Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NiGHTS: Can I Enter the Dream Yet?

For all the games I've ever played, there are at least five more I really wish that I had. I've been working hard to make up for what I've missed, but there are some titles that are harder to track down then others. Like pretty much anything on the Sega Saturn.

Since that oft-maligned console was damn near impossible to emulate until relatively recently, it meant that the only way to play Saturn games was the old fashioned way. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that the old-fashioned way quickly becomes the really-expensive way. Like the triple digits kind of expensive.

Could be worse, I could be collecting NEO GEO carts

Anyway, the end result of this is despite actually owning a Saturn, I have very few games to play. This is why I picked up  NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, the Wii-exclusive sequel to the original NiGHTS Into Dreams, when I saw it on sale for about $10 used. I had always wanted to play NiGHTS, at the very least to understand what it was and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

Boy how wrong was I.

I know this sounds mean, but Nights is a actually a pretty terrible character design

The problem with NiGHTS JoD is that it's not made by the same Sonic Team of the Saturn-era, or even the Sonic Team of the Dreamcast-era that was could at least give us Sonic Adventure 2. This is the Sonic Team that gave up Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), which was a game so badly designed that running in a straight line was an impossible task

NiGHTS JoD isn't nearly that bad. In fact it's pretty good, when it actually lets you play NiGHTS. Similar to the Sonic Adventure games before it, you have to go through a lot of bullshit in order to actually play NiGHTS. The most obvious offenders are the 3D platforming segments, but equally egregious at segments where you play as NiGHTS doing inane tasks such as rescuing Chao Nightopian. It's like the development team was worried that people would get bored with just the regular NiGHTS sections, so they padded it out with other missions. Oh, and cut scenes. I definitely can't forget those.

Actually the funny thing about the cut scenes is that they're not bad on a technical level. The story being told, two children are having nightmares reflecting their insecurities whilst having dreamworld adventures with Nights itself, is pretty standard, but not overwrought. The modeling on the two kids is a little off sometimes, but the scenes themselves are actually well-scripted and decently acted for Sonic Team game (especially compared to Sonic 2006, or really any Sonic game from the past decade). The real problem with the story scenes is that they're way too numerous and too long. Every new mission starts with about a two minute long cut scene.

"So what?" You might say, "That's nothing compared to the likes of Xenosaga." While this is technically true, the problem is the stages themselves are barely longer then the cut scenes. I actually tried to care about the story when I first started playing, but I eventually got burned out and found there were just too many cut scenes, which are of course unskipable on the first play through.

The end result of this was that I actually returned NiGHTS JoD after only three days, which is incredible rare for me. I then went and tracked down a copy of the original NiGHTS and found that not only was it a better game then it's sequel, but it was still a very good game in it's own right. I'd actually be playing more, except when I pulled out my Saturn for the first time in about a year I found two lines were broken on its component cables resulting in a lack of any sounds.

I guess this means I am fated to never to experience NiGHTS the way it was meant to be played. That or I need to by new cables for my Saturn.

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