Nights: Journey of Dreams
|Nights: Journey of Dreams|
|Developer(s)||Sega Studio USA
Nights: Journey of Dreams (ナイツ 〜星降る夜の物語〜 Naitsu: Hoshifuru Yoru no Monogatari?, lit. Nights: Tale of the Night Studded with Stars), stylized NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, is an action game for the Wii console developed by Sonic Team and Sega. It is the sequel to the 1996 Sega Saturn title Nights into Dreams.... Like the original, the game is set in the dream world of Nightopia, which is under threat from nightmare beings called Nightmaren, and the gameplay is based around the flight of a jester-like rebel Nightmaren named Nights. The game was released in Japan and North America in December 2007, and in Europe and Australia in January 2008.
Much like in the first game, the primary gameplay mechanic is to glide, spiral and loop through a variety of worlds, blasting through rings and gathering orbs. Special power ups can transform Nights' form into a dolphin, a dragon, or a rocket, to reach areas not accessible otherwise. There are also platform stages where the player controls one of the children. There is a variety of gameplay styles, and Nights is not playable in every level. Unlike the original game, the player is not able to continue flying more laps of the Mare once the course is completed.
The game features a deeper version of the level structure from into Dreams... The player starts by choosing one of two dreamers, the game's main characters, and from a central hub area called the Dream Gate, they choose one of seven worlds they wish to play. When a player first enters a new world, they are automatically given the world's first mission. After successfully completing this mission and beating the world's boss, more missions are opened up, which can be chosen when the player again enters this world.
When a world has been chosen, the player starts out as one of the dreamers. While the game's main objective is playing with Nights, the dreamers can also explore the world, albeit with only a limited amount of time. By opening up treasure chests, players can extend the time with a dreamer. When the player wants to start playing the level with Nights, they need to find and climb into Nights' cage, causing the dreamer to dualize with them. There are four levels for each character, plus a staircase in the dream gate leading to the finale of the game.
The gameplay involves the use of "persona masks" that transform Nights and gives it new abilities. With some of the persona masks, Nights is able to transform into the mask's form with the dreamer, while some are used without the dreamer. The three personas received throughout the game are:
- Dolphin Nights: allows the ability to go underwater. It is received after defeating either Donbalon or Girania.
- Rocket Nights: allows the ability to travel at very high speeds. It is received after defeating either Chamelan or Bomamba.
- Dragon Nights: allows the ability to ignore the effects of strong winds. It is received after defeating either Cerberus or Queen Bella.
In the final fight against Wizeman for both Dreamers, all three personas are used in a random order. Two additional persona masks are owned by Nights and Reala, but the powers of these masks are never shown.
The idea of persona masks was inspired by the first game, Nights into Dreams..., where Nights transforms into a bobsled on the Frozen Bell stage, inflates on the Soft Museum stage, and grows flippers on the Splash Garden stage. In Journey of Dreams, it can also transform into a boat on the Pure Valley stage and a roller coaster car on the Lost Park stage.
The Speed mode can be played through three modes:
- Nearby Friend with another player on the same console.
- With a Friend Far Away for online play with friends.
- Random Character in the World for a random challenge online with anyone in the world.
The game also keeps track of high scores in the single player levels and publishes them via an online scoreboard. When the player selects one of the two stories and checks their record list, the player can choose to update their scores and show their online rank.
The Artificial Life (A-Life) feature from Nights into Dreams... returns in Nights: Journey of Dreams, known as "My Dream". This is a feature where the player can capture, raise and combine the inhabitants of the world of Nightopia and Nightmaren in their self-developed sandbox environment.
The Nightopians outside of the My Dream world act with similar artificial intelligence to how they did in the first game: they will follow the children if fed blue chips, and will panic if Nightmarens (other than Nights) are nearby. Additionally, in the Nightopias, one can make a creation called a Mepian if they manage to have a Nightmaren make physical contact with a Nightopian, a feature also found in the previous game. The game uses features from the Forecast Channel on the Wii, changing the weather conditions in the My Dream world according to real-world weather conditions. There will also be special content made available during certain days, such as the holiday season.
Every night all human dreams are played out in Nightopia and Nightmare, the two parts of the dream world. In Nightopia, distinct aspects of dreamers' personalities are represented by luminous colored spheres known as "Ideya". However, the evil ruler of Nightmare, Wizeman the Wicked, is stealing this dream energy from sleeping visitors to gather power to take control of Nightopia and eventually the real world. To achieve this, he creates numerous beings called "Nightmaren", including two acrobatic, jester-like, flight-capable beings called Nights and Reala. Nights, however, rebels against Wizeman's plans, and is punished by being imprisoned inside an Ideya palace, a gazebo-like container for dreamers' Ideya.
