||System: Wii||Released: 12/18/2007
|Developer: Sonic Team||Publisher: Sega
|Genre: Action/Adventure||Players: 1 - 2
|ESRB Rating: E for Everyone||Controller: Gamecube|
|Game Save: 4 Blocks (per save)||Reviewer: Clovis Dye (Staff)
Today weíre here to talk about NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, a game that was meant to be a follow up to the legendary NiGHTS into Dreams for the Sega Saturn. A whole decade had passed between the release of the original and the debut of this Wii exclusive follow up. The people at Sonic Team had claimed during all that time that the reason they werenít releasing a sequel to NiGHTS was because everything that could have been accomplished had been done so in the first game, and thus there was no reason to bother with a sequel unless something significantly new and remarkable could be achieved other than prettier graphics. All of these things combined to form truly heightened hopes for the sequel when they finally announced it for the Wii, with its new revolutionary motion based controller, all these years later. Those hopes, however, were little more than misplaced fantasies.
As most gamers can tell you, Sega just hasnít been themselves since the fall of the Dreamcast. All one needs to do to confirm this is take a list of all the Sonic games from before the fall and compare them to all the Sonic games from after the fall. That is the same sort of difference you will experience between this new NiGHTS and the original NiGHTS. Where as the original NiGHTS was a magical experience revered by all that played it, this NiGHTS - like newer sonic games - features well done graphics, music, and cut scenes, yet fails to deliver on the game play; doubly so if you try to play it with the Wii-mote, which was their supposed reason for justifying the existence of this sequel in the first place.
If you play this game with the Wii-mote you will have zero fun. The problem is that the implemented the control with a sort of mouse pointer on the screen called the Ďmind sightí, if this mind sight is close enough to NiGHTS while he is flying then he will try to fly in the general direction of the mind sight. The movement of the mind sight isnít nearly smooth as it should be, and the way NiGHTS follows it (or doesnít, as the case may be) is not nearly adequate enough to pull off the fast turns and - worst yet - loops the game will demand of you. If you play it with a GameCube/classic controller, a control scheme similar to how the game was originally played on the Sega Saturn, you will at least have a small amount of fun, but not much.
So once put in the game, and choose to play with a more traditional controller, you will - after a dreadfully boring mandatory tutorial - come to your first level and think either one of two things. You will either think that I am crazy and that this is just like what the original NiGHTS offered, or that this is a little too easy and that you really wish the game picks up the difficulty quickly. So either youíll be happy with the first mission, or not yet disappointed while believing the fun is yet to come when the game obviously cranks it up as it goes along. Unfortunately the promise made to you by the first mission of what the game is like is, like the promise of cake made by portal instructing computer systems, is a lie that will never really be delivered on.
The game is divided into 6 real worlds, a hub stage for selecting levels where the tutorial is played, and a final stage where you have the final show down with the lord of nightmares: Wizeman. However, each of the two playable children only go through 3 of these worlds, after first suffering through the tutorial, before going onto the final level to battle Wizeman. Now each of these worlds the kids will be visiting have 5 missions, the first of which will be a classic original NiGHTS style level that is often mesmerizingly pretty - and somewhat entertaining to play - the culminates in a boss fight that is often the exact opposite of fun to play. For the last mission in a world you will refight the aforementioned boss, sans a fun flying portion, with extra gimmicks added to make the boss far more annoying than it was the first time.
I say the boss becomes more annoying, rather than more challenging, because usually what makes the boss hard to stop is a very broken gimmick. Yet even with these broken gimmicks at their disposal, the boss fights are very hard to lose. The problem is that your performance is graded on speed, and these gimmicks turn the boss fights often into affairs of luck more than skill. If you want to unlock the ultimate ending, which requires at least a C Grade on every mission, you will quickly come to curse the fact that when fighting the bosses you rarely have direct control in your efforts against them.
Case in point, one of the bosses you have to fight with the girl is destroyed by rolling all these balls into holes with a labyrinth style set-up (it was the game where you twisted knobs to tilt the table). However, you donít directly control the tilt of the table with the wii-moteís tilt sensing abilities, instead you fly around the table and ram into pegs coming out of it at high speeds with NiGHTSís body. Worse yet, during the second wave with this boss, the holes are placed on top of hills so you need to get the balls moving fast or they wonít go up these hills at all. Yet if the balls are going too fast, theyíll hit the edge of the hole and pop over it like an over powered shot on a putting course (and sorry, they unfortunately canít fly over the edge of the table). Remember, you need to finish this abomination with an extreme lack of direct control very quickly if you want to unlock the ultimate ending.
Now that thatís out of the way, what of the other 3 missions on each world? One of them will be a ĎChase Octopawí mission; these missions challenge you to fly after Octopaw at high speeds without missing a single ring or blue chip to rack up as a high a chained sequence as possible. If you enjoy flying through rings at high speeds, with you allowed to only go a whole second before you hit the next ring, then you might like these levels. The remaining two missions you most assuredly will not like, and arenít of the nature of something that actually belongs in a NiGHTS game.
