The sequel to the Sega Saturn fan-favourite nears completion. How did it fare at TGS?
First of all I have a confession: this is the first time I’ve ever played a Nights game. While this means I am not familiar with the series’ nuances, I can also guarantee that my impressions are not made through any tint of glasses whatsoever, rose or otherwise.
To my surprise, Nights plays like a racing game. The TGS demo starts off with the player controlling a young kid, walking along the ground of a fantasy-themed level.
You’ll soon find a golden chain to climb up, which will take you to a floating cage where the Nights character awaits your control. The timer starts, and players must then fly laps around a course delineated by floating rings. The aim is to fly through rings, collecting orbs and keys as you go. Keys are held by large colourful birds, you must collect these to progress on to the next lap. There are three keys and three laps.
Flying is steered solely with the analogue stick, while boosting is controlled with the A Button on the Wii remote. Anyone dreading overuse of waggle can sleep well, though anyone hoping for interesting gesture controls may be disappointed. For me the controls worked nicely: I wasn’t thinking about what my hands were doing. I was just trying to fly gracefully.
From screenshots I had assumed you would be able to fly in complete 3D, like Mario with his wing cap in Super Mario 64. This was not the case. Players only control altitude and direction on an invisible path around the level, steering the character in four directions. This may sound too easy, but it’s not simply a case of tapping up or down, left or right; you really need to use the analogue sensitivity of the stick well. Flying through multiple rings in a row earns you chain combos and time bonuses. The placement of the rings also gets harder and cleverer near the end of the level, so trying to complete a perfect lap will surely satisfy the hardcore out there. In the end, I found there is a real skill and challenge involved.
At the end of the demo level is a boss. The gameplay is very similar to the main game, except restricted to a cylindrical room. In this boss battle you constantly orbit around the room, still only in the four main directions. The boss hides behind a black curtain in the background. The aim is to find him by looking for sparkles revealing his whereabouts. Players had to then ‘cut’ into the curtain by flying in a small circle. This then revealed the boss, allowing the player to damage him by flying in another quick circle This proved quite a challenge, and half the fun was working out how to actually damage him. I hope there are more similarly ingenious boss challenges in the final game.
Nights looks kind of average for the Wii. The textures are very colourful, like most Sonic Team games. The levels have a lot of background activity, with plenty to look at for bystanders. The aforementioned birds are probably the best looking things in the game. There was some slight, but noticeable slowdown at times, but nothing too distracting. Anyone impressed by the music from the recent trailer for Nights will also be satisfied with the in-game music, which features some nice orchestrations that add to the fantastical atmosphere of the game.
As I have no point of reference, I can’t say if Nights on Wii is looking to be an improvement or stagnation of this franchise. It is however an interesting take on a flying/racing game that was fun for the short time I had with it. I didn’t understand the fuss over Nights before TGS, but I came away seeing a hint of why people are charmed by the series.