William Taylor and Helen Cartwright are the two new chosen dreamers. Will is an aspiring soccer player, while Helen is a prodigy violinist. They're both from a London-based city known as Bellbridge. Both children are close to their respective parents; Helen her mother and Will his father. However, the closeness between them has changed over the years; Helen has chosen to spend more time with her friends than with her mother practicing the violin, a choice which has begun to fill her with guilt, while Will's father is transferred to another city for work and leaves his son by himself. Both children suffer individual nightmares and come under attack by the Nightmaren, who chase them into the world of Nightopia. There, the two children separately meet the wise Owl and the playful dream jester Nights, who has the ability to "dualize" with the children, allowing them to share Nights' body and fly through the skies. Learning that the wicked Wizeman is plotting to take over the dream world and then emerge into the real world, the children and Nights resolve to stop Wizeman, but face hindrance from the Nightmaren he commands, particularly Nights's former comrade Reala.
The children's stories are unique, though they share a similar structure at some points and some of the same cut scenes appear in both stories. They converge into each other at certain points, allowing Will and Helen to meet in their dream worlds and help each other, though Owl states that normally this shouldn't be possible. The story reaches its climax as a stairway appears at the Dream Gate and Helen and Nights ascend, only to be trapped by Wizeman himself and pulled into darkness. Will arrives too late and dives in after them, arriving in the night skies above Bellbridge, where he finds that he now has the ability to fly alone without Nights using his Red Ideya. He rescues Helen, and the two head off to save Nights, who has been imprisoned at the top of Bellbridge's clock tower. Reala shows up to stop their efforts and accepts Nights' challenge to one final showdown between them (if the condition below is met). Defeating him, the trio prepare to face Wizeman, and Nights dualizes with both of the children. Will-Nights and Helen-Nights defeat Wizeman, who assures them that as long as human beings fear, he will never truly be gone. The next day, the children separately accomplish their goals; Helen plays onstage with her mother at a recital to a thunderous applause and sees her friends in the audience, while Will scores the winning goal for his soccer team after seeing that his father has come back to see his game.
As with ...into Dreams, if the player manages to get a C Rank or higher on all missions in both stories, they will see the secret ending; when Nights and the children defeat Wizeman, he is destroyed. Since Wizeman keeps the Nightmaren alive, Nights vanishes in a white light, bowing as if at the end of a performance, and the children wake up crying. That evening, Helen plays "Dream Dreams" on the violin for her mother at an outdoor stage, while Will celebrates with his new friends and his father after the game on the street above. He loses the ball and goes after it, only to come upon Helen playing the song. The lights suffer a temporary blackout, and when they turn back on, Helen sees Will extending a friendly hand to her. Recognizing each other from their adventures in Nightopia, the two reach for each other as it begins to snow, to which they can only laugh. The final scene is of either child sleeping in their room at home as the camera pulls back towards Bellbridge's clock tower, where Nights is seen to still be alive and peacefully watching over the city from atop it.
- Nights (voiced by Julissa Aguirre) is the game's main protagonist, whom Helen and Will befriend.
- Helen Cartwright (voiced by Victoria Ashby) is one of the dreamers, in whose dreams the game takes place. Helen is a sweet girl from a wealthy family who is aspiring to be a violinist, but has begun to feel guilty over sacrificing time to practice for her social life.
- William "Will" Taylor (voiced by Riley O'Flynn) is one of the dreamers, in whose dreams the game takes place. Will loves to play soccer, but after his father leaves on a business trip, he has begun to forget the true meaning of trusting others.
- Wizeman the Wicked (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) is the main antagonist and the creator and god of Nightmare, bent on destroying the Night Dimension. Nightmaren are minions created by Wizeman.
- Reala (voiced by Casey Robertson) is Wizeman's right hand and leader of the Nightmaren army. He is also Nights' rival and sibling.
