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#97633 NiGHTS Pillowcase

Posted by PapaPrinny on 09 July 2011 - 04:06 AM in NiGHTS chit-chat

I had completely forgotten about my NiGHTS pillow case. I rested on that thing until it had become completely worn. I got my money's worth!

#97220 NiGHTS Lucid Dreaming in review!

Posted by PapaPrinny on 04 July 2011 - 06:54 PM in NiGHTS chit-chat

To me, NiGHTS Into Dreams has always been the pinnacle of imaginative game design. This sentiment puts me in good company, as it is quoted by Shigeru Miyamoto as being the one game he didn't make that he wished he had. Never before or since have I been so enchanted or engrossed by anything: With the simple premise of controlling a dream avatar who could fly unbounded through beautiful, highly-imaginative, wide-open environments with groundbreaking 3D controls courtesy of the Saturn's 3D Control Pad, NiGHTS was the opportunity for me to literally spread my arms and fly into the sky. Even after I put the game down for several years, the feeling never left me: It imprinted itself on me to a degree that I can not regard NiGHTS as anything other than one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. It is, and perhaps always will be, my personal definition of the sublime.

But perhaps the one element of the game that has been a near-constant in my life since 1996 is the music. A few years after I put the game down for the time being, I found a recording of the soundtrack online. Once my cursor hit the play button, I was instantly transported back to my childhood. I was once more darting gracefully through the air beneath the canopy of the Mystic Forest, passing over the sands and blue waters of Splash Garden, and circling around Twin Seeds Tower high above the town of the same name in the dead of night, the world asleep beneath me as I fought for its dreams. These were the fondest memories of my childhood, and all I had to do for them to wash over me once again was to press a button. The sanctity of this music therefore became a deep matter of personal importance to me. It became something I treasured.

So when I first read on NightsIntoDreams.com that OC Remix was spearheading a fan-based reinterpretation of the original NiGHTS Into Dreams score, I experienced the excitement and skepticism one could reasonably expect from a protective fan. Though OCR exercises quality control over the things they release, I knew that they weren't Naofumi Hataya, Tomoko Sasaki, or Fumie Kumatani, the game's composers. It was for this reason that doubt settled, and I just had to investigate. This led me to view a Youtube clip that had been made to promote the project, which featured gameplay footage of NiGHTS along with a preliminary version of Level 99's Twin Seeds Flyby track. I have since been quite certain to shower Level 99 with unending praise for the track in question, as I recognized it to be a precisely-crafted tributary payload, complete with reverence, love, style, tact, exceptional talent, and adherence to the source material.

From that point forward, I began to follow the NiGHTS: Lucid Dreaming project with an insufferably child-like enthusiasm, and much to my good fortune, Level 99 graciously found a way to successfully suffer my constant inquiries and gushing praise. With a man of such talent helming the production of this OCR album, I knew the project was in good hands.

Still, I recognized that all the contributors to the album would have their own ideas of how to interpret NiGHTS music, and that as an entirely volunteer-driven endeavor (and considering OCR's history of liberal musical reinterpretations), the successful producer will be accommodating of such inclinations, whilst pushing them to produce quality results. It was with this understanding that I digested NiGHTS: Lucid Dreaming, and wrote the following impressions at Level 99's kind request.

======DISC 1======

Track 1 - Panzer Nightopia
The first disc opens with an understated yet epic introduction to Nightopia, and feels as though it is building and leading into something bigger. The track screams "overture," and makes promises of a grand musical adventure to follow within the next two hours. Little did I know I'd be utterly blindsided by what came next.

