It’s hard to believe that it has been over a decade since Sega first introduced the world to their flying purple jester. While some would argue that the game deserved to remain in the memories of gamers and not in their consoles Sega has decided to revive the franchise, and what better console to house this quirky platformer than Nintendo’s new waggle-fied Wii. NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams is very much like its predecessor in that it’s nigh impossible to define what makes it so special. The game is chock full of smile-inducing moments and candy-coated design that deliver an experience that is hard not to enjoy. While it does suffer from some shallow design it makes up for it with outstanding presentation and a purse sense of sappy satisfaction.
The story is just as outlandish as the visuals. At the outset of the game you can choose between two troubled youths, Will and Helena. Each one has a separate set of missions that eventually intertwine for the grand finale. Much like the original game all of these levels take place in the children’s dreams in a land known as Nightopia. Here is where you will first encounter NiGHTS and discover that the world is being harassed by the evil Nightmarens. Unlike the previous outing Journey of Dreams is very dialogue intensive early on and since you cannot skip said cut scenes expect to spend the first half hour of the game learning about this bizarre tale of dream worlds and evil jesters.
Once you finally are able to assimilate with NiGHTS, which is creepy in and of itself, you will get your first taste of the flight mechanics. Controlling the game is much like you remember with NiGHTS floating around in a horizontal pattern with plenty of free vertical movement to perform different aerial maneuvers. There are several options for the player such as motion controls or simply plugging in an old Gamecube controller to mimic the original Saturn version. Although you can opt to use the motion sensor from the Wii remote to steer your character around the environments we do not recommend it. If you have ever played a PC game where you point and click to move your avatar you have a good idea of how the motion controls in Journey of Dreams function. You point a blue cursor on the screen and press A to fly in that direction.
As you can imagine this is hardly a logical combination for the more precise movements required to earn higher rankings on certain levels. There are some cool specific motions on the Wii remote to perform different and special moves but the benefits of having clear-cut controls far outweigh them. Playing the game with either the classic controller, Gamecube pad, or simply the nunchuk attachment is the best option and ultimately the sure-fire way to master some of the more difficult levels.
Whichever method of control you choose venturing through the vibrant dream worlds of the game is what the experience has always been about. Each level in NiGHTS is broken down into five smaller chapters with varying types of gameplay to break up the monotony. It is no secret that the traditional flying levels are the highlight, but some of the new ideas are nicely executed and fit well within the universe. For instance you will deviate from the classic side view in some levels reminiscent of another Sega franchise Panzer Dragoon. Some levels have you performing mini-game like tasks not unlike a Monkey Ball or Marble Madness while others will bring back nightmares from the first game as you assume control of either Will or Helen in needlessly frustrating platforming levels.
The boss fights throughout the game are also a highlight which is refreshing considering the simplicity of your arsenal of moves. Often you will visit a simplistic version of the boss at the beginning of the level only to face their true form in the final stage. Sense of urgency is delivered by putting you against a strict time limit and replay is added by giving you different time trials in order to unlock better rankings. Battles can range from simplistic endeavors such as simply creating a loop to stop your pursuer to more complex actions where you must fling your opponent into the air by attaching yourself to them. While it all sounds simple in nature there is a sense of complexity and addictiveness attached to each of these encounters that would only work in the colorful world of NiGHTS.
The core game lasts between 5-7 hours depending on how much you decide to see and do. Once you are finished there NiGHTS has some typical online functionality and a remarkably inventive feature that will certainly extend its life. The adversarial online modes are broken down into two flavors. The first is a battle mode that can be enjoyed either locally via split screen or online with friends or other random players. Here you basically collect balloons and toss them at your foe; not very exciting to say the least. The next is a race mode where you can once again battle online or off in order to outrun your opponent. The final and most exciting mode isn’t exactly multi-player but more like a community feature. This mode is called My Dream and it is basically a giant lobby filled with nightopians you collect throughout the game. Here you can also visit other players dream fields, trade and gift nightopians, and even chat with a rudimentary emoticon feature. While it isn’t the most exciting feature for the online hardcore it is an inventive way to kill some time and extend the life of the game.
The world of NiGHTS is a colorful one to say the least. The game takes place in a dream world and the folks at Sonic Team have once again crafted environments that convey that emotion. Whether you are flying through the sky with a backdrop that looks like an array of colors only matched by a bag of Skittles to more subtle and impressive visuals such as the glass world the levels never cease to impress. It is also an accomplishment when each level feels unique and varied, which NiGHTS does better than any game on the console outside of Mario Galaxy. The animation of everyone’s favorite asexual jester is also highly impressive, but not so much for Will and Helen who suffer from stiff movement that feels like it was directly lifted from the previous Saturn outing. Sounds are even more impressive with a soothing soundtrack that draws you into each world. Soft melodies ring through your setup and are as imperative to the levels as their appearance. Voice acting is equally impressive which is rare for a title of this type. Overall NiGHTS looks and sounds exactly as you would have dreamed.
Journey of Dreams isn’t for everyone and some will likely wonder what all the fuss was about. However, fans of the original will find plenty to adore here as Sonic Team has faithfully revived the franchise and given it just enough to make it feel new and fresh. While the motion controls are the game’s biggest hindrance Sega was still wise to release this game on the Wii simply because it fits in well with the console’s library. NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams is a fantastic sequel that will have fans clamoring for more, now let’s hope Sega doesn’t wait another decade before bringing back everyone’s favorite jester.