Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Released more than a decade ago on the Sega Saturn, the classic 3D title Nights presented players with a unique and surreal nocturnal adventure starring a mysterious jester figure who flew through rings and performed wild stunts. The game was released to much critical acclaim and those gamers who played it generally loved it. Unfortunately, the game never reached the mainstream audience, which was a shame since it was one of the most unique and interesting titles of that generation. Sega has listed to the many gamers who called out for a sequel and it was definitely worth the wait for those with fond memories of the original game. While Nights - Journey of Dreams offers some new features, upgraded graphics and some interesting variations on the classic gameplay modes, the most striking thing about this new installment is how closely it follows to structure and feel of the original game.

As in the first Nights, the storyline follows two (different) children as they take a journey to a dream world called Nightopia which is populated by many interesting creatures. As in the first game, both children offer a slightly different journey, though there is some level overlap here and there. The star of the game is Nights, a free-spirited sprite that flies through the world with ease and helps to guide them as they battle their fears. Unlike the first game, Nights speaks this time around and his helpful encouragement and positive attitude makes this character a bit less mysterious this time around. Between the missions, players can walk around their dream gates, which lead to the different worlds of Nightopia. One new character they'll meet along the way is a friendly owl named Owl who gives them advice and instructions between their missions. Many of the bad guys, including the evil Wiseman and Nights' archrival Jester also return in this installment. In addition, Nights has more elaborate cinematic sequences that help to make the storyline even deeper and more engaging, giving you more of the character's emotions to help keep you motivated.

Most of the missions in Nights stay fairly true to the original formula, where you have to fly through a series of rings and collect items to score points. You can also perform stunts, such as paraloops that can be used both to score points and collect objects that wind up inside your circles. For the most part, flying takes place on a mixed 2D/3D plane where you fly in a straight line while the camera tracks your movement. It might seem limited by today's standards, but this approach is probably ideal for the younger target audience. However, the approach does make Nights feel a bit more dated than it could have, which is disappointing. Along the way, you'll be able to collect a series of blue balls for bonus points and can add multipliers by linking objects together to chain for extra points. You'll also have to watch out for bad guys on your path, and colliding with them costs you valuable time. Each mission is divided into several paths that you need to complete, and these timed sections means you have to catch the key-carrying birds and collect their prize then return it to the main gate before the timer runs out.

After each mission has been completed, you are given a score and then progress to the next level, until you have beaten three stages. Once this is done, you move on to the final battle against one of the Nightmaren bosses, which usually take place in a dark stage. These boss confrontations are very different and more free-roaming in terms of structure and style and bring the game's unique design into sharp focus. Nights was always most notable for these battles and the new game stays very much in this type of design. These basic stages are very much like the Saturn edition, though there are a few twists along the standard paths such as third person sequences where you fly behind Nights and some more interesting variations that help keep things feeling current. What's more interesting is that these basic stage types are complimented by mini-game and race stages where you have to complete a certain task, such as popping all the bubbles in a certain stage or racing against one of the Awakeners while flying through the rings they drop behind. These new stages add some variety and new challenges for players accustomed to the old game. In addition, Nights also has some fairly perfunctory platform stages where you have to race around and meet Nights at the end. These are a bit clunky in practice and slow down the gameplay a bit overall, though their appearance is sporadic enough that it doesn't really ruin the overall feel of the game.

In addition to offering the expected single player mode, players can also choose from a pair of new multiplayer modes where they can compete online against others. The first of these is a race mode where you battle it out to see who can get through the stage the fastest while the other is a battle mode where you can change the rules to see who can get the highest score, chain the highest number of links or more. These are fairly cool additions to the series, but Sega has also included another brand new mode called My Dream where players can collect objects and gifts in their own personal space and visit other players' online spaces and see the objects they have as well. Both of these are new to the series and make decent addendums onto the main game.

One of the more interesting aspects of the original Nights was its implementation of a then impressive analog controller. The remake carries this approach forward, though the transition isn't as smooth as one would like. There are no fewer than four control configurations that can be used. Not all of these work well, especially the Wii-mote only mode where you awkwardly place a pointer on the screen to fly in that direction. This is very difficult to use in practice and makes the game very difficult to play. However, the more traditional schemes work best. If you attach a nunchuck to your remote, you can use the analog stick to fly while the wiimote is used for basic attack buttons. This makes performing turns and creating the loops much easier and more intuitive, while giving players the closest thing to the original controls. Players looking for a more standard interface can use either the standard Gamecube controller or the Classic Controller and use the basic configurations to fly and control their speed. This gives you a great deal of versatility in the way you control the game which should allow you to enjoy Nights the way you want to.

From a visual standpoint, what's most surprising about Nights - Journey of Dreams isn't how much has changed, but how little has. There are still the big orange rings to fly through and the ubiquitous blue spheres and glass castles at the end of each stage. Their basic appearance hasn't changed radically since the first game. The sprites and models seem to have been cleaned up and look sharper than the original Nights, but the new game isn't as sleek or smooth as other Wii titles, giving it a cool retro edge. The levels have a surrealistic, beautiful quality about them and while there's little doubt that Sega wanted to retain the game's appealing look, Nights looks a bit choppy in certain areas, with somewhat disjointed animation and textures that look out of place against the otherwise smooth look. As you might expect, the new game has a familiar sound to it with many of the same background music tracks and sound effects used in the first game returning here as well. It all adds up to a pleasing effect that updates the original game but doesn't really change that much about it's overall presentation.

In many ways, Nights offers what can be described as a satisfying update of the original - it stays remarkably true to its roots while offering a few new and interesting elements. However, in other ways, this approach to its original form makes the game feel somewhat dated. The 2D/3D flying was impressive a decade ago, but the new game doesn't really change this which makes it feel surprisingly limited by today's standards. Nights' classic control schemes seem to feel better in than the new Wii-specific style of play, but that doesn't really detract from the fun. When you consider that this comeback has been so long in coming, its surprising how faithful it remains. Gamers who loved the original game will be thrilled with a return to this legendary world, which remains as charming and enjoyable as ever, despite some rough patches. Nights - Journey of Dreams is by no means a flawless title, but its interesting level designs, surreal boss battles and surreal storyline make for one of the most enjoyable remakes we've played in some time.
- Michael Palisano


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