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Review #152

Review: Nights: Journey Into Dreams

Nights: Journey Into Dreams
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sonic Team
Genre: Platformer/Rail Shooter
Release Date: 12/19/2007

Back in the mid-to-late 1990’s, Nights was on of the biggest hits for the Sega Saturn. It (usually) came bundled with a joystick that would heavily influence the Dreamcast controller, and it featured graphics and gameplay that left most Sega fans ecstatic.

Not me though. I thought Nights looked boring as hell and continued to use my Saturn for titles like Six Man Scramble, Dragon Force, the Panzer Dragoon games, Shining Force 3, Guardian Heroes, Night Warriors, and Sakura Taisen. I actually never played the original Nights until 2001 when I got it and the joystick for $1.99 plus shipping off Ebay. I played it, beat it and found Nights to be just a mediocre title. It was pretty and it had a good score, but it was a platformer and it’s one of my least favorite genres. As you could tell from the above, I was using my Saturn mainly for RPG’s. I just chalked it up to my usual distaste for the genre and called it a day.

My opinion however was definitely in the minority though. People loved Nights and for nigh on a decade there were fans constantly whining for a sequel. Sega subdued them for a while by putting a re-release of Nights in a Gamecube turd known as Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. I tried the original Nights once again in that, only to find myself bored with the game yet again. This time I found Nights to be the Final Fantasy of platformers. Sure it was pretty, but it lacked any depth and the gameplay was not very good. Yet still, fans wanted their sequel.

Now they have it. Sega 2,0 aka SammySega aka the company that has managed to ruin most of their franchises via games like Shadow the Hedgehog and Shining Force Neo has now turned to Nights. In my haded opinion it was probably because Sammy felt like destroying yet another beloved Sega franchise…or because they needed to cash in on the zealousness of Sega fans. Hell, I was one of those until the two pronged anal rape that was Shining Tears and Shining Force Neo.

You’re probably asking yourself, why I agreed to review this new Nights if I’m 1) not a fan of the original and 2) still pissed at how Sammy has ruined Sega for me and a lot of other long time fans. Well the answer is twofold. The first reason is that I really wanted to give Sega a chance. Nights + Wii controls seemed like a no brainer for a potentially awesome title. The other reason is that even if the game sucked, at least I knew I could spend most of the review ripping into the new Sega and pointing out how they haven’t had a true quality title since Panzer Dragoon Orta/

Either way I’d get some amusement out of it, and my readers would get one last review before the end of the year as an xmas present. Everybody wins!

So how was it?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Nights is very similar to the original in terms of story. You have a choice of two humans, one boy and one girl. Each one has their own specific story, but they both boil down to the same thing: parental issues. William has daddy issues and Helen has mommy issues. This pent up turmoil leaves them wide open to an array of nightmares.

It turns out that Nightmares spawn from the loss of the five idyea inherent in all humans. Once these idyea are lost, nightmares take over one’s sleep. Both William and Helen are in this boat until an Owl comes and leads them out of eternal darkness and into Nightopia, the “good” side of the night dimension. In Nightopia, your playable human meets Nights, an androgynous thingie that convinces the small child to “dualize” with it. Dualize seems to mean that they merge into one being for short bursts of time.

All of a sudden an evil version of Nights, Reala, shows up, neats the crap out of Nights and takes him away. Your human journeys across the Night Dimension to save Nights. This of course happens, then he gets taken and put back in a cage and on and on and on again until you feel some deja vu for the original Super Mario Bros.

That’s pretty much your plot right there. There’s not a lot of substance to Nights. You have barely fleshed out protagonists, barely fleshed out antagonists, a two-dimension main bad guy who wants world domination,and little more. The 15-20 minute intro to the game is quite nice in terms of graphics, but it’s so vague and unclear as to why any of this is happening, that you might as well be watching a foreign art film in a language you don’t speak with the subtitles turned off.

I don’t know why I was so disappointed with the lack of story and that the entire game felt like plot progression was an afterthought put in just so Sonic Team could showcase some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen. I mean, it’s a platformer. This genre is typecast as having little to no plot. Nights is no better or worse in this department than 95% of the games in this genre. But I was. I guess I was just swept into the Nights uber hype.

In the end, the plot/story of nights is a perfect way to summarize the game as a whole. It starts out well, leaving you with the promise of something grandiose, but then it doesn’t just fall flat – it plummets, leaving you highly bored and disappointed. It’s a shame.