In the eleven years between Nights into Dreams and Journey of Dreams, the series was largely dormant outside of rumors and idle discussion. A game with the working title Air Nights was in development to use a tilt sensor in the Saturn analog pad, and development later moved to the Dreamcast for a time, but eventually the project was discontinued and ended up being a mere prototype for the motion-sensing technology that was later used in Sonic Team's Samba de Amigo. In 2000, the game's original producer and main programmer of Nights, Yuji Naka, expressed opposition to making another game in the series, stating, "I know a lot of people love it and want us to make a sequel, but for us it's a really important game. Like the way Spielberg likes E.T. so much he won't remake it, I don't want to make another Nights". However, by 2003, his stance had softened somewhat, with him stating that he " see[s] Nights as a license. When dealing with such a license from the past it is quite a lot of work, but I would like to use Nights to reinforce Sega's identity, yes."
Discussion on a new game in the series had increased in frequency by 2006. In March 2006, Yuji Naka left Sonic Team to form his own independent studio, Prope, where he was rumored to resume work on the game's sequel for the Nintendo Wii; although this was later debunked when the studio announced that their focus would be on creating new intellectual properties rather than revisiting any of Sega's past franchises. Rumours regarding a Wii version continued to appear during 2006. The rights to Nights still remained with Sega, who, by 2007, showed interest in returning to the series without Naka. In March 2007, Sega.com ran a poll titled "Which Sega game/character would you like to see return?" featuring Nights as one of the options.
Shortly after the poll, in April, Official Nintendo Magazine teased that "a classic game makes a long overdue return" underneath an image of a constellation in the shape of the Nights logo for their May 2007 issue. Swedish magazine Gamereactor and Portuguess magazine Maxi Consolas also alluded to a new Nights game, just before the game's official announcement as Nights: Journey of Dreams in Famitsu.
Despite being announced in April 2007, Sega had planned working on a second Nights game as early as November 2005, directly after Shadow the Hedgehog was shipped. In May 2006 the actual development started. The game was the fourth and last game developed by Sega Studio USA, with Takashi Iizuka, the head of the United States branch and one of the designers of the original, as producer, director, and lead game designer. Despite the game having some of the core members from the original game, the entire team from Shadow the Hedgehog worked on this game. While the game was developed in San Francisco, the music and CGI movie production were made in Japan. The game was the team's last before being absorbed back in to Sonic Team Japan.
Tomoko Sasaki reprised her role of lead composer from the original Nights into Dreams…, and was also rejoined by Naofumi Hataya and Fumie Kumatani. Additional compositions were provided by Tatsuyuki Maeda, Tomoya Ohtani, and Teruhiko Nakagawa. The original soundtrack was released as a 3-disc set, the first CD prominently featuring music from Will's story, the second CD mainly featuring music from Helen's story, and the third CD having bonus tracks. The theme song of the series, "Dreams Dreams", makes a return appearance in the game in several different forms. The signature ending theme version is now sung by Robbie Wyckoff & Francis M. Benitez. A children's version is also sung by Riley O'Flynn and Victoria Ashby, who voice Will and Helen in the game, and much like the original before it, segues into the adults' version. Within the game as well is the "Cruising Together" version of the song, which plays during the Bellbridge stage as the children reunite and go to rescue Nights; this version of the song retains the original vocals of Curtis King, Jr. and Dana Calitri.
A slower version of the song also plays over the perfect ending credits and 'full A rank' dreamgate, and is called "Dreams Dreams: Sweet Snow", which is sung by Jasmine Ann Allen who performed on the original children's version of the song in the previous game when she was younger.
Reviews have been mixed to positive, averaging at around 68.7%. Nintendo Power reviewed the game in their January 2008 issue and gave it a 9 out of 10, saying "Director Takashi Iizuka and his team have hit one out of the park, delivering a follow-up in every way worthy of its legendary predecessor." Electronic Gaming Monthly also reviewed the game in their January 2008 issue, giving the game a 7.0, 7.5, and 7.0, averaging out to a score of 7.2/10. They praised the game for its appealing art style, pleasant soundtrack, and its faithfulness to the original game, but criticized it for the 3D platforming segments, confusing boss battles, and saying the Wii Remote controls don't work nearly as well as the standard control scheme. IGN scored the game a 6.5/10, saying it was only for die hard fans of the original. GameSpot scored the game a 7.5/10, and Game Zone gave it 8/10. Famitsu gave the game an overall score of 29 out of 40, praising it for its heartwarming story and good replay value, but criticizing sometimes bothersome controls.
In a 2010 interview with Games TM, Iizuka has expressed his desire to create a third Nights game series, stating that "I would personally love to make a third Nights game...but that decision will always be up to the management at Sega." While no further news on such a game has ever surfaced, Sega has made the Nights character itself a playable character in a number of their Sega or Sonic themed games.
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