Track 2 - Dream Dreams (Disco NiGHTS Mix)
One thing you will learn early on once inducted into the very exclusive NiGHTS Into Dreams lovers club is how to love one of the cheesiest songs ever made: Tomoko Sasaki's "Dreams Dreams." This is not the kind of music any man listens to around others lest he be called all manner of emasculating things. Why? Because this track is a ballad, sung by two vocalists whom we are meant to believe are the boy and girl protagonists of the game. Yet, for all the dude points you lose if you get caught listening to this track, make no mistake: you WILL be severely chastised by other NiGHTS fans if you speak ill of it.
The above ought to help you understand why there are three versions of this song in this OCR album. It is the song under which all NiGHTS fans inevitably find themselves united. It is perhaps the ultimate validation of your status as a NiGHTS fan: If you like this track, then you get it. You are one of us. If not, you are pretty much an outsider. Firefly fans have their brown coats. NiGHTS fans have "Dreams Dreams."
Unfortunately, if I had to tell you all of the above in order for you to understand what the big deal is about Dreams Dreams, you are likely to be left dumbfounded by the shamelessly quirky energy of this DISCO LOVE BALLAD. Aside from the disco ball that will invariably lower and light up the dance floor in your mind (yes, you have one of those up there), the first thing you will notice is a distinctly Asian voice in the vein of a modern male J-Pop singer, likely a deference to the original track and its Asian vocalists. This is accompanied by a constant fading of the bass line, heavy vocal processing, predictably emasculating lyrics, and the obligatory disco laser cues one can reasonably expect from a modern, exuberant entry in the genre. All these things proceed to carry you through the rest of the track with hardly a lull, leaving even long-time fans sufficiently fazed by what just happened.
After giving the track another listen in an attempt to understand what happened, fans will (when no longer distracted by the DISCO) immediately recognize the core elements of the original track, and will have no trouble hearing the similarities.

Track 3 - From Dusk til Dawn
Moving on to the third track, you come to learn what it means to listen to an OCR album: After the exuberance of the previous track, you are wrested from your disco fever and are presented with a soothing lullaby. This is the first musical cue that helps to establish that, yes, NiGHTS Into Dreams is all about... dreams. It does its absolute best to bring you down from the high of Disco Dreams Dreams and lull you to sleep, sending you to Nightopia. A very sweet, gentle, and warm tribute to the memories we all have of our experiences in Nightopia, though perhaps a little bittersweet for fans, as piano music tends to be.

Track 4 - Lies Within Dreams
Worry not though, because the next track makes the sudden jump to the Gulpo boss battle. This time the transition isn't quite as rough though: I feel as though I am battling a jazz club piano player with a martini as my weapon while I listen to this. A classy track which transports you to a dimly-lit, empty night club with your own table.

Track 5 - Reverse Rain
I tend to imagine imagery when I listen to music, and for the first 1:15 of this track, I can't help but imagine rain droplets splashing into and rippling across the surface of small puddles, with one of the children's reflections passing over the rippling surface as they run past. I assume that since this is called Reverse Rain that the desire of author Rozovian was to invoke this kind of imagery in the listener. It is difficult not to conjure the imagery of the game's floating bells sounding out above pools as you fly past. Perhaps the most visually evocative track of the entire album, it will further delight you when it begins to sound unmistakably like The Amazing Water, one of two tracks from the beginning of the game that every NiGHTS fan remembers with great fondness.

Track 6 - She Can Has Long Ears
Up until this track, aside from track 2, this album has been a huge departure from what I expect out of OCR. This track is more in line with what I've come to expect in terms of OCR re-interpretations. It retains the slightly haunting undertones of the original track, but for my tastes there is perhaps a little too much in the way of fusion of styles happening in this track. It almost feels as if the track is searching frantically at times for a coherent identity, then eventually settles on a sort of amalgam for the "time is running out" portion of the track. Overall I felt as though the track were somewhat evocative of the all-over-the-place action of the boss battle with Puffy, but it did not seem very evocative of the original music. I'm sure this was the aim, but as a NiGHTS fan- which, frankly, is the audience here- I felt more like I was listening to Winamp than throwing Puffy through barricades. This is to say nothing of the way the track sounds, as I can at the very least see the boss battle using this track and doing very well with it.

