Wind of Nostalgia (Nostalgio no Kaze)

Reviewed: 07/27/2009

Wind of Nostalgia is not Skies of Arcadia. Let’s get that out of the way first. It is similar to Skies of Arcadia in the sense that both games deal with the same themes, like airships and exploration, and they’re RPGs, so if that’s enough of an association, wonderful. True, both games include airship combat and making discoveries (in different ways). But remember that it’s not Skies of Arcadia, nor is it intended to be, so too many comparisons or judging one based on the other would be unfair. What Nostalgia is intended to be is a traditional RPG, which it enormously succeeds at. In fact, it could become one of the definitive examples of a good, generic RPG on the DS, in that it is good in almost every way, bad in almost no ways, while great in a select few ways.

Nostalgia takes place on the world map we all know and love: Earth. Eddy starts out in London and soon acquires an airship, enabling him to explore select pieces of Europe and Africa. As the story progresses and the airship’s Flight Core improves, it gains the ability to fly higher and higher, over obstacles such as mountains and clouds. The world contains such culturally diverse major cities as Cairo, St. Petersburg, New York, and Rio de Janeiro, and dungeons such as the Egyptian Pyramids, the Amazon Jungle, and a secret mechanical base inside Mt. Fuji. Exploring the world is fun, even when a few liberties are taken with the settings for the sake of the story. There are a few obvious tips of the hat to the Indiana Jones franchise, as well. Travelling the world can be dangerous, though, as airship battles on the world map are always a

Battles, both the character and airship varities, play out as simple turn-based affairs. The turn order is displayed on the left of the bottom screen, and as an option is highlighted by the player, the modified turn order is shown. Each character can Attack, use Skills, Defend, use an Item, or attempt to Escape, with slightly different weight being placed on each option. Defending causes that character’s turn to come up fastest, whereas Skills can delay the next turn by a significant amount of time. This adds some strategy, as players have to decide whether to go all out with their skills and then be rendered vulnerable as foes get several turns in a row, or to take it slow and safe with regular attacks. Skills are usually the most powerful option, but not always, since some enemies have high resistance to magic or elements. Random battles are never very challenging, but don’t get dull, either, because monster parties are often configured in a way that stops the player from wiping them all out at once or falling into repetitive patterns, such as pairing up enemies that are weak and strong against different elements.

Screen Shot
“Fish, chips, cup-o-tea? Bad food,
worse weather, Mary @#$% Poppins? LONDON.”

The character-monster battle intricacies end about there, but the airship battles have a few quirks to them. All members of the party act at various battle stations on the airship (blade, gun, cannon and orb), but share the same health bar, since if the ship goes down, everyone does. Enemies can attack from the front or sides, and each weapon is strong or weak in different directions, which doesn’t really make or break much but can give the extra push needed to dispatch a foe. Battle stations can be disabled when enemies use certain skills, and fire, the airship equivalent of poison, is a constant problem. Each character gets a different ability at his/her battle station in addition to skills and attacks — for example, Fiona’s ability is to Build Up and double her power for the next attack.

Very few story-driven airship battles are present, but players might be tempted to spend skill points, used to manually level up character skills, on non-airship abilities. This is a mistake. Since the airship can not level up, only be upgraded at the limited number of cities in the world, its power can only be increased through skill buffs, which become essential as higher areas of sky contain enemy ships that can tear through half of the ship’s HP in a single attack. The sudden difficulty jumps in the random airship battles are a bit frustrating, because in order to upgrade the ship, the player has to fly through danger zones to new towns. Still, once the airship is in fighting form, the battles themselves are enjoyable, and it feels awesome to take down the giant ships that bombard Eddy’s puny vessel.

Screen Shot
Airship battles in this game are quite
different from the ones in that other RPG that used airship

The aforementioned skill point system is the growth system for characters. Skill points are gained at the end of battles. Every character has a skill map, and after a few skills are learned naturally, the rest have to be received by leveling up base skills. The maps are very visual and make it clear which skills lead to new skills. Increasing a skill level does different things for different skills, so it’s important to check by pressing the Y button. Since skill points will always be in need, it’s important to increase skills that will make the biggest difference, such as increasing damage on one skill instead of merely decreasing MP cost on another. Customizing characters is a little limited, but it’s nice to have the freedom to improve who you want to when you want to. If Pad is a loser with useless skills, don’t spend points on him.