Story Rating: 5/10

2. Graphics

I was pretty mean to Nights in the last segment, but this should make up for it. Nights: Journey into Dreams is without a doubt the most beautiful game I have seen on any of the current generations of consoles. The fact the Wii can produce a game that is more visually stunning than anything on the PS3 or the 360 is a testament to the power of the Wii, and that if developers really want to, the Wii can be a showcase for visual excellence just as easily as the competing consoles.

Every aspect of this game is mind boggingly beautiful. From the opening cutscene to the actual in game worlds, you can’t help but be charmed by the graphics. Character designs, the backgrounds, the fluid movements, and the amazing attention paid to even the most minute detail – you won’t find a better looking game out there. Sonic Team has outdone themselves visually and I can’t help but wish the rest of the game was as good at the visuals. Sadly though, reality is far flung from that fantasy.

If graphics is the most important aspect of a game for you, then Nights is going to be a system seller for you. This is the measuring stick for all next gen consoles from this point out. Wow. Just…wow.

Graphics Rating: 10/10

3. Sound

Continuing with the praise for Nights, it also has the best musical score I’ve heard for any game this year. Unlike the graphics, it’s not the best I’ve EVER seen, but it gets my vote for best of the year.

The music is a wonderful orchestral score with the occasional vocal backing to it. Some of the songs are ripped straight from the original Saturn Nights, but the new tracks are just a s amazing. The music is very soothing and just males you feel warm and happy inside. The pieces are amazing and they really help to enhance very aspect of the game.

The voice acting is quite nice too. The British children have annoying accents and Nights sadly has one too, but the voice acting is still good. I just wish they had picked accents that didn’t highlight the worst vocal inflections of the British people. Well, at least they don’t sound like Mockney yobbos.

In all, Nights: Journey Into Dreams is just as stunning in the vocal arena as it is in the visual. Sonic Team really has tried to create a work of art here. It’s just too bad the game plays like and has the reaplayability of a painting.

Sound Rating: 10/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Nights offers four different gameplay styles. The first involves the Wiimote. The second involves the Wiimote and the Numchuk. The third involved the Classic Controller and the fourth involves the Gamecube controller. One would assume that with a whopping four different control schemes, that at least one of them would function decently. However that assumption would be very, VERY wrong.

First up are the Wiimote only controls. To be honest, this was up there with Escape From Bug Island bad. The problem is that you don’t actual use the Wiimote to steer Nights. Rather the wiimote only controls points Nights in a general direction/vicinity. The fact there is a control scheme based on vagueness at best shows that sadly, Sonic Team put almost all their effort into make the game with style, but no substance. Playing the game with just the wiimote is horribly frustrating and there seems to be a disconnect between where you move the “mindsight” and where Nights actually goes. Add in some lag and you have one of the worst control schemes out for the Wii so far.

The Wiimote + Numchuk control scheme is better, but guiding Nights with the control stick can still be a pain as the game seems to switch for hair trigger controls to something akin to driving a Mac Truck without any warning. It’s very frustrating to see Nights go flying across the board like he’s drunk one second and then you having to crank the stick in one direction for a long time to get him to move even slightly the next. Awful awful controls, but I’ll take it over the wiimote only anyday.
The Classic Controller/Gamecube controller seems to be the best choices, and both play almost exactly the same. I’d say go with the GCN controller simply because unlike all the wireless versions, there isn’t that degree of lag that comes up as the GCN controller is plugged directly into the Wii.I’ve never really experienced this degree of lag or time delay issues with a Wii game before, which just highlights all the more how crappy the gameplay of Nights really is.

What’s worse is that 90% of your gameplay in Nights isn’t platformer based. Indeed, most of the game uses RAIL SHOOTER gameplay. If you’re not familiar with rail shooters, think of games like House of the Dead, Vampire Night, or Panzer Dragoon. In these games, your character is constantly moving on a very linear path, dodging obstacles and fighting all the way. Think of it as a game set on a roller coaster where you can’t delineate from your path.

The thing is that is should be nearly impossible to screw up a rail shooter in terms of gameplay, but behold - Nights has done it. Even though your character is on a specific path that it has to follow and all you really do is try to guide Nights through rings or make him to loop-de-loops, the controls are pretty much ass for anytime you are controlling Nights itself. It boggles my mind that ANYONE could make going slightly up or down or a little to the right or left not work properly. As Sega has the best track record out of any publisher for rail shooters, this should be highly embarrassing for them that this gameplay saw the light of day.

