I'm not here to bury NiGHTS--but I am here to say that SEGA's HD update of their Dreamcast-era classic might night be past its sell-by date. Point of fact, I'm curious about how gamers without the weight of nostalgia will approach this 2D/3D platformer. That was actually how I approached it here, having never played the original and missing its re-release two years ago on the Wii.
What I found was a game that might have at once been incredibly inventive, but now feels like an artifact from a period where 3D design was still limited by the available hardware.
First off, a little about SEGA's revamp, which optimizes the game for 16:9 screens while sharpening some of the previously standard-def visuals. The 360 version of the game that I played renders the world of dreams with some crisp and colorful visuals, and the only time the low-poly count limitations really creep up during the ground segments with Will and Helen (their faces and the ground textures are rough at best, primitive at worst). Of course, the option to play with the original graphics and aspect ratio is there as well if that's something you're into.
But improvements aside, it's really not all that fun. If you've never played NiGHTS, the primary gameplay involves the title character flying around on a fixed track in a circular level with enemies that can be grabbed and tossed or flown through using Nights' spinning dash attack. Side paths give the game a sense of depth in the third dimension by accessing turn junctions, but it takes a bit to figure out precisely where the turns are--something you might not have the time to do given the ticking clock you're working under to beat the level's miniboss.
NiGHTS is a contemporary of Crash Bandicoot and Pandemonium, two other, slightly more traditional platformers that threw in a little bit of 3D interaction to seem fresh and new on the 32-bit consoles.
It's not that being an old-school platformer is the problem, per se--only that being able to occasionally turn left in the environment doesn't provide mucg in the way of compelling or unique gameplay when that's something we're able to do with frequency today. I know it sounds like I'm beating up on an old game, but nothing feels fresh, unique, or interesting here when so many more inventive platformers have come in its wake, while the level design is neither tight or clever enough to make it at least a curiosity.
For the nostalgic, Nights into Dreams... might be worth picking up, but for the average platforming fan, you should probably take a pass.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams is available now on PSN and XBLA.
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