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Hands-on: Nostalgia (DS)


There's only one word I can use to describe the tone of Tecmo and Red Entertainment's Nostalgia, but that one word describes it perfectly: jaunty. I don't think I've ever played a jauntier game in my life, one that's so upbeat about the abstract notion of adventure. This enthusiasm for getting out and seeing the (fake) world is aided by a simplistic, familiar RPG gameplay system that keeps the mechanics of the game out of the way of your adventurin'. If Dragon Quest were set in a fake version of early 20th century Earth, it would be Nostalgia.

Gallery: Nostalgia (10/16/09) | 21 Photos

The game opens with an Indiana Jones-like adventurer named Gilbert Brown rescuing a young girl from some kind of mysterious cabal and its powerful, cloaked leader. He safely gets the girl to his airship, then cuts the mooring rope and grabs on as the ship floats away. His dashing escape is then thwarted and the girl watches Gilbert Brown fall, presumably to his death.

In the next scene, the family is informed that Brown, revealed to be a professional adventurer, has gone missing. Rather than expressing concern for his father, his son Eddie sees the disappearance as an opportunity to begin his own adventuring career, and heads off to his local Adventurers Guild to officially register for the job. His placement exam requires him to go into the sewers and kill a giant monster rat. Of course.

There, he meets Pad, whose ranged gun attacks complement Eddie's sword attacks nicely. Eddie's looking for his father, Pad's looking for his mother -- it's a match made in convenient RPG storyline heaven! The two take off in Gilbert's airship and go to Cairo on the missing adventurer's trail.

Battles in the airship are slightly different from on-the-ground battles. Both share a similar turn-based system, with a scrolling display of upcoming turn order. Both allow each character to choose from normal attacks or MP-draining, upgradeable skills, as well as items and other RPG mainstays. But whereas characters fight directly with their chosen weapons on the ground, in the airship, each party member mans one of the ship's upgradeable armaments. And enemies can appear on any side of the ship, forcing the player to rotate the camera to direct attacks at enemies on a certain side.

The winsome attitude of Nostalgia makes it a nice counterpoint to the self-importance of, say, Final Fantasy games, and the no-frills combat (and ability to make a temporary save file if you need to quit and aren't near a save point) is perfect for short-session handheld play. And it's vaguely surreal to see large, real-world cities recast as sleepy RPG villages, homes to the standard shops, a few tiny homes, and not much else. Nostalgia touches down on DS on October 27.

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