Like Jet Set Radio, a Wide Range
The three reviews that are officially counted toward the re-release of NiGHTS Into Dreams on Metacritic again reflect a wide range of professional media opinion, not unlike the reception Jet Set Radio received before that settled into the low 70s.
At the highs so far is an 8 out of 10 given by Electronic Gaming Monthly. Reviewer Eric Patterson notes first-timers may not understand how special Sonic Team’s first non-hedgehog game is:
The problem with NiGHTS back in the day—and today, as well—is that all of [the] basic information leads you to have an OK experience with the game—but not necessarily a great one. I don’t necessarily blame Sonic Team nor Sega, as my feeling is that they wanted to craft an adventure where the more time and effort you put into it, the more reward you’d gain. (For example, one element—the “A-Life” simulator where you can raise and take care of Nightopians—is so obscure and unexplained that many will never even know that facet of the game exists.)
Unfortunately, many won’t understand that about NiGHTS, and because of that, it can easily come off feeling like a quirky-yet-extremely shallow adventure that’s over not long after it starts. Making things even more complex is that it isn’t simply a case of comprehending NiGHTS—if you’ll appreciate it is a whole other story. In that regard, no amount of my personal or critical opinion can tell you if you’ll truly like NiGHTS into Dreams HD or not. NiGHTS reminds me of games such as Shadow of the Colossus, or God Hand, or Flower—games where if they click with you, they really click, and if they don’t, then it can be easy to have no understanding of why people would enjoy such things.
Below the meat–a 3.5 out of 5 score from GamesRadar–is the bottom of the sandwich: A 5.5 out of 10 from Polygon. Reviewer Arthur Gies believes the game’s controls and mechanics that often leave a player on his or her own do not work:
Nights does an excellent job setting up its magical sensibilities and sense of place to buckle under the weight of its convoluted and confusing design. The underlying mechanics are sound — Nights was designed to take advantage of SEGA’s “3D controller,” a gamepad with an analog joystick, and movement is tuned for smooth turns and graceful loops. But the game designed around the possibilities of analog control struggles to contrive worthwhile reasons to put that control method to use.
Even the bosses only really succeed half the time at taking advantage of what were — at the time — the bleeding edge of nuanced controls. More often, they’re exercises in frustration. They demand you figure them out with no suggestions by Nights as to what it wants from you; do you need to bounce this boss of the floor like the last one, or do you need to throw it through a series of walls, or … what?
This is Nights most consistent problem — a lack of clarity in goals and design. When Nights originally released, it coasted by on novelty and the then-stunning visuals that Sega was known for. That was enough for the limited number of Sega fans who owned a Saturn and could track the game down. But now, after 15 years, the gauzy veil of obscurity has been pulled away, and what’s left is a scaffolding of a game, with little in the way of proper development of its own ideas.
We’ll offer our thoughts on the re-release shortly. What are yours? Have you played the game yet? Tell us your experience below in the comments.