Track 7 - The Desert Had a Strange Dream
NiGHTS skims the surface of the dunes, searching for Gillwing. Eventually the boss leaps over the crest of a sand dune on NiGHTS' flank, NiGHTS rolling to look upward as the shadow of the boss' broad body passes over. NiGHTS bolts up and over to follow Gillwing over the opposite dune, and they begin an unusual dance amongst the clouds of sand that begin to kick up in their wake. The corkscrewing NiGHTS knocks Gillwing into the side of a dune and over the other side, Gillwing struggling with his large leathery wings amongst the hail of sand and dirt to regain altitude, diving up and over toward NiGHTS, its jowls open wide as a loud shriek issues forth, echoing across the sands.
Sorry, I had a little too much fun there. This track maintains a consistent theme throughout, while retaining the theme of the original track to remind me that in fact I am taking on Gillwing in an imaginative and magical Arabian dream land. A lovely re-imagining that remembers its roots.

Track 8 - The NIGHTS Has Just Begun
If your mind immediately conjures imagery for music as mine does, you will find yourself in the brightly-lit streets of the city of Twin Seeds, the street lamps and windows of buildings shining warm and bright as the city descends into night beneath a waning crescent moon with Twin Seeds Tower rising high above the city in the background. Very festive, just as the original track! The original (for this track) vocals don't intrude or step on any other part of the song. Though the imagery described by the vocalist is very evocative of the imagery of the city of Twin Seeds, I'm not sure what to make of the actual lyrics... Just listen and perhaps you'll see what I mean. Though the kids definitely share a connection in the game, this is perhaps a little too much. Ignoring the lyrics though, this is the festive attitude that I am accustomed to hearing from Naofumi Hataya.

Track 9 - New Jack Mantle
And then, suddenly, a wild hip-hop track appears. Soon after the track began, I actually paused the track. I queued up and listened to The Mantle, the NiGHTS track on which this track was based. Only after a while did I finally begin to hear the resemblance to New Jack Mantle. Reassured that I was indeed listening to a remix, I resumed play of New Jack Mantle. Then the 8.7 second-mark hit. Then I heard nothing but hip-hop. I believe my reaction was that I consciously blinked. Not like those imperceptible, split-second blinks we all experience at regular intervals throughout the day. I soon realized this was an "I don't understand" blink. As far as I can tell the track only sounds as though it makes casual passes at the original track. It doesn't help too much that I'm not much of a hip-hop fan, but it also doesn't help that I certainly don't associate hip-hop with NiGHTS. If you like that stuff, then I'm sure this is a fun interdiction. Irrespective of my personal tastes, I feel like I should be playing Jet Set Radio instead while listening to this. So yeah, hip-hop in my NiGHTS.

Track 10 - Slumber on a City Corner (see note at end of this article)
Yet another take on the Dreams Dreams track, this track cuts straight to the chase, skipping the opening and jumping straight into the first verse, wherein a saxophone takes the place of the vocals, leaving us with a saxophone fronting a jazz ensemble. But as far as my ears are concerned, the saxophone just isn't in the sound stage. Not that I expect it to be in actuality. But it has no reverb whatsoever. We've got percussion, flute and piano on the stage, and the saxophone has its own little insulated booth with a recording mic somewhere else. This unfortunately ends up being very distracting, and as a result I just can't get over it.

Track 11 - The Nemesis Schema
Here to get us back on track is Level 99 with the boss battle with NiGHTS' evil doppelganger, Reala. The anvil drop at the beginning, twisted music and laughter help to convey that the player has entered a very hostile and dangerous place. Reala sounds disturbed, and is voiced very well. The crash, breaking glass, and silence afterward tells us that the monologuing is over, and that the exciting yet dangerous and high-stakes battle now begins. Very high energy boss battle music that conveys the importance of the outcome of the battle and is immediately evocative of the original track. The electric guitar further establishes the intensity of the battle, and the saxophone reminds me of the jazzy undertones of the original track, further allowing it to stand up against the canonical score. I can absolutely see Reala and NiGHTS duking it out to this track. Love the way it sounds, and love how true it stays to the original.

