It was difficult to get an idea of what Nostalgia was all about at the Electronic Entertainment Expo when very little gameplay was shown. However, at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo, Ignition Entertainment had a demo available so that we could get an idea of how the game works. Anyone who has been playing a lot of Japanese role-playing games on the Nintendo DS will find that Nostalgia looks familiar, even though it's set in an alternate 19th-century reality. That's because Nostalgia is the product of a combined effort between Matrix Software--which worked on Final Fantasy III and IV on the DS--and Red Entertainment.
Our main character was Eddie, a young man who is accompanied by his friend Pad and two lovely ladies, Melody and Fiona. We started off in a quaint, Victorian-era-like town and were told to go to the airship dock to board a high-powered zeppelin. Shortly after taking off, we were confronted by what looked like bright orange dragons and were given a tutorial on how to manage Maverick, our airship. Like in many turn-based RPGs that have come before, fighting with an airship is similar to the usual ground combat. You choose what command you want to use from the menu (blades, cannons) and wait until it's your turn. The battle order is displayed on the bottom screen so that you can plan ahead.
After the short skirmish (each battle is summarized and ranked at the end), we realized that we were hovering over London and were directed to head over to Cairo, which was just a short flight away to the southeast. The world map view can be switched using the select button, which will bring up a map that is similar to the ones that hang on the walls of your geography class. In Cairo, we were told to steer clear of the dangerous pyramids, so of course that became our next destination. Overworld travel can be accomplished only via zeppelin, which saves on walking time, but youre not exempt from random battles, which will occur in flight and on foot when exploring dungeons.
The gameplay is extremely straightforward if you're familiar with Japanese RPGs. A map on the touch screen will keep track of your progress, and in this particular dungeon/pyramid, we had to watch for trap floors, which would disrupt our exploration by dumping us onto the bottom floor so that we had to find our way back up again. Our balanced four-person party managed to fend off mummies and spiders rather well. It's clear that Eddie was our warrior, Pad was the thief, and the two girls fulfilled the roles of healer and offensive spellcaster.
We'd like to get an opportunity to play more of Nostalgia from the beginning, because it looks to be another high-quality RPG from Matrix set in an intriguing steampunk fantasy world. Role-playing game fans will have another game to add to their collection when Nostalgia is released on the Nintendo DS in October