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NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams

by Jonathan Metts - January 6, 2008, 11:58 pm PST
Total comments: 11

7

How does the long-awaited Sega sequel hold up for someone new to the series?

I've never played the original Nights game on Sega Saturn, and I'll probably never get a chance to. However, I love games with flying, so I was curious to try the highly anticipated sequel to such a beloved game. I came away from it… amused. Nights: Journey of Dreams is a charming title with simple but fun gameplay. I wouldn't say that I've been converted to a Nights fan, but I had a good time with the game.

It's a bit hard to understand how Nights is played until you try it. Most of the game involves flying on a 2D plane through 3D environments, so it's more like Uniracers than Pilotwings. There are several mission types, but the main one has you chasing after birds to get keys. Nights is not just the name of the game but also the name of the main character, a flying clown who lives in the world of dreams. He has just one flying speed, though you can dash much faster as long as you have dash power. That meter is refilled by flying through rings, which is more difficult to do while dashing. The game plays much like a race, in which you hit the gas on straight-aways and slow down to make turns. Meanwhile, a beautiful 3D world is scrolling by, and the course often spirals around or dips under objects in the environment. Although the gameplay doesn't exactly feel like flying, it is fun and exhilarating.

I also like the fact that you can play most of Nights with just the Nunchuk, because all it needs is a joystick and one button (to dash). The Classic controller also works well, if you have one. The Remote-only option is best avoided – it involves pointing a cursor in the direction you want Nights to move, which is too slow and inaccurate for this type of game. With a joystick, Nights moves fluidly and responsively, and my only complaint is that his turning radius is larger than you might expect. That may cause some initial frustration with creating Paraloops, which appear when you draw a circle with the trail of sparkles that Nights leaves behind. This issue goes away with time and practice, though. There are some camera troubles, in Sonic Team tradition, as the camera sometimes zooms in too close to tell where you are going or what you are supposed to be doing. There's nothing you can do about it, but the camera will usually move to a better angle if you keep moving through the level.

The real problem with Nights is that the best parts of the game are interrupted by a lot of bad storytelling and mediocre side-missions. The idea of inhabiting your dreams is an old one but holds many possibilities. In this game, Will and Helen are two children who enter the world of dreams and have to combat the Nightmares, led by a huge villain named Wizeman. This would be a fine framework, but the game takes its story way too seriously, with cut-scenes before and after almost every mission. The plot is clichéd and boring, and the child actors are quite terrible. Listen for their fake English accents to come in and out randomly, or take bets on whether Helen's voice actor will make it through her lines without falling asleep. The only bright spots are the exquisite CG movies in the intros and endings for each character. The real-time scenes played through the rest of the game struggle to reach the gravitas of a Saturday morning cartoon.

The other problem, which should be no surprise coming from Sonic Team, is that the basic and very fun gameplay described earlier makes up about a third of the game. The rest of Nights is padded out with confusing mini-games and sleep-inducing levels where you directly control Will and Helen through bland mazes, the latter being more prominent in Helen's half of the game. There are also several uneven but very interesting boss battles that have nothing to do with their corresponding levels. Even though the boss battles range from excellent to tedious, they are all so creative and unusual that you'll look forward to each one, hoping it will be one of the good ones.

Equally inconsistent are the visuals. All of the bosses look incredible, while Nights himself looks like a misshapen clown, and the children have an eerie, robotic appearance, especially in their faces. The environments look spectacular when scrolling by quickly in flying levels, but they are much less impressive when viewed up close in cut-scenes and on-foot levels. Where you can expect more uniform quality is the soundtrack, full of orchestrated songs that are so catchy, you'll have them in your head for hours afterwards. I can hear the music even now, hours after trading in the game towards a Smash Bros. pre-order.

That leads to one last gripe, although it's a minor one. Nights is an average length game in terms of content, with totally distinct levels for both Will and Helen. However, nearly everything in the game is rather easy for an experienced player, so you can blow through several missions in the span of half an hour. Each one is graded, and there are good rewards for improving your scores up to a point, but even that goal is quickly accomplished. The lifeless "My Dream" feature (essentially the same as Sonic's Chao Garden) is not worth your time. Local and online two-player races are a fun diversion, but it's hard to imagine anyone but very hardcore Nights fans playing them more than a few times. The game has good replay value, but you'll see every level, mission, and boss in the first few hours.

