NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams Wii
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Sonic Team
Release Date: Out Now
NiGHTS Into Dreams may not go down as one of SEGA’s big selling titles but it was a game that managed to really impress the critics. In fact, it’s fair to say, that it was one of the most impressive games ever to be released for the SEGA Saturn console. It’s a little surprising then they we’ve had to wait so long for another NiGHTS title to appear. Then again, you might think that the Wii and its unique motion-sensing controller would be the ideal method of control for a game such as NiGHTS which is effectively an airborne platform game. NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams certainly has a lot to do in order to fulfil the expectation of those who enjoyed NiGHTS Into Dreams.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams is based around the premise that the world of dreams (called Nightopia) actually exists. Of course, if there is a world of dreams, there must be a world of nightmares and in the Night Dimension you have another world fittingly called Nightmare. Nightmare was created by an evil, all-powerful being known as Wizeman, who has designs on ruling all of the Night Dimension. Along with his wicked assistants known as Nightmarens, Wizeman is desirous of destroying Nightopia. In NiGHTS you’ll play as two twelve-year old children. There’s William Taylor who was devastated when his father was transferred because of work. He’s enjoyed a close relationship with his father and the loneliness that’s been thrust upon him has triggered a series of nightmares. Then there’s Helen Cartwright a girl who used to be close to her mother until she became more interested in playing with her friends. The guilt she felt caused her to have a series of nightmares. Each child’s storyline plays out as two separate stories. With the help of NiGHTS, both children will have to put a stop to Wizeman’s plans.
In parts Journey of Dreams is very enjoyable. The fantasy worlds you’ll explore may not be spectacular from a technical standpoint but they are impressive from a design perspective. The boss fights are, on the whole, pretty impressive as well as imaginative. You’ll mostly play as harlequin-like NiGHTS, both Will and Helen dualize with NiGHTS (that is to say they join with NiGHTS and become one) in their respective storylines and you’ll get to fly around in numerous imaginative levels. Flying around is pretty straightforward. The camera control is automatic and your range of movement is quite limited so that it gives an almost on-rails experience. The missions where you are flying around are actually very enjoyable. Some levels however, are far removed from the classic NiGHTS experience. Some of these rather different levels are enjoyable but others are not so successful. A few of the missions involve you directly controlling Will and Helen. These platform game type missions are arguably the weakest in the game as they are quite uninspiring and at odds with the highly imaginative elements you’ll find elsewhere in the game.
Journey of Dreams isn’t just a single-player experience. There’s a two-player race mode that can be played both online and offline. The battle mode (two-player also) is offline only. My Dream is your own personal garden where you can keep the Nightopians and Nightmarens that you’ve captured during the single-player game. My Dream isn’t just a single-player experience because you can visit other players’ gardens (and they can visit yours too). The game can even sync the weather with your local weather thanks to the information from the Weather News channel.
Unfortunately, as enjoyable as Journey of Dreams can be, there are some disappointments. Perhaps the biggest source of irritation will come from the fact that the game is rather unforgiving. Completing a collection of objectives and then fluffing a boss fight means that you have to do the whole thing again, rather than just the boss fight. This is a certainly a punishing way of going about things and does encourage those feelings of wanting to destroy the controller (which isn’t good considering the price of the Wii remote). The game offers various control schemes which includes using just the Wii remote, the Wii remote and nunchuk attachment, the classic controller and the GameCube controller. You would have thought that using the Wii remote by itself would have been an excellent method of control for a game such as NiGHTS. This doesn’t really turn out to be the case however. When flying, the idea is to point the controller and press the A button to make NiGHTS move in the chosen direction. Sure, it works but it just doesn’t feel as precise as using the other control methods. When moving around on the ground you have to use the directional pad and it’s a little uncomfortable. If you don’t have a classic controller of a GameCube controller you’re going to want to plug in the nunchuk attachment for a much more satisfying method of control.
From a visual standpoint, Journey of Dreams is a good looking game that’s easy on the eyes. Technically there’s nothing here that probably couldn’t have been achieved on any console dating back to the SEGA Dreamcast (it’s really beginning to look like the Wii just doesn’t have much more graphical horsepower than the GameCube in all honesty), which is a little disappointing. You’ll probably notice the load times and the odd frame rate dip but whilst these are unfortunate they certainly don’t spoil anything. These shortcomings can be overlooked because the level design, in parts, is pretty impressive. We’re not talking Super Mario Galaxy quality here but at time the level design in NiGHTS has a real quality feel to it that you seldom encounter.
Journey of Dreams isn’t a bad experience for deaf gamers but it’s a shame that it isn’t fully subtitled. The opening movies for both Will’s and Helen’s storyline are not subtitled. Fortunately there’s not a whole lot of dialogue here and it’s pretty easy to follow what’s happening even without subtitles. All of the important dialogue within the main game is subtitled. There are no character names or portraits placed alongside the text but it’s always clear who is saying what. All tutorial information is shown in text. The timer is displayed when the mission has a time limit so you’ll always know how much time you have left. The quality of the game manual is also worth a mention and it covers every aspect of the game quite nicely, which makes a change from the info-light leaflets that usually accompany console games.
It’s been a long wait for a NiGHTS sequel and fans of the original NiGHTS will find much to like in NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams. That’s not to say it’s the game that all NiGHTS fans would have hoped for. The levels that remain true to the original NiGHTS game-play are very enjoyable and some of the boss fights are both challenging and original. Some of the level design is impressive too which helps to make the experience all the more enjoyable. However, there are negatives and it’s annoying having to go back and complete objectives after losing a boss fight. Having to redo the boss fight would have been sufficient instead of forcing you to backtrack so far. The on-foot levels where you control Will and Helen and are rather tedious and feel completely out of place. It’s also a shame that the default control system doesn’t actually work that well and most will prefer to use one of the alternative control systems. On the whole though NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams is enjoyable and does just enough to satisfy those who have waited so long for a sequel.