The Last Hero of Nostalgaia (Xbox Series) Review

A stick figure a day…
Header

The world is in dire peril! You know the type – the end of everything. And who’s going to stop it? You, of course. You great big stick figure hero you! Wait, hold on. Stick Figure? Yup, that’s right. Welcome to developer Over The Moon’s The Last Hero of Nostalgaia, a lovingly crafted satire of videogame and pop culture tropes coupled with a Souls-like playstyle. The titular “Nostalgaia” is a video game land regressing from the wonderful world of polygons back on down to 2D 8-bit oblivion. A world whose only hero that can set it right is a stick figure. And did I mention that the narrator hates you? Yeah, it’s going to be a long day…

Visual downgrades!

The land of Nostalgaia is losing its “Memory” and, with it, its “Definition”. A once-thriving, hero-filled world of polygons and hi-res textures is now degrading. Polygon counts are been lowered, textures are going low-res, and 2D sprites are replacing everything. The heroes, those who still retain some semblance of who they once were, are a nightmarish conglomeration of bugs and glitches, trying to save what remains. Clearly, they’re not doing a good enough job, otherwise, there’d be no need for you!

The Last Hero of Nostalgaia has one of the best character creators I’ve used in a video game. There are a wealth of options for you to play around with and yet all you can create is a stick figure! It’s this opening that sets the tone that The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is going for – for the entire game. This sense of snark, of lovingly spoofing and satirical humour, is what makes The Last Hero of Nostalgaia stand out from many of the other, sombre Souls-like games crowding the market.

The Last Hero of Nostalgaia Character Creation

Your hero’s journey to restore Memory to the world, and to let other heroes play out the stories that they were created for, is full of memorable moments, not least of which is the upset narrator who doesn’t think much of you and who regularly interferes with your quest. Whether it was the moments when he would interrupt with, “Behold, an ambush!”, and have monsters jump out at you from behind pillars or, my favourite, spawning a train as you’re trying to cross a bridge to run you over with, they always kept a smile on my face for most of the playthrough.

Naturally, the game is chock full of gaming and pop culture Easter Eggs. Some are easier to spot than others, such as a level based around a certain rich duck’s money bin, while others require a keener eye. They’re all worth looking for as coupled with the situational humour, they provide many of the game’s highlights. This humourous approach applies to the level design as you’ll find back rooms and alleys are full of staff rooms for the enemies to take a break between videogame sessions, chock full of motivational sayings and workout equipment.

‘Souls-ish

Moving on to the minute-to-minute gameplay, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is Souls-like through and through, which is both good and bad. You’ve got light attacks, heavy attacks, a stamina bar, and can dodge roll or block attacks. Enemies drop Memory when defeated and, of course, you use this to level up your character and your weapons. You can rest and level up at “Tethers” that respawn enemies when used. So far, pretty much par for the course.

On a positive note, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is considerably easier and more accessible than most Souls-likes. Don’t think I mean there’s a lack of challenge as you will die; rather, it’s rarely frustrating enough that you’ll be inclined to throw your controller at a wall. The level design also follows that satisfying Souls-likes template, with paths looping back on themselves to link areas prior together and create new shortcuts. On the downside, the game uses some cheap techniques, especially with regard to enemy placement and unblockable attacks, to increase difficulty. Another thing you’ll have to get used to is the slower pace of combat and slower animations, resulting in far too many openings in some of your defensive manoeuvres.

Beyond the humour, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia brings some novel changes to its weapon and armour systems. You can carry everything you pick up on you at all times, with weight only making a difference once it’s equipped. What’s great about the armour and weapons systems is that everything has its own lore, but the weapons and armour have forgotten them, leaving them in an underpowered state. Each equipment piece has a hint about its past in the lore tab, and you need to go to reclaim their memories to fill this out. When you do, you’ll be rewarded with a hefty chunk of lore, an increase in the equipment’s stats, and you’ll unlock its special abilities. At the same time, its weapon model changes from a low-poly, low-res asset to an intricate, high-res one. You can further enhance weapons at the Blacksmith and “unbound” them at an NPC, which greatly increases their power, transfers them into a modern model asset, but they lose their special ability and associated lore.

Performance is no laughing matter

Visually, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia might not impress unless you like the low-resolution textures and combination of sprites mixed in with proper 3D models. The visual aesthetic that the developers are going for is, in my opinion, wonderful with some nice modern effects and lighting, especially when you use a Tether for the first time and watch the surrounding area change from its degraded state to a higher fidelity one.

The Last Hero of Nostalgaia Writing

Where The Last Hero of Nostalgaia does suffer though, is in its technical performance. The game is riddled with slowdown and has a camera that is terrible in tight environments. The biggest problem, and one that actually affects playing, is that each time you get hit, the game seems to freeze up for a moment, which completely throws off any combat rhythm and, more often than not, leaves you vulnerable to more attacks. Initially, I thought it may have been a part of the game’s humour, as one item stops you from getting staggered after getting hit. However, even after using it, each blow I received froze the game for the briefest moment. It’s bad enough during normal encounters but completely infuriating in boss ones.

A stick figure a day…

Despite the (hopefully patchable) performance issues, The Last Hero of Nostalgaia is a worthy Souls-like for you to sink your time into, especially if the developers can patch out some of the performance issues. With a humorous and fun story, mostly solid combat, and a mercifully easier difficulty setting, it deserves your attention.

A review code for The Last Hero of Nostalgaia was provided to gameblur by the publisher

The Last Hero of Nostalgaia (Xbox Series) Review

The Last Hero of Nostalgaia (Xbox Series) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
  • Audio
    6/10 Normal

The Good

  • An easier Souls-like experience
  • Fun story
  • Wonderful character creator

The Bad

  • Performance issues can affect gameplay
  • Typical Souls-like cheapness at times
Total
6
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