I remember way, way back in the day; I received Cliffhanger on the Sega Genesis as a birthday present (nevermind I wasn't old enough or allowed to see the movie…). The game wasn't all that great, but it could have been fun for a while without one thing – the avalanche level. This tough-as-nails level required perfect timing, memorization and immense skill with less-than-perfect controls. It single-handedly destroyed the entire game. I eventually mastered it years later, but what stuck with me about the experience was wishing there was some kind of regulatory agency that prevented games with debilitating flaws from reaching store shelves. As I got older, I began to realize how impossible and ridiculous that would be, but it still burns every bit as badly as it did then to see a great game brought down by one horrible misstep. That's where the new, almost legendary DS RPG Nostalgia comes in.
Before we get to that flaw, you need to know that Nostalgia looks and sounds as good or better than the most impressive of DS games thus far. In cut scenes and in game, all the characters, enemies and environments are done in impressive 3D. The soundtrack gets thin in a few places, but it is overall as grand and sweeping as any SquareEnix game I've played recently. It definitely helps matters that the game's story and setup is so rich, you'll have a hard time imagining that the game could be any less beautiful.
Nostalgia takes place in an alternate 19th century right here on Earth. You'll travel to many recognizable cities and locales (Cairo, London, etc.), but what you'll find there will be strikingly different than what you remember from ninth grade history class. In this alternate universe, Earth is much more interesting, with crazy cults, treasure hunters, amazing airships and monsters. As the son of one of the world's most renowned explorers, you'll assemble a paint-by-numbers RPG team and jet around the world, exploring towns, clearing dungeons and searching for dad. The setup is sadly a lot more grandiose than the minute-to-minute story, as long stretches go by with little to no plot advancement. Overall, the whole thing does work quite well and keeps it interesting enough to follow through to the end.
Ok, let's get to that flaw. Even though the game is called Nostalgia, no one out there should be interested in remembering a mechanic that ran rampant in earlier generations' RPGs and sadly, remains a huge drawback in many of today's games – the random battle. I've launched into many tirades before on why this system should have been long-ago forgotten, so I'll skip it this time. Just know that no game, no matter the quality, will be eligible for a respectable score if the developers resort to this antiquated and – I'll say it – stunningly lazy approach to RPG gameplay.