Worth noting are some of the small interface touches and failures. Equipping new pieces of armor to multiple characters in the shop in was way that was faster than anything this gamer ever seen before. The ability to get dungeon-warping items early, and the always accessible Adventurer’s Notebook were also big pluses.

A few other things seemed a bit backwards. Most menus wouldn’t loop the cursor to the top or bottom on the two extremes (pressing up when on the top option to go to the bottom), which was irritating, and there wasn’t an option to scroll through long menus with the trigger buttons, which is almost expected in RPGs nowadays.

The game’s story, and by extension its characters, is probably the weakest element of the game. Edward “Eddy” Brown learns that his father, the world-famous adventurer Gilbert Brown, has gone missing and is presumed dead. Unperturbed by this news, he decides to become an adventurer himself in order to search for his father. Picking up a cast of friends along the way, he soon learns that a secretive association (responsible for his father’s disappearance) has been using a mysterious girl named Fiona to retrieve fragments of a powerful tablet. The story isn’t particularly unpleasant or bad, just typical and cliché, and most of the twists can be seen coming long before they happen. Main characters are one-dimensional, with a single trait or gesture the player will view over and over again that seems to define their behavior: Pad spreads his arms and shakes his head, the picture of resigned exasperation; Fiona perpetually looks down to indicate her quiet, humble nature; Melody shrieks, gesturing wildly with her arms as her body convulses in spunky indignation. Also, Melody slaps people. A lot. Eddy lacks much to set himself apart from the crowd, but at least his enthusiasm is checked to a reasonable level, unlike some recent Japanese heroes who seem to eat caffeine pills for breakfast. Since the story and personalities of the characters aren’t enough to carry the story above average, the English localization will probably make or break this aspect of the game when it hits North America, determining whether it falls into the realm of “good” or “irritating.”

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Finding Abbey Road for that token photo

As a function to carry the player from one location and scenario to another, the story is basically effective, but contains a few of those linear “Talk to this single nondescript person or advancing is impossible,” situations that seem to only crop up in RPGs. Some nice touches included the ability to tap the Y button and see a conversation between party members discussing where to go or what just happened, and a red circle flashing on the world map if one’s next destination’s location is known. Also nice is the ability to skip the “cinematic” cutscenes–that is, cutscenes where the player has no control of advancing the text.

Interestingly, even though the main story takes place on Earth, it doesn’t cover a great deal of ground, and once the dust has settled, large chunks of the world remain unexplored. Fortunately, Nostalgia has a lot of extra quests and post-game content, and after players complete the main quest, they are given
free reign of the world, able to live up to the title of Adventurer without pesky things like impending doom getting in the way. Throughout the main game, optional quests become available in the Adventurer’s Guild, where players can encounter special monsters and items and get cash rewards. At least five non-story dungeons are available, and some mean optional bosses are ready for thrashing.

Completionists can also try and find all of the World Treasures, cultural artifacts whose exact locations are unknown and must be found by carefully passing the airship around the map flying as low as possible, though a tip must be received first by talking to people and hearing rumors. The amount of extra content makes the game hard to put down after it’s been completed.

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But we’re college guys and we’re up to
no good!

The graphics are clean, though some have a grainy, pixellated edge to them, particularly character faces, but the monster models and environments look smooth and attractive. The character models have a super-deformed look, but monsters don’t have that restriction, which makes it funny when the human girls
the story pits the player against are super deformed on the field map, and then in battle are suddenly three times taller and sexier than the party. The only poor use of graphics was in the lazy consideration of battle backgrounds: there were many occasions where outdoor maps would have indoor battle backgrounds. The illustrations have a very unique style. They appear rarely, but add a nice stylistic touch with their pale, subdued colors.

Nostalgia‘s music is catchy in the way that an old-school RPG’s music is catchy, and has possibly become this reviewer’s favorite soundtrack on the DS. The themes are simple but distinct, and the main theme and its variations are real stand-out tracks. Most cities had a different song that captured the cultural feel of each place in a way that didn’t feel stereotypical. The game’s sound effects were good, but could have been used more often. Its ambient sounds were put to good use such as wind sounds only triggering as the player moves outside of a tower.

Wind of Nostalgio is a great portable RPG, with no real bad points and a lot of good ones. It has a fun atmosphere, battles that go beyond basics, and a ton of extra material to indulge explorers. The game doesn’t always go the extra mile into greatness, but what it has is a solid, satisfying experience for any player.

-Janelle Hindman

Score Breakdown
Very Good
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Very Good
Story Below Average
Graphics Good
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Great
The Verdict: Seven point five