I've always wondered why they couldn't show Riker and Troi on the USS Titan or something. At least then they wouldn't have to pretend they were younger than they really were. Probably cheaper to show the Enterprise-D (not to mention more nostalgic) than having to design a new ship.
I've often thought this myself. Certainly I hate the useless attempts to shoehorn it into an existing TNG episode framework. If it had been set on the Titan they could have simply had Riker facing a brand new crisis of confidence and looking for answers in the holodeck, it didn't have
to be the Pegasus incident in TNG season seven. Structurally the episode would have been exactly the same.
I think you're right. They were going for the nostalgia angle. But (for me at least) it ended up being a fail. The more they tried to convince me, the less convinced I actually was...