The only time the game plays decently is when you are playing as one of the human children. There the controls are pretty solid. You ump, throw chips at monsters, climb things and play like a normal 3-D platformer. However, you time as Helen or William is quite minuscule compared to your time as Nights.

Now that we’ve taken a look at how craptacular the controls for Nights is, let’s look at what honestly is some of the most boring gameplay I have had to endure in years.

The majority of the game involves two kinds of stages. Chase and Links. Chase missions involve Nights chasing after something called a Goodles which drives a giant bird. You follow the Goodle on a rail shooter path, trying to catch up to the Goodle. After you catch it, you have to do this again. Then you have to do it a third time. Then after you have done all three, you have to fight a gigantic boss. Each section of the chase stage is three minutes long, but this time can shorten/lengthen depending on how good you are with Nights. The first time you play a chase mission, it’s fun and you find yourself looking at all the background scenery and trying to go through every possible ring. However, there are so many of these damn missions in the game, that you will become utterly bored with them. Same tasks, same gameplay, and little to no level design change. It’s just flying around a course doing the same exact thing for hours. At least other platformers like Sonic, Crash, Spyro, and Mario mix things up a bit. I’m sorry, but I am going to get bored and annoyed if I have to play the same damn thing for hours straight without any real variety REGARDLESS of the genre. At least the mission bosses can be somewhat interesting.

Then there are the link challenges. Basically all you have to do is fly through a certain number of rings in a specified time. Dear god, it’s as boring to write what you have to do as it was to play through it.

There are a few other missions besides these two, but these are the most common and the ones that will make you rush to your nearest game store to trade this thing in.

Honestly, the game is pretty much devoid of any real passion or feeling in this department. You can tell that non of the original Nights team is part of this game, because in true SammySega fashion, there’s just no well, SOUL to the game. I can not remember being more bored with a game this year. Ho hum. Guide Nights through loops. Guide Nights through more loops but also catch a bird. Do loops in the air to hurt a boss. If you honestly make it past the first worlds (set of five missions), I don’t know whether to be impressed by your resolve and or saddened that this passes for an acceptable game nowadays. I realize we’ve really lowered the bar by 2007 in terms of quality gameplay, but this was just excruciating for me to get through.

I the game was even a third as fun to play as it is to look at, this could have been a GOTY contender. Instead, it’s one of the most disappointing game to come out for in a very long time.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 3/10

5. Replayability

As Nights allows you the ability to play as two different people, each with their own story variants, there is a bit of replay here. The missions are all the same though, so really you’d only be replaying for a bit of difference in the cut scenes.

You can also go back and replay any level you’ve already cleared to get a higher score, but to be honest I have no idea why you’d want to. Still, the option is there in case you are so inclined.

The game also has a mode called “My Dream.” My Dream is basically like raising the Chao in Sonic Adventure. You collect and raise creatures known as A-Lifes. Depending on the amount and type of A-Life’s you have, the background of the My Dream world will change. You can also connect with other friends’ My Dream areas and exchange gifts. My Dream really isn’t that exciting or entertaining, but it’s worth an occasional look just to see how varied the My Dream area can be by placing different A-Life’s in it.

Finally, there’s 2 Player Mode. You have two versions of PVP. One version is a racing game, whilst the other is a 2P Battle mode. Both breathe a little more life into the game, but not enough to keep you coming back for long periods of time.

There’s a nice amount of options and modes to explore in Nights, but in the end, none of them are strong enough to make the game worth playing after you beat it the first time.

Replayability rating: 6/10

6. Balance

There’s no real balance tho this game. Everything, from the very first chase battle, to your very last boss fight is so easy, the game might as well just be a tech demo showcasing the graphics. There is no challenge or skill required to play Nights and once you come to terms with the god awful controls of the game, you learn that you don’t even need to play the game so much as keep Nights moving and occasionally hit a button to win. It’s really quite sad and further illustrates that no one on Team Sonic seemed to remember that they were making a VIDEO GAME. The only way I can imagine anyone having trouble with this game is if they haven’t ever played a rail shooter before and thus are confused by the chase levels the first time they play them. Otherwise, this game offers no challenge or hand-eye coordination. It’s effectively worthless to me.

Again, I don’t even really think I can consider the new Nights a video game. At best it’s a beta game that needs a lot more playtesting of the controls. At worst…it’s a pretty tech demo. This was highly disappointing, and has pretty much cemented SammySega as a publisher that is incapable of putting out a good game.