The missions will either take the form of you flying around a very tight circle trying to catch every item before it goes out of bounds, which are long and boring; or they will take the form of a level where NiGHTS takes the shape of some vehicle for the child to ride where you have one pass to accomplish something while riding the vehicle, played with entirely different controls from a behind the back view; or you will even worse yet be playing a extremely long and boring on foot mission with one of the kids, which in the original NiGHTS game represented the single universally loathed part of the game; or perhaps youíll be doing some still other inane challenge that is still something other than the kind of flying you actually wanted from a sequel to the original NiGHTS game.
At this point in time Iíd like to take a moment to talk about one of the most egregious missions that fall into the last category that I mentioned above. The girl is tasked with flying through the air to hit all these notes that appear to form the notes of the famous song Dreams Dreams from the original NiGHTS game. Iíll admit that Iím actually somewhat fond of this song, but this mission tried hard to make me hate it with some truly great bile. First of all, youíre only allowed to miss five notes. However, if you hit the note too soon or late it ALSO counts as a miss. You see, youíre trying to hit the notes at the exact moment they should play with the background music. Worse yet, if you want to see the ultimate ending, the note must be hit at itís PRECISELY correct moment - with no wiggle room either way - or youíll find yourself not missing a single note and still getting a most humiliating grade of E. Stuff like this isnít a real challenge, like I mentioned earlier, itís just arbitrarily difficult thanks to a very broken game design approach.
At least the final mission gives you an actually fun normal flying stage where you chase down Wizeman, who has just absconded by this point with NiGHTS, through - of all places - the real world where the kids have found the power within themselves to fly on their own. During all of this the game plays the version of the Dreams Dreams song that you normally only heard in the original game if you got an A on everything, which was a nice touch. This last level was actually fun, and even decently challenging in a good way, and if only more of the game was like this then this review wouldnít have had to be so negative. Unfortunately this level is the same for both kids, so playing through the childís other story wonít afford you a different - yet equally awesome - final stage.
Lastly, as the final insult, the biggest problem here is that this game offers 8 hours, or less if you donít care about grades, of subpar game play while also releasing at a full retail price. The fact is, so long as you donít try for anything above an E, the levels are usually easy enough for most young kids to finish without much effort. Thusly, I can assure you that youíre not going to have felt that you got your moneyís worth after 8 hours of this disappointment when youíre paying full price for it. Although the developers would assure you that thereís an infinite many more hours of fun to be had playing in the gameís A-Life garden, which is just Sonic Adventure 2ís Chao Garden with a bucket of paint on it, most people will find this feature of the game to be so abysmally boring that they wonít look at it beyond a single handful of minutes at most.
Now that all of thatís out of the way I will talk about the few things I did like about this game, although they werenít nearly enough to do anything but save this game from being amongst the absolute worst ranks. First of all, this game is actually rather pretty. Yes, itís often very cartoony during the dream worlds, but in a very slick way the looks really good when youíre flying through them a mach 5 during the first mission of each stage. Furthermore, they do a decently good job of making a clear distinction between the cartoony dream world and the very menacing world of nightmares where you fight the boss for a given world. Even better, the look of Wizeman himself is highly appropriate for someone that is supposed to be a demonic lord of all nightmares. For all the bad I can say about the programmers who worked on this, you will never hear me talk ill of the artists who clearly loved working on this title.
Furthermore, the cut scenes, most of which are handled in engine, are all painstakingly animated down to the last possible minutia of motion in a very impressive manner. You are often left with the feeling that, when you watch these, that you would have been happier with a NiGHTS animated film instead of this game. Although for some reason I canít possibly fathom, NiGHTS - who is supposed to be a man - has a voice that wholly obvious as a female voice. It makes everything he says more than a little creepy in ways Iím pretty sure the Japanese creators of this game completely did not intend.
Lastly, the stories of the two playable children available are actually complementary rather than contradictory. Rather than being like playing through Chris and Jill in Resident Evil 1, which produces two contradictory stories, playing through both their adventures is more like playing through as Claire-A and Leon-B in Resident Evil 2. What happens to one kid is never contradicted in the other childís story, and furthermore may even have the set up for why the event happened in the other childís story in the first place. Iím serious, if you play through as the boy and have to save the girl at some point, then when you play as the girl you will have the boy save when you get to that part (but see if it from the girlís perspective rather than the boyís). Due to this the two childrenís stories donít just feel like a retreading the same singular story with a different avatar on the screen each time. This is a really nice choice and I wish more games that had selectable characters would do this.
However, for all these little things the game does right, all of which arenít related to the actual game play itself, the few actually enjoyable (though usually all too easy) levels based on the game play of the original NiGHTS - 7 in total, if you only count once the final shared mission against Wizeman where the two kids fly together - are ultimately choked out by the far greater abundance of the stupid levels that you have to play through along the way to get to them. Sonic Team just never seems to be able to focus on what actually works and instead always insists on taking a single good idea and crowding a ton of half baked game play modes around it. Worse yet, like most offerings by Sonic Team, you canít get the real ending of the game just by finishing it. So when youíre trying to get a least a C on every level, so as to see the real ending, you will constantly be frustrated by all the cheap little things they threw into the various missions to make them more difficult in arbitrary and broken ways such that you arenít having whatever small amounts of fun there was present in the game in the first place.
In the end I must sadly give this game 2 flying kids out of 5.