Before I begin, I must state my experience with the MMO genre. I’ve seen older titles like Everquest played for several hours. I’ve logged a couple hours into WoW, but the style of play just wasn’t for me. I spent a day updating Final Fantasy XIV, but was never able to join a server. I’ve never deeply invested myself into an MMO, but I do have an idea of what they exactly are. Being an old school gamer at heart, I was instantly turned on to the idea of an MMO based around an 8-bit RPG like Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy. It was an easy decision to try NEStalgia for the fact that it’s completely free to play, and was created to mimic the look and feel of an old school RPG.
NEStalgia is the perfect name for this game; it’s nostalgic and modeled around the NES RPG titles. It is also completely free and takes ten minutes to download BYOND, create an account and hop in a server. I was actually impressed with the quickness of this and was already off to a good start. Once you are set up, you can create a character choosing his outfit and hairstyle — which is quite funny since these characters are so limited with how they look. You then pick a class and are thrown into your starting town.
At first you might feel lost but talking with town folks will begin your quest log and some direction as to what is going on. The quests are typical: go collect this, head in this dungeon, and bring back a number of items — quests that don’t break from the mold but don’t need to; this game was made for fans of NES RPGs anyway. You can see other players in the server running around town; partying up with others is as simple as clicking an icon and clicking on their character. You can also see other player levels by clicking on their character, which then displays their name and level in the chat window to the right, which is always running.
I accepted plenty of quests and decided to start wondering the rest of the town and explore the overworld. One quest had me shrinking down where a common mouse was a ferocious enemy and taking it out. Fighting in this game shows the enemy and a menu where you can choose attack, escape, magic, etc. You also get quests like collect five of some item and bring it back for gold and experience. One had me collecting ten bandit masks or headbands that brought me to the main cave of the starter zone and to the first boss, Reghor. Exploring the overworld is exactly like the original Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior overworlds are handled. Do I need to make this point anymore of it being similar to old school RPGs? You can see other characters exploring and disappear once they get into a random battle. It’s funny to see a group of people heading to town, probably trying to heal before they die, only to see them disappear into another fight.
My character at the time was a level six Cleric. Going through the cave collecting masks, you realize this game is made to play with friends. They actually say it’s a frustrating experience taking on bosses and some quests if you try it alone. But who wants to play an MMO by themselves anyway, right? I barely made it in the cave before dying and couldn’t make it back in time to heal. Dying in the game teleports you back to the last town you were in, or the last Inn you visited. I then talked a friend to start up an account, and we joined with another and were able to take out Reghor. Even with all three of us, which is the max a party can be, we still had to be strategic during the fight.
When Reghor was defeated, we all got our loot; entire party gets the benefits, and was able to venture into the next area. Before that, though, I made sure to go back into town and sell off items that I no longer needed, since you are limited with how much you can carry. Loot is another hook in this game as it is with all RPGs. I also finished up a couple more quests then headed East to the next area filled with more quests. I’ve played a couple hours past this point but is all I’ve experienced so far. The next zone had all new types of quests including navigating through a Zelda-like forest.
The big appeal of this game is the fact that it’s an MMO. How has this concept not been done before? Gamers love these old school games and being able to play with friends makes it infinitely better. The only problem I can muster is being in the party and not being the party leader. These games, although incredible deep, are also simplistic when control is taken from you — to the point where you just watch your party leader take charge. You lose control of your character and follow the leader in a line. It can get boring since grinding is pretty important for boss battles and you are doing nothing but clicking “attack.” I would say the best way to play is participate in the chat menu or hop on Skype with your party.
Even though this retro style game looks simple and “outdated,” it has many things that brings it up to date including a quest log (which I mentioned earlier), a guild system, PvP combat, and an auction house for trading items. It’s surprisingly deep with how varied the game is including the many different stats your characters have attached to them.
I said the game was completely free to play from beginning to end but they do offer a paid service that has its perks. You can do either a $9 a year plan, or a lifetime subscription of $20. With how much they plan on updating this game, I would go ahead with the lifetime plan if you end up liking the game. What the paid content gets you is extra character classes, ability to create a guild, fast travel routes, and other extras that seem worth the small amount they are asking.
I have to thank Phil Kollar from GameInformer who introduced me to this game through a news post he wrote. It was the basic idea of what this game is that sounded so inviting to me. I’ve always wanted to play an MMO, but didn’t want to invest the money or the time it takes before they become “fun.” It was the ease of this experience, and creating an account and hopping on a server, that makes me say this is a game everyone should try if you were ever a fan of old school RPG’s.