Track 12 - Tomorrow Should Have Been Last Night
Eighties slow rock. Very triumphant. I can see this at the end of a Sega AM2 game, credits rolling as a red sports convertible carries our protagonists, driving along cliff roads above waves from the Sea of Japan breaking against the rocks below. The female protagonist releases a red silk scarf into the wind as they drive off into the distance and around the bend. The camera pans up into the clear blue sky, lens flare sliding across the lens as the frame goes white: "Presented by SEGA"
I'm not one to watch anime, but this is about as ending-ish as you can get for a Japanese production, and I'm a sucker for it. I'm also a sucker for wet strings, so the beginning of the track had me before it really picked up. That being said, I pretty much had to be told that this was a remix of "After the Dream". Listening to it closely, I can only somewhat hear the original track show through; but it is saved by little, undeniable nods to NiGHTS here and there. This track will stir warm and bittersweet feelings in NiGHTS fans, as we have reached the end of our arc through the main story this disc presents us with. It is, however, its own entity apart from "After the Dream". A great ending to disc 1.

======DISC 2======

Track 1 - Beyond the Dream
Here we've landed once again at the stage select as we begin our journey once more. This track feels as though it is a bridge from the last track of disc 1, though I can't help but conjure the disturbing imagery of Tom Cruise slobbering all over Kelly McGillis in the love segments from Top Gun while listening to this. Like Level 99 hinted in his Twitter, "totally make-out music". Rad track as I just plain like this kind of music when done well, but yeah. Tom Cruise slobbering all over Kelly McGillis.

Track 2 - I'll Fly You
Listening to this track, I think I now have an idea of what a Eurodance version of Paternal Horn might sound like. Maybe. I think. The problem is that it seems as though Paternal Horn is relegated entirely to the background as this unusual rendition takes center stage ahead of it. Another part of the problem is that I'm generally not one to listen to electronic pop music with electronic vocals. This combined with the fact that I'm having trouble hearing Paternal Horn simply results in my veins frosting up in reception to this song. Ignoring my opinion of the track itself, this is bright and cheerful in a different way than NiGHTS fans expect NiGHTS music to be, and is very different from the treatment that the Amazing Water track received. Considering that Paternal Horn is The Amazing Water's sister track, some NiGHTS fans may feel that this track represents a gap in the kind of coverage that this album has provided the music of NiGHTS thus far.

Track 3 - Urban Museum
Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the opportunity of a lifetime: The chance to hear how NiGHTS Into Dreams would have sounded on the Nintendo 64!
Those higher-frequency notes that get me all emotional from Suburban Museum have been replaced with what SOUNDS like synth flutes. It seems that either the mic caught more of the (attenuated) sound reflecting off the wall of the sound stage than sound that came directly from the flute, or it was generated by the N64 SGI co-processor. A nice tune, but it doesn't have near as much instrumentation as the original, thus leaving it sounding a bit empty by contrast.

Track 4 - She Had Angry Pixels
Right, back to OCR music then! And what better way to do that than with something that sounds radically different from the original track while retaining its tone and structure. I am very partial to chip music, so this automatically gets my vote. It helps that it is immediately invocative of She Had Long Ears, but I can't get over the fact (in a good way) that it sounds like a heavily-processed version of what NiGHTS would sound like on my beloved Game Gear (cough I mean NES*COUGH*). If you are looking to tap the zeitgeist as it exists today, chip is the new way to do that, so if you're going to take a modern remixing approach to game music, chip is a perfectly valid vehicle. Nearly everyone who played NiGHTS in '96 is old enough to have a predisposition toward this stuff anyway, right? The original track is definitely in there, it just sounds like an exceptional track I grabbed off the 8-bit Collective.

