Nadia Was Here, published by Jajaben Games, is out now on PC and Mac.

Game review: Nadia Was Here harks back to good old days of 8- and 16-bit RPGs

Definitely one for nostalgic gamers who miss the original versions of games like Zelda and Final Fantasy, Nadia Was Here crafts deep, human characters and tops things off with a very clever and rewarding battle system

Nadia Was Here
Jajaben Games
4/5 stars

Nadia Was Here (available for PC and Mac) has been a long time coming. First announced in 2013 (and with a number of false launch dates reported since then), the one-man project is a big deal in the niche world of 8- and 16-bit role-playing games (RPGs).

While many gamers in the 1980s enjoyed the thrills of a plumber chasing mushrooms, others were exploring the far-reaching possibilities that gaming held in its early days. Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and even Zelda created fantastical worlds and wonderfully labyrinthine stories in amazingly small files about as big as a modern Word document. Impressive feats, and Nadia pays tribute in its own distinctive way, starting with the story.

Pixel art and a chiptune-heavy soundtrack add to the classic feel.

Much love has been put into crafting the three main characters journeying through the game. They’re three-dimensional, in characterisation at least if not visually, and through the dialogue-heavy text, gamers bear witness to strong human elements when the characters’ various troubles brew to the surface.

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Failure, worthlessness, a lack of love – all of these everyday concerns are addressed in strong, subtle ways. It adds an important element to the gameplay, and the story isn’t something you’d just want to skip through.

No RPG is complete without maps of their fantastical worlds.

Then there’s the battle system, possibly the game’s most distinctive attribute. In the old days, RPG battles rarely saw much innovation and often employed standard click-and-fight scenarios as a means to move the story along. In Nadia, the developer cleverly utilises all three characters at once, with one adept at stealing weapons, another good at studying attacks, and the third armed with a shield that can boost stats.

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Balancing the three fighting styles is key to your success. While it’s initially tough to get to grips with, the clashes end up being integral: their challenge, along with the eventual character progression that comes after victory, is a large part of what makes the game so involving. Coupled with graphics that are straight out of the period and a chiptune-heavy soundtrack that matches the overall feel, Nadia subverts clichés while staying true to the classic RPG approach.

The game is aimed at a very niche audience: nostalgic gamers who keep returning to old titles. But there’s something charming about Nadia – a throwback that eventually reveals method in its slight madness.