Journey of dreams, the sequel SEGA Saturn fanboys have been waiting 10 years for, after all those rumours its finally here, but was it ever going to live up to the cult following surrounding the original, NiGHTS Into Dreams?
Our hero is NiGHTS, a Nightopian who flies around Nightopia fighting away evil Nightmarens whom appear from the dark realms of Nightmare. Starting up the game lets you choose between two main characters, Helen or Will, who are both young citizens of Bellbridge, a London like city. Once asleep, the two characters arrive in the dream world and meet up with NiGHTS and the rather annoying "Owl"
After the usual pleasantries, your told that Nightopia is in danger from the evil Wizeman and his chief henchman, Reala. Of course, its upto you to "dualize" with NiGHTS and help rescue all the Nightopians from peril.
One of the the main reasons the original game was so popular was largely down to its exceedingly original gameplay, flying is the name of the game here, something you won't come across a lot in video games. NiGHTS would fly around in a 3D world along set "courses" which you control in a 2D fashion, somewhat like a adventure/driving game hybrid.
Another popular feature of the original was the controls, NiGHTS was one of the first games to truly harness the analogue stick, causing SEGA to release a brand new controller bundled with the game. To be frank, the Wii incarnation has a bit of a "control scheme crisis" right from the start, with the game sporting 3 different control schemes, all of which instantly add to the confusion factor that runs throughout the game.
First up is the Wiimote, on its own, which allows you to control NiGHTS by pointing at the screen and moving the pointer in the direction you want NiGHTS to fly... I realise this sounds simple enough but its actually quite tricky and doesn't at all feel natural.
Secondly is the Wiimote & Nunchuck setup, my preferred choice, which allows you to control NiGHTS with the analogue stick and drill dash with the buttons on the Wiimote. This method is far more rewarding but also flawed due to the octagonal shape of the Nunchuck housing, doh Nintendo, doh! This gives an inconsistent feel which has left gamers so annoyed they've started modding the housing back to being a true circle, something I myself might consider!
Finally is the classic controller setup, which works much like the Wiimote & Nunchuck, but we still have the same analogue problem, so lets just forget that one.
After given your controls tutorial you're dumped into the game hub, the "Dream Gate". This is the central area which allows your character to move around in the 3rd person and access the game's 7 different worlds. You play through the game one world at a time which is split into 5 different missions.
The 1st mission for each world is the "chase" mission, this gameplay is very familiar to those who played the original, after 'dualizing' with NiGHTS you start flying around the world along set courses chasing a Nightmaren whom holds a key to the next stage of the mission. After 3 fly/chase stages you're pitted against a level boss which you must defeat, else you get dropped right back at the start of the mission, cheeky.
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th missions of a world are somewhat random, they range from simpler flying missions to bizarre platforming levels. At times they almost feel like NiGHTS "mini games" and vary wildly on quality, with only a handful rewarding you more than confusing you.
The 5th mission is the world boss which are again different to any other mission type, they also take on their own "Nightmare" style which is impressive and quite striking. It's sometimes hard to tell what the hell is going on in these boss battles, the game gives you a hint at the start of the fight but then you're on your own to figure it out. The difficulty of the boss battles seem to vary erratically with some being ridiculously easy and some strangely hard and frustrating.
SEGA have stayed faithful to the original visual style of the game, almost too much so because this new NiGHTS incarnation almost feels like a past-gen game. The graphics seem clunky and often show extremely low quality textures up close and personal. The story is told in a painfully slow manner with cut-scenes that wouldn't look out of place on the PS2, sadly for SEGA we all know and expect the Wii to do far better than that.
With that said, the general visual style of the game is nice, the boss battles ooze a lot of bright colours and inventive exotic locations. Perhaps some gamers won't notice these graphical flaws too badly, but strangely for SEGA this game feels graphically rushed and cobbled together quickly by artists who probably spent far too much time making the intro sequence look slick.
One of Journey of Dreams' saving graces is the audio, the game features some wonderful atmospheric music and elegant sound effects, top marks to the audio team.
The distinct lack of cohesion through out the game makes for a sometimes confusing experience, the general gameplay is okay, but flawed rather dramatically by a number of reasons, some outside of SEGA's control. Journey of Dreams is of course not a bad game, but not as great as we all hoped for. Thankfully it doesn't totally shatter my NiGHTS dream when looking to the future, with a little more time and freedom I think Sonic Team could master this NiGHTS experience and craft a brand new masterpiece which even surpasses the original.
NiGHTS has finally arrived and like an episode of LOST we're left with more questions rather than answers, there are elements of originality here that cannot be ignored but because of an overwhelming inconsistent feeling it isn't anything like as special as it could, or should, have been. NiGHTS fans I'm sure will be content for now, but will no doubt demand another dose with the flaws removed, please SEGA, make this right.