Now that we have our own build of Matrix Studio's upcoming Nintendo DS role-playing game Nostalgia in our office, we were able to spend some quality time playing it. Like the title suggests, Nostalgia brings back fond memories of turn-based RPG action and puts you in a 19th-century universe similar to our own. Except in this universe, you'll encounter powerful magic, high-flying zeppelins, and aggressive mummies. We all know that there is no shortage of Japanese RPGs on the DS, so it's going to take a little more than fancy airships to lure us into this adventure.
At the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo, we were able to play a brief demo of Nostalgia as the young and very well-dressed adventurer Eddie Brown. He and his conveniently diverse group of friends were making their way through the pyramids in Egypt, searching for Eddie's legendary father Gilbert, who, oddly enough, looks a bit like Indiana Jones. Our game began deep within a temple where a young damsel in distress is saved by handsome man who swooped in to take her onto his ship in typical Hollywood fashion. Except in this case, he didn't quite make it onto the airship, and now his son, Eddie, has his heart set on finding his famous father. After signing up with the Adventurer's Association and taking command of his father's ship, Eddie and his somewhat sketchy friend Pad--who is also looking for a relative--set off into the sky in search of clues.
Random turn-based battles take place as you're exploring ruins and caves on foot. You'll also have to fight creatures and sky pirates in the air as you travel from one location to another. There is no trekking from one end of the world to the other; instead, you'll fly your heavily armed airship through sandstorms and other elements of nature to get to your destination. Ground-based battles are as straightforward as selecting your attacks via a menu. Characters have their own set of unique skills when they're fighting against enemies on land, as well as in the air. Damage dealt in the air is absorbed by the airship, so you'll have to watch and maintain the health of your ship. Characters take turns as they normally would and can attack enemies straight ahead or off to the side. For example, on Pad's turn, he will fire a gun, which does better damage when the enemies are flanking the ship. Eddie controls the blade of the ship, which deals the most damage to foes directly ahead. By paying close attention to the unique properties of your party members, you can easily win most of the battles.
In keeping up with the Indiana Jones theme, we noticed that one of the first dungeons we explored were the pyramids near Cairo, which were full of traps, hostile mummies, and even a giant rolling boulder. If you do happen to spring a trap, it only forces you to take a slight detour, and if you somehow can't outrun the boulder, you'll just have to try again. These are small things to just be aware of, but they are different and add an element of excitement to the otherwise formulaic dungeon-crawling. It's also cool to see the variety and depth to some of the areas. In one of the caves, you can see the man-made ramps and walkways below as work your way down into the mines. Instead of wandering around until you get to some stairs, you feel like you're actually exploring the cave.
When you're not advancing the main story, you can take on side quests at the Adventurer's Association located in each major city. Completing these quests will yield rewards and help you advance in level, so that when you do progress the storyline, you'll be ready. Our travels took us to such exotic locations as Cairo and Cape Town, but these cities obviously didn't mirror the actual cities. They did, however, have their own unique flavor and aesthetic that was very well represented on the DS.
Looks like RPG fans are going to have another game to jump into before the holidays get started. From what we've played of Nostalgia, it's what you would expect from a traditional RPG, but it has an interesting blend of real-world locations, steampunk themes, and fantasy. Nostalgia for the Nintendo DS is set to be released on October 27, so be sure to check back for our full review then.