Final Glimpse: Sega fans wanted more out of the relationship than just a one NiGHTS stand.
Despite its short North American lifespan, the Sega Saturn managed to bestow several quality titles on gamers of the late 1990s. One of the most notable was Sonic Team's 1996 effort NiGHTS Into Dreams. Sega intended the 3D action-flight hybrid to directly compete with Super Mario 64. While NiGHTS never reached the epic heights of that Nintendo classic, it nevertheless managed to garner a sizable fan base and sold well on a system that the gaming public seemingly avoided like the avian flu. To the chagrin of many fans, Sega allowed the franchise to disappear along with the 32-bit system that spawned it. Speculation raged about when and if another NiGHTS game would appear on newer systems. Alas, the Dreamcast died with no new NiGHTS titles. It was the same story for Sega's third party support of the last generation of systems (we got Shadow the Hedgehog instead?. thanks Sega). Fans had all but given up hope until earlier this year when at long last Sega announced it was developing a Wii exclusive sequel entitled NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams for the 2007 holiday season. Sonic Team is again at the helm, as is one of the original's producers, Takashi Iizuka.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams follows the same basic storyline as its predecessor. Two children, Helen and Will, enter the dream world of Nightopia. This magical realm is where our consciousnesses go when we dream. However, the evil Wizeman and his gang of Nightmarens (who represent the dark part of our dreams) are slowly corrupting what was once a realm of peace. Will and Helen must defend the dream world by employing the help of NiGHTS, a purple, androgynous, jester-like entity with the ability to fly.
Like the story, the sequel's gameplay is largely unchanged from the original. Players navigate NiGHTS through the seven lands (with several missions each) while avoiding aerial obstacles and collecting enough special orbs under the time limit to proceed to the next area. The game gives the player full 360-degree control of NiGHTS' movement. However while the lush graphics are 3D, the gameplay occurs on a pre-determined, "on rails" 2D path.
Unique to this sequel is the ability to transform into three different personas via special masks found throughout the game. Each grants NIGHTS with special abilities. The dragon persona transforms him into a massive dragon that is resistant to wind effects. The dolphin persona allows the player to explore underwater. Finally the rocket persona zooms NiGHTS forward at incredible speeds. Players accomplish all this while controlling NiGHTS in one of four ways: the Wii Remote/Nunchuck combo, the Wii Remote by itself, the Gamecube controller or the Classic controller.
The graphics and sheer scope of the world is clearly more detailed than the Saturn original. Environments range from cheerful rolling green pastures to nightmarish levels complete with cackling clowns (the horror, the horror). The first game's composer, Nofumi Hataya is back for the sequel, so fans should expect the same jovial atmospheric music featured in the original.
Sega added a great deal of extra content to aid in prolonging the experience. As with the original game, here players are able to raise the sprite-like A-LIFE creatures (similar to the Chao in Sonic Adventure). This time however Sega has significantly enhanced the experience via the ?My Dream? mini-world. Players can customize their individual ?My Dream? world by collecting A-LIFE creatures in the main game. The world then changes to reflect the nature of those creatures. Fill it with good critters and the world will mirror the Munchkin Village. Fill it with bad Nightmarens and watch as they transform the world into a harsh landscape, perhaps including the Christmas Critters from South Park. The player can selectively breed different types of A-LIFE creatures to create unique, and perhaps unholy, combinations.
Players can visit their friends ?My Dream? worlds online and trade items. As with Animal Crossing, the player's ?My Dream? uses the Wii's internal clock to reflect the time of the year. Your world's denizens will pull out the masks around Halloween time while decorating evergreen trees at Christmas. If this wasn't dynamic enough, then consider the game will also read the local forecast from the Wii's Weather Channel and display the corresponding weather in the game.
The game features two multiplayer modes. The first, Race mode, can be played online via Nintendo WiFi. In this mode two players simply race to finish the level. The second mode is an offline battle game. In it two players, in true Hot Potato fashion, toss around a Mereballoon that will explode in a given amount of time.