Way back in 1996, Sonic team released a peculiar game on the now defunct Sega Saturn. That game was Nights into Dreams.

The game centered around 3 characters, the titular nights, Claris Sinclair and Elliot Edwards and revolved around a fairly simple premise of collecting blue orbs in the stage in order to free a captured orb called an Ideya and bring it back to the start of the stage. The game was on rails and played on a 2d plane in a 3d world.

Capable of dividing opinions quite strongly, the game encouraged repeat play and high score collecting in order to improve and progress (the final stage was only unlocked when the played obtained at least c grades on the preceding levels). Nevertheless, the game, like many Saturn classics, has many loyal fans who hoped for a sequel someday. That sequel is Nights: Journey of Dreams.

Although I was very slow on the pickup for the first game (I initially hated it), after a few plays I began to understand why it was so highly regarded in some circles so the news of a sequel of the original for the nintendo wii was met with (mildly cautious) joy. It would not be a stretch to say that the announcement of this game was a major factor in my decision to get a wii in the first place. So how does it fare?

Not too well…

It’s not that the game is terrible, but it simply lacks the spark which made the original so memorable. In an attempt to make the game more accessible, the developers over at sonic team have added features which dilutes the original experience.

A close parallel can be drawn with the awful sonic rush adventure for the nintendo DS. Attempts to make the plot take center stage resulted in the addition of extra tasks and stages which lack charm and feel somewhat forced. The stages not involving Nights are a good example. The inclusion of a tutorial stage also feels unnecessary, Indeed, the original nights did away with a tutorial and threw the player into the thick of the action and the plot, although was there, could be (and frequently was) ignored altogether! Journey of dreams lacks that immediacy.

Then there are the controls. Just as Sonic rush adventure had horrific tasks designed to use the DS touch screen for no reason other than it was there, Nights: journey of dreams has a completely unworkable control method using the wiimote. Players were to point at the screen in the direction they wanted nights to travel and press a button to move him. That’s fine for straight lines, but once you want to start doing acrobatics and loops, the whole thing falls apart! Luckily, that control method can be ignored and the game can be played with a nunchuk, which comes with another issue. Ever noticed that the nintendo analogue sticks always rest inside a hexagonal grove? Normally, you wouldn’t notice but when you want precision control for a game like nights, you start to notice that you have far less control over the character than you would like. It’s a minor thing as the game can still be played, but it does annoy.

Then there’s the plot itself. Ignoring the fact that it’s incredibly childish and more suitable for a small child’s bedtime story, it brought something even worse to the table. Voice acting!!!

Throughout the game, you are presented with non skippable cut scenes where you have to endure nights and your chosen character (a boy named william and a girl named Helen) waffle on in order to drive the plot forward. Nights is supposed to be androgynous but is clearly given a female voice for this outing and the other 2 just sound wooden.

In terms of the plot itself, in the original, it was up to the player to interpret the plot for themselves, if they wanted but even then, the new characters are mere shadows of Eliot and Claris. I couldn’t even figure out just why they were having nightmares for? Claris had stage fright in an important play and Eliot was handed a crushing defeat in a basketball game from bullies. In Journey of dreams, we have William who doesn’t see his dad as much as he wants and Helen who is more interested in going out with friends than practicing her violin playing with her mother! So what’s the problems eating at them?

Still, it’s not all bad. The music is great for the most part since they pretty much lifted several tunes from the original. Although they did find yet another method of butchering Dreams Dreams…

In short, Journey of Dreams is a disappointment. That’s not to say that it’s a bad game. Players new to nightopia will probably find it interesting and the game will probably divide new players just like the original did over a decade ago.

But for veterans who remember the original so fondly, it’s a painful reminder of how far Sega and Sonic Team have fallen in terms of games development. When was the last good sonic game on a console? Remember when phantasy star online was fun? Nights is another game which just fell far short of expectations. I have always wanted a sequel to Burning rangers, Sonic Teams last game on the Saturn, but after this, my desire is all but extinguished.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dig out my old Saturn and go for a few rounds of Nights into dreams.