Bad Sega. Bad Team Sonic.

Balance Rating: 3/10

7. Originality

It’s hard to score this game under this category. After all, everything about the game is either rehashed from a nearly ten year old Saturn game. Everything new put in has either come from a previous Team Sonic game (ala My Dream/Chao raising) or is rehashed so severely throughout the game that it feels tried and played out by the time you beat the game.

The graphics are highly impressive, and I suppose I can give Nights a point or two in this category for showing what the Wii is capable of. The overall package of Nights just doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation outside the visuals though, and like a lot of games that at one time were believed to be amazing when they came out (Jade Empire, Beyond Good and Evil, Fable, etc) in six months, no one will give a shit that Nights exists and it will hardly be mentioned outside the biggest fans of the franchise. Pity.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness

Ha! As I’ve said throughout this review, this was one of the most boring games I have ever played. It was dull, horribly repetitive, lacking in any depth or substance, and just wasn’t any fun at all. That isn’t to say I didn’t really love the game for the first hour. But after hitting the double digit mark of playing for review purposes, I want to bury the game and never let it see the light of day again. There are a lot worse games out there. Games that I have given lower scores to. Games like Wrestlemania XI and Nightmare or Druaga and you know what? I at least found ways to have fun with those. Nights? I can honestly say after that first hour, I didn’t find the game fun at all, and that’s the saddest thing of all. I couldn’t get into the game. I couldn’t enjoy the game. I just wanted it to end so I could review it and never look back.

If I could recapture what i felt during that first hour, this game would be rated so much better by me. But I can’t and so it gets what it deserves rather than what I wish I could give it.

Addictiveness rating: 3/10

9. Appeal Factor

From talking to other staffers, I am comforted to know that even those diehard Nights fans amongst us found the game boring and lacking of pretty much everything outside graphics and sound. At the same time, Nights has a pretty vocal fanbase from the original game, and the Graphics are enough to enticing anyone to give it a shot. It’s that damn pretty.

In the end, it really is a game that most people should at least try for a multitude of reasons: To see the graphics, to see how badly a game can play on the Wii, even with the classic/gamecube controller, to see how SammySega can yet again take a classic franchise and strip it of everything that made it so beloved in the first place, or to see just how boring a game can be.

Will most people like it? I doubt it. Will a lot of people try it though? Yeah. It’s Nights. People are going to see what the cult status is all about.

Appeal Factor: 6/10

10. Miscellaneous

There’s not much else to really cover here. Nights is a great example of everything I find wrong with gaming in the close of 2007. Too much emphasis on graphics, but not enough emphasis on gameplay. Too much emphasis on trying to be cool or stylish, but no real attempt at being fun. That’s what gaming is supposed to be people. Fun! It’s supposed to be escapism! Entertainment! Something that makes us smile and laugh and make us feel good about wasting our free time on it. This is a game that’s getting high marks from other review sites. Not because it’s good, but because of the name value and the visual aspects. We’ve gotten to a point where games like Nights are considered “good” simply because when compared to crap released this year like Grim Grimoire and Growlanser Generations, it is. That disheartens me so much.

There’s a lot of amazing stuff that came out this year. Games that have been made with as much love as they have been with an eye for profit. It’s just too bad Nights game me the impression that it was going to be one of those, but at the end, it is just a pretty title exploiting a beloved franchise character for a quick buck. Shame on Sonic Team for making it. Shame on Sega for publishing it. Shame on us for buying it.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

The Scores
Story: 5
Graphics: 10
Sound: 10
Control & Gameplay:3
Replayability: 6
Balance: 3
Originality: 5
Addictiveness: 3
Appeal Factor: 6
Miscellaneous: 3
Overall Score: 54/100

Final Score: 5.5 (Above Average)

The Inside Pulse

This is one of those times where the score is higher than I feel a game deserves. If it wasn’t for the graphics and orchestral score, this game would be down in the crapper and I’d being giving it a massive thumbs down. However, Nights really is the prettiest game of the year, and as there are a lot of gamers that sadly put graphics before gameplay, and for that grouping, it’ll be worth checking out. At this point the only Sega game in 2008 I’m even considering soling current systems with is the HOTD 2 & 3 pack for the Wii, and that’s only because they are pre-Sammy games. This is one of those times where I really implore you to read the review rather than the end score.

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