It's funny how some things change and some things stay the same. A decade ago, when I was a little blighter terrorising the playgrounds of a South London secondary school, I'd have kicked you in the gut and stole your lunch money if you had dared suggest Mario and Sonic would one day be sharing more than a punch up.
How things change. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games on Nintendo Wii. Who'd have thought? And now, here I am, ambling along to the wonderfully reclusive Wii Flat in London's West End to get some hands on time with NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams - the SEGA made follow up to the Saturn original - on a Nintendo console. How do they say in French? Plus ca change or something like that.
The original NiGHTS into Dreams was released by SEGA waaaay back in 1996, a time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, Oasis and Blur were scrapping over number ones and England had a decent football team. The game combined 2D and 3D elements to simulate dream-like flight - relaxing, gliding gameplay that found a cult following on SEGA's doomed 32-bit console.
Now, with SEGA's console-making days over and the Saturn deader than a dodo, the iconic Japanese developer has decided, finally, to make a follow up - and it just had to be on Wii.
Fanboys are delighted of course. NiGHTS was always more of a hardcore game. Question is - is the sequel so "casualfied" (yes I made it up) that it will alienate its loyal fanbase in favour of this new breed of Wii-owners?
The answer is linked to the way the game utilises the Wii's unique control system. As I sat down to play the game I thought to myself - if this doesn't work well with the Wii Remote this is going to be rubbish. Well, it doesn't work particularly well with the Wii Remote. But thankfully you can play with the Nunchuck's analogue instead. Phew.
Using the Wii Remote only, you fly through hoops, chase after key-holding birds and collect numerous collectibles with what is called Mindsight - a small circle which you control by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen. Your NiGHT glides towards wherever you point it. Point it too far away and your NiGHT will lose interest and stop flying around the course. Keep the guidance tight, however, and you can achieve loop the loops and other impressive flying manoeuvres.
Unfortunately, using the Wii Remote only just didn't feel right. I didn't feel like I was ever in complete control of proceedings. Whether this is down to the Wii's motion sensing technology or the game design I don't know. But what I do know is that I much preferred connecting the Nunchuck and caressing the analogue instead. I wondered if I was just being cack-handed. I sighed relief when I met the game's lead designer, the wonderfully diminutive Takashi Iizuka, who played with the Nunchuck too.
Tacked on Wii controls? I wouldn't go that far. There will be some of you who will play NiGHTS with the Wii Remote only. But, despite only having played through a few levels of the game, I'll stick my neck out and say most won't. It is perhaps revealing that the developer, Sonic Team, has made it possible to play NiGHTS with the Wii's Classic Controller or even a GameCube pad, if you don't fancy waving a wand about.