I’m only just past the first boss, but my time with The Last Hero of Nostalgaia has been so fun, I really didn’t want to stop to write up my impressions. But, I push through my selfish impulses to make sure no one misses out on this lighthearted, nostalgia-driven title.
As the name suggests, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia plays on and with gamer culture, lore, and expectations. Then it messes with them a little bit. The game got a chuckle out of me right from the character creation screen. I was given the buffet of options one might expect — hair type, age, tattoos — but, because I’m playing as a stick figure, nothing actually changes the look of my hero. Its stickily form remains unchanged no matter where I pushed the available sliders. However, I do wonder if the choices will come back in some way later, and I’m looking forward to playing on and finding out.
My choice of character class is equally amusing, with options ranging from the typical knightly figure (called the Datadin), to the Formatter described as a “brutal savage,” to the magic-casting Sourcerer. I go with the basic sword and shield option with melee-helping stats and bound off. The intro is so perfectly tongue-in-check Dark Souls. A mysterious voice begins to unfold the world’s lore, but is cut off abruptly by the game’s real narrator, who is, so far, my biggest foe.
The narrator believes my stickish form is a disgusting sign of the world’s spreading corruption. Nostalgaia, once the fames home of bold heroes, is becoming infected by retro decay. Its inhabitants are losing their once-polished good looks and along with the graphical downgrade comes memory loss. At the end, they disappear entirely.
But that doesn’t seem like a good excuse for the voice over to be so mean to my little hero. Beyond just disparaging my model and abilities, the harsh narrator actively changes the story to get me killed several times. It’s just rude. It’s also one element of the game I can see rubbing some people the wrong way. I don’t finding the commentary overwhelming, but for anyone that gets annoyed by that kind of banter, consider yourself warned.
It becomes clear very quickly that, though the design is devolving around me, I’m essentially in a Souls game. Enemies pop out at me around corners and, when defeated, drop Memory. That’s basically the souls of the game which you can use to level up at Beacons. These illuminating rest points help to restore the world as well as your stats, serving an interesting dual purpose. Similarly, Access is the game’s term for MP — important if you’re going the magic caster route.
There are some interesting diversions from the source material, though. A quality of life thing that I love is any new object in your inventory will glow. It’s not a hugely important mechanic, but it’s so helpful. Besides that, there is a clever and unique way to upgrade gear which also makes reading the lore important to the game. Some objects I picked up in my playthrough came with curious in-menu messages. The first I noticed was attached to the “Gilded Axe” (which is a great reference). It notes that this Relic has a memory to find and gives me a cryptic clue to finding it. In this case, it says the axe I hold has a memory hiding somewhere in a desecrated place where the golden weapon lopped off a lot of innocent heads. It’s not a lot to go off of, but I’m definitely going to keep my eyes open when I go into any shady churches.
My boss battle victory is not the most hard-won I’ve ever achieved, though I did discover I could dual wield my starting sword and the gilded axe. However, it’s a good intro into what to expect from similar fights and wins me the begrudging respect narrator. Opening up the world beyond, I find an outdoor setting less affected by the pixelating curse. It’s got actual 3D graphics and a wizened –a and realistic-looking — NPC who unlocks the memory for a “jagged blade” which turns out to by a Keyblade (but one that looks like a modern day key rather than the fun old-timey ones used in the referenced game).
Like any Souls game, there isn’t one path, so I backtracked a little and discovered another area taken right out of Bloodborne. Its backwards-bending corpse-like enemies destroyed me without much effort and looked creepy AF, so I might not head back that way for a while. However, it does seem to confirm my suspicions that The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is planning to take me through several game worlds I’m deeply familiar with. And by scrambling them around, the game is poised to make for an adventure where every world is an inside joke to enjoy and the combat plays with my gaming knowledge.
The Last Hero of Nostalgaia launches on Xbox and PC October 19.
I recommend this game to:
- Long-time gamers
- Souls fans
- Players looking for a little humor
- Anyone that appreciates QOL menu changes
- Those curious to see their favorite games get the satire treatment
- Players looking for a good action game
- People that like being the underdog hero
- Fans of side quest-like goals
- Fashion Soulistas
- Those that want to fight against pixel aesthetics in games
- Players who like finding those shortcuts
- Anyone against authority figures bullying anyone different