Sega's inexplicably capped Wii-bound sequel NiGHTs: Journey of Dreams is playable on the Tokyo Game Show floor, a welcome change from the hands-off demos the company ran at E3 this year. Also a welcome surprise, the next Nights adventure features a shockingly simple control scheme. The game features no noticeable motion control options at all, using only the analogue stick for directing Nights and the A button for speeding him up. B speeds up Nights. As does C. Maybe even Z, too. It's not too complicated.
Gameplay is similar to the Saturn game and involves plenty of balletic aerial maneuvers, guiding Nights through a series of rings, picking up scattered bonuses, paralooping around blue orbs, the typical fare one engages in when in a jester suit. The level on hand at TGS started off on foot, with human boy William, but just for a moment. We quickly took control of Nights, chasing a key-wielding bird around the grassy obstacle course. If you've never played the original NiGHTS Into Dreams, you'll fly Nights in a locked 2D plane, looping around items to collect them racing to catch up with the bird. It's fairly simple, but great fun. Relaxing at times, frantic at others, you'll want to revisit levels to improve your performance.
At the end of the level, the camera switches from a semi-side scrolling perspective to one directly behind Nights. Unfortunately, Nights' speed appears to remain the same during these segments and they feel much less enjoyable than the normal gameplay.
The demo ended with a boss fight, one against a giant clown balloon. You'll latch Nights onto the underside of the balloon boss, looping him around, then launching him through a series of doors. It's a gargantuan game of boss bowling played against the clock.
Yadda yadda yadda... So, how does it play? Pretty damn good. As a Saturn owner who wasn't particularly taken with the original—at least not on the level that ravenous NiGHTS fanboys seem to be—I enjoyed myself more than I thought I would. Control via the analogue stick felt a little loose, but adjusting to the mechanics would take longer than a fifteen minute demo.
Graphically, the game looks like a Wii game. Better than the Saturn, better than Cruis'n, but it's certainly not going to change anyone's mind about the Wii's graphical prowess. The framerate isn't that solid right now, but the game doesn't ship until December 13th in Japan, so there's plenty of time to add polish.
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams doesn't do much to set itself apart from the original game from what I played on the show floor. However, the mere fact that the game is returning to home consoles after such a long wait may simply be enough for fans of the first.