Wii's "Nights" fails to meet the hype

  • Game Review - For years, the creator of the original Nights Into Dreams game said he did not want to make a sequel because he feared it wouldn't live up to the game's grandeur, and now it appears his fears have come true.

    For fans of the cult classic game originally seen on the ill-fated Sega Saturn system, the announcement of Nights: Journey of Dreams on the Wii was a dream come true.  The unique, fluid game play style and amazing music made the first title just about the only worthwhile thing to come out on the Saturn.

    However, Sega managed to take all that was great about the original and package it in a dull, tedious adventure that in no way lives up to the anticipation built up by years without a true sequel.

    Just like the Saturn game, most of the game play in Journey of Dreams has you flying through brilliantly colored vistas, with very limited control of movement throughout the 3D landscape.  You'll encounter several different missions, including flying through rings, racing against bad guys, and of course boss fights.

    When it was first announced, a selling point for Nights on the Wii was the system's unique control abilities.  Unfortunately, though, the only way to play the game with any enjoyment is to play the game with a Gamecube or Wii Classic Controller.  In fact, it is possible, and quite likely, that you will go through the game with 100% completion without ever using the Wii's motion sensing capabilities.

    The game can be played with one of four different controller settings: the Wii Remote, the Wii Remote with nunchuck, the Wii classic controller, or with a Gamecube controller.  With the nunchuck attached, 95% of the game is controlled using only the nunchuck's joystick and Z button.  With the classic or Gamecube controller, the entire game is played just like a Gamecube title.

    If you boldly choose to actually use the Wii Remote and its motion sensing capability, you will likely become frustrated very quickly.  Using the Remote requires you to hold down the A button and guide Nights by moving the Remote in the direction you want her to fly.  This is easily the most difficult means of control in the game, and it becomes nearly impossible to perform the "paraloop" maneuver that requires a simple nudge of the joystick on any other control scheme.

    It almost feels like the game was programmed specifically with the use of the old-school control style, completely leaving out the Wii's potential.

    All that, however, is still not the biggest disappointment in the game.  The worst part is that the game trudges along so slowly.  There are around five different areas in the game, each of which has five missions.  With two different versions of the story to play through, there ends up being 10 missions for each level.  It's fun to tackle each of these objectives in the first area, but after that it becomes robotic and cumbersome.  It flows so much more poorly than its precursor.

    The entire game can be exhausted in under 20 hours.  However, for the few missions that are enjoyable, there is "replayability" with the fact that there is a points-based ranking system, and die-hard gamers may want to aim for "A" rankings on the various missions.  Also, there is a mode called "My Dream", which lets users create and manage a virtual garden, inhabited by creatures you meet throughout the game.  There's virtually no interaction with these creatures, though, and it ends up feeling almost like a waste of time.

    Perhaps the best part of the game is its multiplayer mode.  Players can compete in head-to-head races against another player, either in split-screen mode or over Wi-Fi.  There are different modes to play against registered friends or with a random player.  There is also a battle mode only accessible for two people playing in the same room.  Because the aim of the main missions in the game is just to get from point A to point B, being able to race against other players, especially online, is a very welcome component.

    All in all, Nights: Journey of Dreams is a simplistic adventure that allows players to mindlessly run through cool-looking environments with an even cooler-looking main character, but there's very little substance behind it.  Given the fact that this was billed as the first game worthy of the "Nights" title since the original, it is especially disappointing that it brings almost nothing new to the table.

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