teeth into this one but at least I know it will definitely be worth the wait!
Sounds pretty good, I'll pick this one up later this week.
Although, my gaming life is still chained by the muchmuchmuchmuchmuch earlier released Disgaea DS, so I'm not sure where I'll find the time to play this... anyway, good review, Corbs.
Good review and it's nice to see the title shares similarities with some of my favourite SEGA RPGs, particularly Panzer Dragoon Saga and the epic Skies of Arcadia, turning this from "looks interesting" to "give me immediately."
Excellent review, Corbie. I was very pleased to see give the music glowing remarks. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the music was tailored to fit each global region.
The little visual details in each city have been so nice as well. From the Model T cars, the snow caked streets of St. Petersburgh, to the outdoor markets of Delhi. It's so easy to get lost in the amazing details they've added to this game. Excellent purchase for fans of the genre.
Do any of you know what engine this game was made with? It looks pretty much identical to Final Fantasy 3.
It's the same engine as the DS Final Fantasy Remakes (III IV) as one one the devolopers here did give those titles
better then i was hoping for that pleases me but the ds has to many rpgs
This engine has GOT TO GO. It is hideous... please stop using it. Please.
Sweet, I'm getting this this winter.
"There is no active time battle system in this game as combat is taken in turns, giving the player all the time they need in order to make battle command selections"
HALLELUJAH! If there's one thing I hate in an RPG it's the active time system. Too often in Chrono Trigger do I press the A button too quickly in an attempt to attack before the enemy does, and then discover I should've done something different.
Well done on the review. Sounds like it has enough of that Skies of Arcadia magic that I was hoping for. Definately picking this up by the end of the year!
I honestly never heard of this one before. And a 9 to boot... I wonder if Etrian Odyssey 2 will ever make it to Europe.
I've known since I first saw Nostalgia that I was going to like it, and this review does nothing to change that. Sounds like a brilliant game, and I can't wait to get my hands on it soon.
That comes out today? Wow. I completely forgot. If only I thought to save my money for this. Oh well.
I've always struggled with RPG's--I just have trouble wrapping my brains around them. The Mario RPG's have always been my favorite because I feel like I have a lot more control over my characters, and I'm never just watching the battle play out. Also, it frustrates me in games like Pokemon or Chrono Trigger where you can't really do anything to prevent damage (unless you waste a turn and select "defend"). I like that in, Mario & Luigi 3 for example, if you have enough skill you can potentially go through even the toughest battles without taking damage.
That being said, this game does interest me. The 19th century atmosphere and great presentation have really won me over.
wow much better than i expected
Nobody mentioned me! Completely deserved score!
(adds to christmas list)
Corbie.... Im glad you got to do the review of this game as we all know you have been dying to get your hands on it. Great Review and I will be picking this up for my first RPG next year
Hows the difficulty compared to other RPGs? Is it more easy ala Chrono Trigger, challenging like FF4?
I think I'll be getting this. Nice Review!
I'm getting this when I get off work in the morning. I might buy two copies and keep one in its shrink wrap, looks like one of those RPGs that will be worth 2 to 3 times as much in 5-10 years.
Looks good, and I like the premise. Sadly, I'm not incredibly fond of story-driven RPGs, so I'd probably give it a miss, unless I can find it cheap or rent it.
I really wanted to purchase this when it was released...but the rent and utilities are due this week. Being an adult sucks sometimes.
Not for me, but great addition to the DS RPG library.
lol I wonder if anyone knows how I feel about this game!?
DEFINITELY not for me--seemed like a cross between a bad Skies ripoff and a weird bastardization of Final Fantasy...although that'd probably Matrix's prior work coloring my perception. Game balance isn't something Matrix is a big fan of....
At least the setting was cool--semi-alternate real-life is always refreshing...
Let's hope Sands of Destruction scratches my RPG itch...
What other games did they make?
I really want this game despite the somewhat mixed reviews, I am a huge RPG fan, most of my DS games are RPG's. anyway can't wait to I get it.
I just got this game, so far its pretty good, but Im not sure I aggree with the score. Its definitely better than FF3 but I think its more of an 8.0 or an 8.5 rather than a 9.0.
My main problem with this game is that it really does nothing new. It's too "safe", and too generic. For all I know, it could be a pretty solid RPG, but there are a lot of good RPGs out there, especially on the DS, and most of them at least try to be unique. I just don't see any reason to invest my money in a game like this. What's the point?
I want this but I'm a little put off by the 3D images. It seems a little too blocky for my taste. But if the story's any good, I won't complain.
I finally read the opening line in this article. Epic fail. There's absolutely nothing unique in this game!
I bought a DS because of Final Fantasy III but so far I like this game even better. The story is more interesting and the turn based combat is better, I like that you can choose the moves for each character when they are ready to do them rather that choosing all of that up front.
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