Track 5 - Trans-Siberian Tuning Fork
Here's a track to get you thinking about Christmas NiGHTS! As an arrangement for the vast, empty and cold expanse of the frozen tundra, this has many of the pre-requisite musical cues that one would expect of such a track, along with a number of festive accoutrements that I am not accustomed to hearing with such a track. I can also appreciate that, while I normally expect a more subtle use of wind instruments to underscore the loneliness of the frozen desolation, here they are brought to life somewhat. All of these culminate to remind us that this is NiGHTS, and that we're flying around and getting into general mischief here. Once again the pristine bells and ringing sounds one could expect of a dream world show up here, and is all very festive and dreamy. Sit around the dim light of the fireplace, kick your feet up, and have some hot cocoa as you regard the layer of frost collecting at the bottom of your living room window.

Track 6 - Clawz Jam
Grab a beer, a can of chewin' tobaccy, and put on your trucker hat, because your dream has just landed you in a grungy road house with Cyril the Wolf, Level 99, and Brandon Snell providing tunes from just beyond the chicken wire. While you're at it, be sure to occasionally duck as NiGHTS and Clawz duke it out in an epic bar fight behind you, watching for the occasional flying bottle or pint glass. At the very least they chose a nice cave of a place with solid walls to brawl in so you could experience great acoustics that make it sound like you're right up there with our heroic band. Should the bar attendant's bar be so equipped, you might want to ask her to switch on the Pro Logic II so that you may be better enveloped by the music as the floor shakes beneath your bar stool.

Track 7 - Overnight Cloverleaf
Wow, are we sure we didn't just put the NiGHTS Saturn disc in the player? This sounds way too keyboard-ish to be a heavily-remixed OCR track. I feel like I should be hearing this in Shenmue's Yokosuka, this track playing over the outdoor speaker of a small storefront just down the street from Tom's hotdog stand. You pretty much can't get any more Sega-ish than that. I love it for all that, but I also love it because, yes, it sounds dreamy. And of course, those familiar jazzy undertones are lurking in the background. I additionally defy you not to smile at the ending, NiGHTS fan.

Track 8 - Restless Depths
The choral elements in the background immediately introduce us to our fantastical surroundings. We find ourselves rapidly descending into a dimly-lit cave, a mysterious glow warming the walls as we head deeper and deeper. Eventually we see the passage abruptly open in the back of the cave. We emerge on the other side to find ourselves floating into a small cavern that descends deeper and deeper into the wondrous and dank underworld. Every cymbal and bongo tap bounces off the dewy, crystal-studded walls as we drift past, the crystals bathing the cavern in a dim purple glow; their focal points shimmering dazzlingly as our eyes meet them on our way past.
If Reverse Rain is the most visually-evocative track of this album, then this one probably provides the best atmosphere (if it's even possible for those two things to be separate). A magical world will reveal itself to you throughout the track's visceral musical narrative, a sign of the work of talented musicians.

Track 9 - Twin Seeds Flyby
My sentiments on this track are well-documented. Growing Wings was emotionally evocative as it was, but Level 99 has made extensive use of bright and cheerful guitar to serve as the perfect surrogate for the track that revealed the kids' inner strength. When I associate this music with Elliot or Claris flying around Twin Seeds Tower, I see the kids joyfully arcing through the sky with an aerobatic deftness, laughing gleefully in the face of the great danger before them as they dispatch the Nightmaren around the tower, all with the joy of knowing that they have conquered their fears, and can defeat Wizeman's machinations if only they put their hearts into it.
I, as well as NiGHTS fans everywhere, will always, without doubt, refer back to this track when we need inspiration for the kind of magical imagery described above. Among the most potent melodies I've ever had the pleasure of listening to, IN MY LIFETIME, next to the original score for the game. This track is going to stay with me for the rest of my life; it is now a part of my dear, sweet memories of NiGHTS Into Dreams...

