Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Matrix Software/RED Company/Tecmo
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Cartridge
Release: US 10/27/09
Japan 11/06/08

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Come fly the friendly skies.
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This damsel definitely looks distressed.
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JRPGs have taught me that cutesy bosses like this are downright mean.
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(This picture is just begging for a snarky caption and I canít come up with one.)
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Neal Chandran
Hands-On Preview
Neal Chandran

Nostalgia for the DS has been gathering a fair bit of buzz in the RPG community for its unique 19th century steampunk setting on an alternate Earth and promise of airship battles and world exploration. Beloved classics such as Wild Arms and Skies of Arcadia come to mind when people speculate Nostalgia either by reading about the gameplay or viewing screenshots. RPGFan had a chance to sit down with Nostalgia and here are our initial impressions.

The story starts off with a cool introductory sequence where a famous adventurer named Gilbert Brown rescues a girl from a black-robed cult who wants to use her for nefarious deeds. Brown and the girl make it back to his airship, but their escape is foiled by the cult leader. The girl makes it safely onto the airship, which auto-pilots itself back to Brown's home town of London, but Gilbert is not quite so lucky and falls into the ocean below.

Cut now to Brown Manor in London where Gilbert's wife gets word that her husband has gone missing and that all the other certified adventurers are too scared to search for him. Their teenage son Eddie then proclaims that he will take up the mantle and search for his dad. After some token resistance, Eddie is allowed to go to the local Adventurers Association branch and take a test to become a certified adventurer. Eddie passes the test, makes a new friend, and then receives the keys to his dad's airship to begin his adventure. Eddie will visit foreign lands, encounter colorful people, and may even save the world from certain doom while searching for his dad. So far, the story is playing out like a classic JRPG yarn and I hope later on it offers some hints of uniqueness to complement the 19th century steampunk setting rarely seen in JRPGs.

The localization, so far, is the best Ignition has done. Ignition's prior localizations have been a bit rough, especially that of Lux-Pain, which felt like it was written by multiple people who never spoke to each other to ensure consistency. Everything reads very consistently in Nostalgia, the text has no technical errors so far, and the dialogue has personality. This seems to be a good localization and I'm impressed to see how much Ignition has improved in this area over such a short time.

Gameplay is very familiar to anyone who has played a classic JRPG. Progression follows the typical town-dungeon-town paradigm, but overworld travel happens exclusively via airship. Turn-based battles occur randomly in both the overworld and dungeons and are turn-based. Overworld battles consist of Eddie's airship duking it out with skyborne enemies, where each party member attacks using the airship weapon most like the one he or she uses on foot as well as airship-specific items and character skills. For example, the swordsman helms the airship's front-mounted blade, and the healer learns separate skills for party member healing and airship healing. Dungeon battles are turn-based as well, where each character has the standard RPG commands at their disposal, such as attack, item, skill, escape, etc. There are no gameplay elements that fans of classic RPGs have not seen before, but a game with a name like Nostalgia does not have innovation as its primary goal. So far the game has not been very challenging, but I'm sure the difficulty will ramp up as the game progresses.

Visually, the game looks great. The 3D polygon characters and environments have solid detailing and no hints of seams or clipping. The characters animate very smoothly as well. This is one of the better-looking 3D RPGs on the DS and looks as good as, if not better than, many Playstation RPGs that used the same graphical style. The color palette is not as bright or vibrant as comparable games, but it lends itself well to the 19th century setting. Most of the cutscenes use the in-game engine and look very good, and a few cutscenes have painting-like still pictures. The character designs look all right, but do not have the stylistic flair of artists like Yoshitaka Amano or Kazuma Kaneko. In short, the game sports very clean graphics, much like the music. The orchestral fare I've heard so far is what I expect from a JRPG soundtrack and even through the DS's speakers it sounds nice and full. I hope that as the game progresses and Eddie visits more exotic locations that the music will have more stylistic hints that reflect the nature and culture of the locations. Sadly, the game does not contain any voice acting. Some players may think that's a good thing, but I think cartoony voice acting during cutscenes would give the characters additional life.

So far, Nostalgia is a decent traditional JRPG for the DS, that I hope, in the end, can ultimately do justice to the beloved classics that speculators often compare it to. Nostalgia's U.S. release is set for October 27th, and we will have a full review of the game for you as that date nears. Until then, enjoy our ongoing character reveals.


© 2009 Ignition, Matrix Software. All rights reserved.

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