Game: “The Last Hero of Nostalgaia”
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Witty story|
+ Hilarious narrator
+ Perfect Dark Souls inspired game
|Negatives||– Glitchy experience|
– Clunky controls
– Perfect Dark Souls inspired game
|Price (When Reviewed)||£19.99|
|Our Playtime||16 hours|
|Available On||Xbox Series X|S, PC|
Created by Over The Moon Studios, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia tells the simple story of a figure setting off in the world to save it from a rot that has taken hold. This devastating destruction has ravaged the once fully-fledged 3D world and turned it into a flat, pixelated mess. The shining figure that is the game’s hero happens to be a 2D stick figure that has all the personality of, well, a stick person. We don’t know who it is, or why it is the main character in the game, it just is. There’s nothing more I can say on the matter.
If you couldn’t tell, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is the Spaceballs of Souls games, a pure play on the ‘genre’ from the start and if you couldn’t tell by the stick figure hero that adorns the artwork, then the character creation tool certainly gives the game away. Usually the character creator lets players become part of the game, but here, you are a stickman through and through, no matter what colour your eyes are, or how big you set the nose slider, you are a stickman, no ifs, no buts.
Once the pleasantries were taken care of it was time to head off on an adventure. Those of you who have played Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or Elden Ring will feel right at home here. The core mechanics have been ripped directly from FromSoftware and implemented perfectly in Nostalgaia. Battles, progression, and even the small details such as leaving messages for other players are all here. You can even call other players to help with tricky bosses if need be. For those who haven’t taken to any of these games before, this means the game plays out as an adventure game that relies on a slow and steady approach to progression. Levels have to be managed carefully, each enemy has to be treated with respect and approached with some form of strategy, otherwise you’ll find yourself being sent back to a checkpoint that is a fair distance away from where you need to be.
Thankfully, the brutal difficulty that is seen in those soulslike games, hasn’t fully made the transition over to The Last Hero of Nostalgaia. While I did find myself dying a fair amount, thanks in part to the game’s enemies hitting hard, it did feel that with a couple of tries I could learn enemy patterns and push on through to the next checkpoint. Bosses are particularly tough to handle but the margin of error that was reserved for blocking and returning hits is pretty forgiving when compared to other Souls games. This meant that while battles were a challenge, they didn’t feel frustratingly unfair, especially considering the amount of ‘source’ (the game’s answer to Souls) being so generous, meaning that the unnamed hero was quick to level up. I think this was for a good reason; The Last Hero of Nostalgaia isn’t the longest game in the world, clocking in at around 15-18 hours of playtime.
Time spent in the world of Nostalgaia is remarkably well spent; the game moves at a brisk pace and doesn’t slow down unless you want to backtrack or explore every nook and cranny. I felt the game was designed for the player to follow the most obvious path so without exploring, you could smash through it in next to no time – in fact, one of the achievements is to finish within five hours. The world itself is broken into a number of different sections that include a broken town, a winding network of caves and a vast castle, and while they all suffer from different stages of pixelation, visually they feel a little safe. Each area is represented in a brown and grey palette, and while there are splashes of colour, the world did feel a little drab when exploring.
The humour spreads into Nostalgaia as much as the pixelation of the world. Throughout the quest, there are secret areas to be found, but rather than existing as extensions of the main areas, these are NPC break rooms where I found enemies sleeping or training for their jobs. It was hilarious walking around the catacombs and suddenly finding myself in the enemy break room, adorned with slogans and mantras on how to carry out their job. Along for the ride was an omnipotent Narrator who constantly updated me on the progress of the game and the general state of things going on in the world. This information would often be important plot lines, but at times the updates would be more mundane, but if this was the case, the old voice would break character and throw something at our two-dimensional friend. This could mean more enemies suddenly appeared, or it could mean a whole train would appear on a tiny bridge and start chugging toward the hero. Whatever it was, it always spiced up the game and kept me on my toes, especially on those long treks to the next level.
The voice acting throughout is simply stunning and even though some of the dialogue is utterly crazy, it is still delivered without a hint of the type of *wink wink, nudge nudge* campness that you’d expect from a game that you would class as a parody title. In fact, each of the NPCs I met on my excursion sounded exactly as I’d expect them to; the Narrator was authoritative yet dismissive throughout, while some of the adventurers leaned into the exhaustive life of being a hero. The only trouble with the sounds is that for some reason, the mix was off, and occasionally it sounded as if an NPC I was face to face was coming from the other side of the room.
Nostalgaia succeeds in creating a carbon copy of FromSoftware’s work and manages to bring a satirical take on a usually serious genre, and while this is the biggest plus point the game has going for it, it is also the biggest flaw. In emulating the entire battle system, UI, and all the technical gubbins, the team at Over The Moon has also brought the same clunky menus and convoluted upgrade systems to Nostalgaia. When I first booted the game, I was utterly confused that the left stick didn’t navigate any menus, even the start screen. It’s certainly not game-breaking in any way, but the menus’ quirks are as frustrating as the constant dying.
Depending on the level of detail that the developers were going for, the clunky UI could be forgiven – this is a staple feature of other Souls games, so why not this one? But menus aside, Nostalgia sadly suffers from other technical glitches, especially as the game trundles on. When moving through the game, it is a flawless experience. Levels load instantly, and the world appears in front of me, ready to be explored. As I unlocked more abilities, the option to backtrack through the land became more alluring (as I made notes of certain places that warranted more attention), but as I travelled back to earlier levels, the screen froze for a few moments while the console loaded up the necessary bits to continue. The combat became a choppy affair too, which did temper my excitement for unlocking more of the game.
The Last Hero of Nostalgaia has every right to call itself a ‘soulslike’ game. It happily rips off every aspect of the Dark Souls series with gleeful abandon and with a giant smirk across its face. If you’ve played a Souls game, then it’s all here; the controls, menus, and attack patterns are all where you’d expect them to be. The difficulty is lowered somewhat and there is a much shorter run time, giving Nostalgaia more of a ‘Soulslite’ feel that’s more accessible to the mainstream player without it feeling like a cheap knockoff. The story is remarkably solid and never takes itself too seriously, and throughout the quest, random interjections from the Narrator consistently lift the mood and throw unexpected curveballs. I was left feeling like The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is an irreverent, self-deprecating, and above all else fun game that everyone should at least dip their toes into.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.