Each Nightopia is divided up into five missions. The first is a classic Saturn NiGHTS chase mission - here you guide NiGHTS around a linear course as he flies through rings, collects blue chips and tries to touch a key-carrying bird before the time-limit runs up. You've got a few simple special moves at your disposal to help. The Drill Dash gives you a speed boost and also smashes through destructible objects; the Paraloop, mentioned above, which causes a vacuum that sucks in blue chips and captures Nightopians and Nightmarens; and Personas, masks which allow NiGHTS to transform into a dolphin, a rocket and a dragon, each granting specific powers. You grab the key three times, effectively giving each chase mission three different courses within the same gorgeous and colourful environment. Depending on your speed and skill, you'll get a grade at the end of the three course mission - from A to E.
The chase missions are by far the best thing about the game. Played with an analogue stick they're a joy to fly through. Trying to guide NiGHTS at top speed through ring after ring, collecting blue chip after blue chip and keeping your Link count going (leave longer than a second between ring or chip and you'll break the link) is as enjoyable an experience as any on the console, and certainly does the original NiGHTS justice.
You've got some nice switch-ups in play too where the perspective changes, say to directly behind NiGHTS rather than facing his side, as well as a couple of sweet little touches, like having to guide NiGHTS through rings via a reflection of himself in a massive mirror and triggering musical notes in time to a song, which will have you feeling all warm inside. But the bottom line is these missions are gaming at its purist - Sonic in the sky, as the fanboys always said.
But what isn't fun are the other missions, which see you control Will and Helen in frustrating time attack platforming levels. These are as horrible to play as the knock-off third-party platformers everyone seems to be chucking out on the Wii these days. You jump and fire blue chips at enemies. That's pretty much it. The missions themselves are boring - one sees you walk around endlessly through a mirror maze until you get to the end. Another, which sees you change the nature of objects via switching between night and day in a forest, is about as fun as a Chinese burn. Sure, you get to team up with (well, walk with) either Will or Helen depending on who's story you're playing as, but these mission feel like a complete letdown and not in keeping with the quality of the rest of the game.
And I'm going to stick my head out on a limb here and say the boss battles, something I was particularly looking forward to, are a bit of a let down too. You actually get to fight them twice per Nightopia. The first time is very easy, the second is a little harder, but also easy. Sonic Team has come up with some interesting bosses to fight, from a giant cat-loving witch to an armoured spider, but what the game has you doing is, in my opinion, uninspiring.
For example, to defeat the witch boss you need to drop her cats into holes ala Marble Madness. To defeat the spider you need to shoot its balls of silk at a giant platform it stands on till it collapses into lava. The issue here isn't defeating the bosses, because that's easy. It's doing it as quickly as possible in order to get the best grade possible. Unfortunately the boss battles were, save perhaps for the final one, drab affairs.
The only thing that will keep me playing NiGHTS beyond story completion (something you'll have wrapped up in six hours max) is trying to beat my grades on the chase missions and comparing those scores with others on the online leader boards.
Of the other online options, only the two-player race justifies attention. The other online options feel tacked on. The boring two-player battle mode, which sees you chuck balls at your opponent, is instantly forgettable. The My Dream, a personalised dream area where Nightopians and Nightmarens you've collected in the game hang out, has some interesting online functionality, including mimicking the weather that's actually lashing your bedroom window as you play. You can even visit other gamers' My Dreams, if the thought takes your fancy. But it's more quirky than compelling.
For fans of the original game the big question is whether or not the 12 year wait for the follow-up to NiGHTS into Dreams has been worth it. The answer will have a lot to do with what you wanted out of Journey into Dreams. Did you simply want classic NiGHTS gameplay with a couple of twists, or did you want a complete overhaul, something that might rekindle that wonderment you felt back in the mid-Nineties? If you wanted the former, NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams should press all the right buttons, despite a quarter of the game being pants. If you wanted the latter, you'll certainly be disappointed I'm afraid, but then perhaps that expectation was always going to be unreasonable - when the original NiGHTS was released it was one of the most original games ever made. An updated version of the game was never going to have a similar impact in 2008.
But for those of us who have never played the original NiGHTS, Journey of Dreams is a fun and cheerful game that fits perfectly within the Wii's casual gaming philosophy. If you can forgive its failings, NiGHTS will be one dream you certainly won't want to wake up from.