“Nights’ brutal difficulty is its ultimate failure in my opinion. Reaching all the levels requires not only completion but the performance level that might only be available to the young or the quick … or the most willing to grind their way through memorization and muscle practice. This game style isn’t as prevalent as it used to be for a reason. The bosses are particularly difficult, needing a trial-and-error approach to figure out how best to avoid their idiosyncratic dangers. The issue here is that when the several trials occur, failure doesn’t just mean trying the boss again. You must replay the four sub-levels first to face the boss again. If you don’t figure out the specific tricks needed to defeat the boss nightmares, you’re in for significantly repetitive gameplay.
I get that the nightmare tracks are supposed to be disorienting since they are set in a dream landscape, but the continual bombardment with reminders of your own failure is a bit much. While some core players will find this to be a compelling feature, I personally do not. I have many more interesting things to do with my gaming time than continue to get bad grades, then falling just short of completing the levels at a seemingly arbitrary level of expertise. Seriously, if I wanted to do that, I’d go back and get another college degree.”
- Rob LeFebvre’s 2012 review of NiGHTS: Into Dreams for Venture Beat
When I hear somebody say that NiGHTS: Into Dreams is kind of a confusing game to play, I understand. When you spell out what you have to do, it can seem a bit arbitrary, especially in the context of a modern game:
- Deposit giant glowing crystal in to altar.
- Crystal turns you in to a flying jester.
- Gameplay changes from 3D to a 2D track that loops around the stage and back to the altar.
- A countdown timer appears.
- Collect blue marbles
- Touch weird looking cage, deposit marbles.
- Deposit enough marbles, cage explodes, get another glowing crystal.
- Deposit next crystal in to altar. Countdown restarts, new 2D track.
- Continue until there are no more crystals.
- If time runs out, you are screwed.
Right? A lot of those actions seem unrelated. Without somebody telling you, you’d probably never know that’s what you were supposed to do. But once you figure it out, it’s a very fast, very fun game. As became a staple with Sonic Team’s releases, it is a very practice-based game.
But… brutally difficult? Once you understand the sequence of events required to complete a level… like, the game is not challenging at all. It’s a high-score game. Everything is predicated on you getting a good score. It was what constitutes as an “arcade game” by 1997 standards. I can’t even fathom the thought that NiGHTS would be difficult. And like, I’m actually sitting here trying to come up with another arcade game that could relate to this, but there aren’t any. Your primary penalty is a low score, and even then, it’s so easy to get at least a B rank once you figure out that you can just… run laps to get more points. It may actually be more difficult to intentionally fail at NiGHTS than it is to finish the game, outside of maybe like, the final boss.
It begs the question as to whether this guy actually tried to figure anything out about the game at all, or if he struggled against it for five minutes and wrote it off entirely based on that.
I actually wrote out an outline for a video that talks about NiGHTS and Journey of Dreams, and the game’s perception, but like a lot of the non-video-review stuff I’ve written out, I don’t know that I’ll ever have the time or the tools to get around to it any time soon.