Rather than sticking with the dreary tone of the Souls genre, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia brings in a sense of humor to set itself apart… with mixed success.
- Title: The Last Hero of Nostalgaia
- Release Date: October 19, 2022
- Price: $24.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated M for Mature by the ESRB
- Availability: Steam, Xbox
- Recommended for fans of: Soulsborne games, Interesting Art Styles, and Dumb Jokes
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I love how often Soulslike games manage to keep the mechanics and tropes of the genre while building up their own unique identities. Usually, it is a change of genre that helps make a game feel distinct from FromSoft’s offerings, but The Last Hero of Nostalgaia goes in a bit of a different direction. It establishes its identity through a wild tone and aesthetic.
The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is a Soulslike, but it's also a parody of Soulslikes and video games in general. The question is whether it works as form, parody, or both.
The core gameplay of The Last Hero of Nostalgaia follows pretty much every standard of the Soulslike genre. You play as a character who starts out with nothing on a journey of destiny. As you slaughter nearly every other thing you come into contact with you gather up a resource from them that you use to level up at checkpoints throughout the world. Dying means you drop some of that resource and respawn at the last checkpoint. You can equip different pieces of armor, and carry weapons or shields in each of your hands. The shoulder button on your controller executes a quick attack while the trigger is a slower, stronger strike.
The first chunk of gameplay really didn't give me any surprises, but there are a few little twists on the formula that I really like. First of all, rather than a full-on fast-travel system, you can “tether” yourself to a bonfire, which means you can jump from any other bonfire back to that point. This is a great way to make the idea of backtracking for gear or items less frustrating.
Secondly, the way The Last Hero of Nostalgaia handles gear is really cool. You won't pick up nearly as many weapons or pieces of armor here as you do in Elden Ring, but there's a lot more variety than in Bloodborne. The neat twist is that a lot of the items have “forgotten memories”, which basically means that you need to take that item to a specific place hinted at by the item description to transform it into a slightly more powerful version of itself.
A Variety of Visuals
Along with boosting stats, “remembering” a weapon also changes it from a flat, sprite-like appearance to a fully rendered 3D version of itself. This is part of the whole parody hook of the game… You see, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is a video game. Er, rather, it's a video game that takes place in a video game… I think.
Throughout the world, you'll find a few different levels of depth to the world, characters, and items you'll find. It seems like whatever McGuffin is cursing this land is also pushing it backward through video game visual design. As you move through the game and light new checkpoints, you bring back a higher-resolution visual design to the world.
We Got Jokes
Like most Soulslike games, I don't fully understand what is happening with the story… but the mix of visuals is pretty cool, and the comedy that comes along with them is pretty good by video game standards.
Video games don't really do humor well. Trying to work out how to do comedy in a medium that is so heavily “audience controlled” is tough. In The Last Hero of Nostalgaia, there are two ways they work in jokes and they are both fine.
First off, there's a sarcastic narrator that accompanies you throughout the game. Think Zeus and Prometheus from Immortals: Fenyx Rising, except way less frequent. This guy has a lot of dialog that is mostly pointed at poking fun at your nameless hero and the tropes of Soulslike games. Second, there are a lot of items that are clear winks and nods toward other video game franchises. There aren't really punchlines here, but when I was able to arm myself with a Shovel it got a grin out of me.
If the core objective of The Last Hero of Nostalgaia was to create a satire or parody of the Soulslike genre, I think it is a failure. There's a sense of humor to the world and the narrator, but the actual gameplay mostly feels like “just another Soulsbourne”. I think creating a video game that parodies a genre is really tough because you almost have to find a way to make the gameplay itself a joke… and honestly, I'm glad this game didn't go that route.
Rather than being a hilarious send-up of FromSoft's works, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is just another in the wide category of Soulslike games, but with a lighthearted take and a few goofs to set it apart from its decidedly dreary counterparts.