Track 10 - Dies, Nox et Omina
The haunting reverie of a well-worn music box labors in the darkness as our youngest memories are laid out before us in our mind's eye. We watch in desperate confusion as, one by one, they are enveloped in the flowing black ink which surrounds us, and the metal combs of the box are prematurely silenced. Ethereal chimes sound around us as we bat our way through the murky darkness amongst our fractured memories and dreams... We are led through the dark by a soft beckoning; a fragment from a suddenly distant memory... As we drift silently through the mists, we reach out, grasping more and more frantically through the darkness for that small voice, but are disturbed to feel it slip away, forgotten. The dark haze suddenly and violently parts and collects into amorphous clouds around us, dimly lit in a dark, otherworldly glow from just beyond the churning, all-enveloping veil of mists. The shapes then quickly take form and begin to rush past us: Dark, tormented, and corrupted facsimiles of our dearest memories drifting by in the mists; foreboding promises of the twisted designs of their architect. Then, through the mists, a towering, ghostly visage pierces through. The black ink clouds are swept away in a violent rush of wind, our avatars tumble back through the gale; a spontaneous onslaught of thunder and sheets of rain assaulting them. We watch as they right themselves in the torrent, and sail headlong into the tumult toward the towering figure. The images of the battlefield warp and perverse around the avatars as the being stands tall and resolute in the darkness, the celestial foundations of the heavens taking shape and hurdling toward the two aggressors. The fate of our memories, our dreams; the stuff which grants humanity, lie ahead.
As you can see from my shameless indulgence above, this track is epic in its aspirations, and all the above was derived from the ambient opening before the Latin lyrics kicked in. Orchestral elements soon begin to support the vocals as a dark operatic stage is set, the rest of the battle between both NiGHTS avatars and Wizeman playing out in an opera house. Oddly, the ambient sound cues which inspired the above narrative diminish greatly after the vocals come in, and the rest of the battle appears to be conveyed in a less direct fashion by the tone of the singers and the music. Regardless, the variations in tone can probably be interpreted as audible cues for when the battle environments changed in the actual boss battle in the game. If this was the intent, then this is the only assistance the track offers us in imagining how the battle might have proceeded.

Track 11 - The World Is Dreaming
Aaw, all the NiGHTS fans are singing Dreams, Dreams. This will put a tearful smile on the face of every true NiGHTS fan. It's just really great to hear a lot of people come together and pay homage to Dreams, Dreams like this, and clearly have fun in the process. I can't help but follow along! Only criticism is that the track seems to end without a proper resolution.

Track 12 - Sleepless Nights
A solo piano piece of Gate of Your Dream. I have NEVER ONCE been able to take positive feelings with me away from a slow, contemplative, solo piano piece. As a result, I always skip over this track because it just sounds too sad. And why not? We've come to the end of the album. (Aww.)

Hey, wow! It's over!

So, what do we have here, fellow Dreamers?

This is a new NiGHTS Into Dreams soundtrack of near equal quality to the original score, and overall just as delightful, if not moreso due to the fact that it's NEW! All NiGHTS fans everywhere will love this, and if Yuji Naka and Takashi Iizuka are listening to this album (and I have it on good authority that they are), then you should too! This is perhaps the greatest single triumph of the NiGHTS community, and all NiGHTS fans and lovers alike would be disservicing themselves to pass this up. Wherever you've ended up since your time in Nightopia, whatever you've become, Lucid Dreaming will bring you back. To which we say, "Welcome back, fellow Dreamer!"

And heck, it's free! Seriously, download it! For every person who doesn't, God kills an A-Life!


Edit: This review was written with a pre-release copy as reference. A number of things have changed in the final release that would have altered this article, especially Slumber on a City Corner, which has been completely remastered and sounds much better now.