Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A belated post of disappointment, NiGHTS Journey of Dreams.

Not all fans of the original, will like this game.

I was checking out the Nintendo Wii shelf today at Futureshop, and I couldn't help but notice the ridiculous stacks of NiGHTS Journey of Dreams collecting dust. I know the game didn't sell much, but seeing the untouched games discounted at $29.99, gave me the impression that no one even touched the game. Which leaves me thinking that I might be part of the rare few who actually picked it up. I got it for Christmas, and played it quite a bit, enough to understand why Journey of Dreams isn't flying off shelves.

This is one of those games that if it had never been a sequel, would have been a decent game. But being that it is (a sequel), I can't play it without considering its predecessor NiGHTS into Dreams. Journey of Dreams has a lot to live up to, and it's just near impossible for me to separate the two, yet they are quite different.

In a nutshell, NiGHTS Journey of Dreams is a fully realized, bigger version of NiGHTS into Dreams, that has more stuff, but deviates from what made the original so great.

It's a give and take with Journey of Dreams. On one hand, the Nightopian universe seems more fleshed out, populated with more characters, epic music, cinematics, and even voice-over. (British accents galore) The environments are considerably larger even more complex than before, and with the addition of more 'features' there's more to the game than flying through hoops. It's like Narnia, meets Harry Potter, meets the exploration of Sonic Adventure.

On the other hand, you have a game that feels fragmented, with too many new ideas/features that not only kill the very gameplay NiGHTS fans have become accustomed to, but also aren't implemented well in the first place. I can acknowledge the direction that Sega has taken with the franchise, and it works in an odd flow kind of way. But being the game has changed so much, it certainly has it's share of problems.

When it was announced that NiGHTS would be exclusive to the Nintendo Wii, a lot of people including me assumed that waving the wiimote around to control NiGHTS would be the greatest experience ever. And so it was implemented "Mindsight" control mode, where players could control NiGHTS with wand-like accuracy. The idea is great, and it works to a certain degree tilting for Acrobatic Flight, and pointing to where you want NiGHTS to go, it's just tough, and not very precise. Some may consider it even impractical. Which is why the game suggests you use either the nunchuk control or a classic control or Gamecube controller, in place of solely the wiimote.

Though those alternate control methods offer a more playable, and closer experience to that of the original NiGHTS, they still lack a certain analog accuracy that I found while playing the Sega Saturn version. A fine piece of clunky technology that actually felt right. I think it's mainly the responsiveness of the analog and the L and R triggers in relation to making NiGHTs do tricks. It just feels different, stiff even. Unlike a game like Rez HD for the 360 which is near identical to Rez Dreamcast in terms of feel. In another life, the 360 controller would have worked for NiGHTS, but that's another story.

Oh, and what's up with the lack of triple jump abilities for Helen and William? Lame!

Aside from the controls, the flow of the game has changed. Players are required to select a dream gate in exploration mode, then select a mission each with a different objective (in the style of Super Mario 64 for example).

Not all missions are flight based, nor are they like the original game. 'Chase Missions' are the most common mission, and they are what NiGHTS fans will recognize as somewhat similar to the original flight gameplay.

(In the original NiGHTS, missions were comprised of playing a Dream, progressing through a level by defeating different courses. Each course would progressively become more complex, in length and design.)

In NiGHTS Journey of Dreams, the mission flow differs significantly, requiring players who after freeing NiGHTS, need to obtain a key from a prison guard, to move on to the next course. Hence the Chase mode. It's no longer a game where you rack up the score by repetitious lapping, or by collecting 20 Blue chips to destroy the Ideya capture. The original game HAD more of a fast-paced arcade feel, and unfortunately it's changed. For gamers who loved the old style NiGHTS gameplay, NiGHTS Journey of Dreams is more 'Stop-and-Go', and could be a let down.

Basically, what the hell did they do to NiGHTS? Things just seem bigger and not necessarily better. (Like the Bosses, confusing camera angles, and design.) It's more complicated than it should be.

Another aspect of the game that annoys me are the graphics. It's one thing when you're watching the opening cinematics, and another when you lay your eyes on the in-game visuals. The difference is HUGE! High-res to low-res models and textures, typically doesn't bother me much, but in this game its hard not to notice. The graphics of NiGHTS on the Saturn were acceptable in a sense because at the time, 3D graphics alone in-game, were impressive.

It's times like this I wish NiGHTS was on another (more powerful) console. The cinematics are so gorgeous, it's a shame to see the in-game stuff.

I know trying to replicate an experience from an old console is asking for much, and I applaud Sega for breathing new life into the series, with as much creativity that they tried to implement. Yet, I think in this case, it's done more harm than good. NiGHTS Journey of Dreams is a different experience, that's difficult to like.

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