Despite significant problems, Nights is a truly charming game that's not quite like anything else out there. It is probably designed for children more than anyone else, and they will get the most out of it and be less distracted by the poor acting and storytelling. Older gamers should definitely try it out, but you can probably wring it of satisfaction during a weekend rental.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 7.5 8 6.5 6 7
Graphics
8

Levels and characters look average up close, but most of the game is colorful, vibrant, and sharp. The character design for Nights himself is simultaneously goofy and unnerving, but most other characters and especially bosses look great.

Sound
7.5

Nights deserves a lot of credit for the childish, carefree soundtrack that will bring a smile to anyone's face. That good will is tainted, however, by some truly awful voice actors—especially the children, who even contribute some unfortunate singing to the end credits theme.

Control
8

Stay away from the Remote-only feature, and you'll find that the controls in Nights are simple and elegant.

Gameplay
6.5

The flying missions are great fun – but there's a lot of other stuff that is considerably less entertaining. Those who have played the 3D Sonic games will find a similar concoction here.

Lastability
6

There are dozens of missions to play through, but most of them are quite brief and rather easy. If you still want more, there are several options to keep playing, such as a good online race mode and some incentives to improve your scores in the story mode. The "My Dream" feature is boring and lifeless, despite a neat option to explore other players' gardens.

Final
7

Nights is an unusual, very inconsistent game much in the style of other recent Sonic Team releases, though it is better than most of the 3D Sonic games. It's definitely worth playing, but perhaps not worth buying except as a children's game.

Summary

Pros
  • Clever, graphically impressive boss battles
  • Flying is simple, fun, and exciting
  • Great use of Wii's online features
  • High quality, addictive music
Cons
  • Camera is often zoomed in too far
  • Overbearing and undercooked story
  • Shoddy filler gameplay
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

NinGurl69 *hugglesJanuary 06, 2008

More inconsequential software aimed at kids. I see. Thanks, Sega.

Smash_BrotherJanuary 07, 2008

It sucks because I get the feeling, like GP, that if Sega had just put a bit more effort, this could have been something REALLY special.

My biggest qualm with the game is probably Nights' voice actor/tress: they clearly went for a voice to sound androgynous and given that Nights has been established as being male, I disagree with that. Also, the constant placing of hands on hips is far too reminiscent of what's-her-face who played Peter Pan. I got that vibe from him more than anything.

GoldenPhoenixJanuary 07, 2008

I think this is a fair review, the game could have been great if they focused the design and gave it more time for polish. As it stands it is a solid game but will more than likely not be remembered for years to come like the original.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterJanuary 07, 2008

Quote

Originally posted by: Smash_Brother
My biggest qualm with the game is probably Nights' voice actor/tress: they clearly went for a voice to sound androgynous and given that Nights has been established as being male, I disagree with that. Also, the constant placing of hands on hips is far too reminiscent of what's-her-face who played Peter Pan. I got that vibe from him more than anything.


You are probably thinking of Cathy Rigby.

Information provided by the internet; Supplying useless trivia facts to the masses since 1986 face-icon-small-wink.gif .

Smash_BrotherJanuary 07, 2008

Ah, THAT'S the shemale in question, yes. She still horrifies me to this day.

I think they should've taken more of Sonic's edge and given it to Nights, not made Nights so perky and feminine-sounding. I think Reala's voice would have fit better for Nights.

MorariJanuary 07, 2008

CENSORED FOR YOUR PROTECTION

GoldenPhoenixJanuary 07, 2008

They should have just made a female Nights and a male Nights. But then again hiring one more crappy voice actor would have broken the game's budget.

DAaaMan64April 07, 2008

I rented this, the flying is very fun.  The first boss was pretty cool too.

The IR sensor going off screen and the time limits are frustrating!

animecyberratApril 08, 2008

All I wanted to know what how does it compare to the original. The first game wasn't that great either but was fun just cuz you got to fly around and do tricks.

DAaaMan64April 09, 2008

uuhh I cannot deal with how bad the IR is on this game, who's fault is that?  Paraloops work like ass.  The pointer is always jumping around.

NinGurl69 *hugglesApril 09, 2008

The Ghost Squad Wii team obviously didn't touch this.

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NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Sonic Team
Players1 - 2
Online1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
Release Dec 18, 2007
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone
jpn: NiGHTS: Hoshifuru Yo no Monogatari
Release Dec 13, 2007
PublisherSega
RatingAll Ages
eu: NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
Release Jan 18, 2008
PublisherSega
Rating7+
aus: NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams
Release Jan 24, 2008
PublisherSega
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