Fond memories of time spent playing old games often fade with the stark reality of a replay years later. Reliving the good old days of role-playing with Nostalgia reminds us that that isn't always the case.
This style of turn-based adventuring is classic for a reason: it's easy-going, punctuated with depth, and engrossing.
While Nostalgia brings its own style to bear, it's a new setting for an ages-old formula.
You play as young adventurer Eddie who journeys across the globe in search of his missing father. Together with a ragtag group of gunslingers, magicians, and pirates, you hunt down clues that embroil Eddie in an international conspiracy revolving around the mysteries of the ancient world.
It's an intriguing spin for a genre steeped in fantasy. Instead of some magical world, you're scouring Earth during the heyday of the British Empire for the remnants of civilisations lost.
Epic airship battles have you manning massive cannons and magical orbs. Side quests that have you searching for ancient artefacts and discovering the sites of cities long dead. There's a sense you're uncovering history with each mission undertaken.
Yet, Nostalgia itself is a piece of history, with time-tested gameplay. Battles are turn-based in the purest sense, randomly instigated as you explore the world map or dungeon. You're allowed infinite time to select an action during turns, which are handled individually for each character instead of as a group.
Unlimited time supports combat more oriented with tactics than action. Successful battles are a matter of choosing the right magic spell or special ability and planning the order in which to attack multiple enemies. The pace is suitably deliberate, though speeding up attack animations would eliminate a lot of wasted time.
A ranking system grades your performance following each battle. Bonus experience, money, and skill points are doled out for A and S grades. Unfortunately, the conditions for earning these high marks is random. Win a battle by eliminating an enemy with a quick, powerful attack and you may end up with a C.
Other times a drawn out confrontation nets you an A. Unpredictable ranking ultimately leads you to ignore the system because you can't pinpoint what exactly to do to earn a good grade. As such, it becomes an irrelevant part of the game.
When it comes to developing your characters using experience earned from battle, Nostalgia prevents a compelling skill system from reaching its full potential by implementing unusual restrictions.
Skill points granted upon levelling up can be spent on improving skills laid out on a flow chart. New skills unlock by levelling up adjacent skills. An arrow pointing from a frost spell to its multi-targeting frostana counterpart signals that you unlock it by raising the level of frost.
Unfortunately, you can't see abilities that haven't been unlocked. Without knowing what potential skills are on the skill chart, you have no means of deciding whether it's worth investing skill points to level up an ability as a means of unlocking the next ability on the chart.
Additionally, a new skill isn't immediately available once the conditions are met for unlocking it. Raise frost to the necessary level to unlock frostana, for example, and it doesn't unlock until you level up that character. New skills should unlock as soon as the conditions are met, not force you to wait until the next level.
These curious limitations don't tarnish the overall experience though - Nostalgia remains effortless and entertaining to play. What shortcomings it possesses are countered by an overwhelming sense of adventure, formulaic design balanced against the sheer quality of its execution.
Airship battles are lots of fun and the spirit of exploration that runs through the game gives it a unique appeal. It's exciting to watch your airship rush forward to strike against an armada of enemy vessels, then jet off to discover a long-lost ancient city.
Moments like these create a lasting impression as fond as the memories of the classic role-playing games that inspired Nostalgia.