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Twelve years ago the Sonic Team released Nights into Dreams for the Sega Saturn; the game went on to appear in several greatest games lists, and last year demand for a sequel was finally answered in the guise of Nights: Journey into Dreams on the Wii.
I missed out on the Nights phenomenon the first time round so I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. When I first loaded the game I was mistaken into thinking it was a 'walk around and talk to characters to collect items and solve problems' type affair. However, I soon realised I was mistaken. A quick search on Google (the instruction book not offering much instruction) revealed that this was more akin to a racing game; taking charge of the infamous Nights, you fly around a circuit completing various tasks.
As a fan of the Sonic games on the Sega MegaDrive I was pleased to see similarities in this game. As you fly around the circuit you have to guide Nights through golden rings, and pick up blue orbs; during the level these increase your flight speed, but when you complete a level they are converted into points - just like Sonic. Similarly familiar are the boss scenes at the end of each level, whereby you need to destroy the boss to proceed to the next level.
Unlike the original Sonic platform games, Nights: Journey into Dreams takes place in a 3D realm, which makes controlling the character much more difficult. You can choose from four different ways to control Nights, and I settled for the Wii Remote to guide and the Numchuk to move. I have to admit I found the controls extremely frustrating, and it took me a long time to get the hang of the Numchuk controller to move Nights up and down and through the rings.
While the original Nights game could have been dubbed an arcade game, this sequel comes with an in-depth back-story. You choose to follow the tale of Will or Helen, young children who enter into Nightopia; and each level unveils an additional piece of their story as you play through to the grand finale. The stories are told through some impressive looking CG cut scenes.
Unfortunately, while the stories enhance the overall gameplay they are also a source of great frustration. For some strange reason the developers chose not to include a mid-chapter save option. Each chapter is made up of a story, three chase stages, story cuts and a boss scene; and if you fail any of the chase stages or lose against the boss you have to start right back at the very beginning of the chapter! I'll admit to screaming at the television and hurling the controller in frustration the first time I played. This really spoiled the game for me; I much prefer a game like Mario and Sonic at the Olympics Wii where you can pick up at any stage quickly and easily. Nights isn't the sort of game you can play for 15-20 minutes if you are short on time; you need to dedicate at least an hour or so to work through a level successfully.
Nights isn't the sort of game you can play for 15-20 minutes if you are short on time.
The multi-player mode is a redeeming feature, especially the random online challenge that pits you against a stranger somewhere else in the world in a speed challenge. This particular feature adds some longevity to the game as you can enjoy the challenges long after you have mastered all of the levels within the game itself.
While Nights: Journey into Dreams has some positives in the form of the Computer Generated stories, soundtrack and multi-player mode, I found the negatives overwhelming. The tricky controls and the lack of save options make this game frustrating to play, and difficult to master; though if you have fond memories of the original Nights into Dreams you might want to buy the sequel and take a trip down memory lane.
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