On Poetry, Prose, and Videogames

JLawrence Kenny

Music Review: NiGHTS: Lucid Dreaming

on September 14, 2011

Video games seem to have it all. Even from their early arcade days, when the game had a singular, simplistic objective, video games had the populace enamoured. As time progressed, they expanded, evolving into interactive complex stories with surprise twists, with a variety of increasingly spectacular gameplay, not to mention the inevitable increase in graphic quality. One of the things that has always been at the core of great gaming, however, has been the soundtracks. To keep the sound of a game fresh and interesting when you have hours upon hours of playing ahead of you is a feat in and of itself, but audio directors always find new ways to go above and beyond when it comes to catchy game music. But for some of the older video games, from the 64-bit era and beyond, their soundtracks find themselves being lost to the ravages of time despite their superior quality because the sound has become outdated in these High Definition times. Thankfully, a website called OverClocked Remix has made it their mission to remix popular video game soundtracks, bringing a whole new dimension to the catchy tunes that filled our childhood. One of their most recent collaborations is entitled “NiGHTS: Lucid Dreaming,” an album comprised entirely of remixes from the Sega Dreamcast game “NiGHTS into Dreams.”

NiGHTS, the jester, and protagonist of the game.

I have never actually played, nor even heard of the game “NiGHTS” before this album, and was a little hesitant when I downloaded it, worrying that I wouldn’t be able to connect with the music. Boy, was I wrong. Long story short, I am addicted to this album. There’s a huge variety of musical styles, all superbly arranged, with the underlying game themes popping up all the time. The album itself seems to be a metaphorical dream, as the arrangement of the tracks lends itself to the give and take of dreams, quiet segments that represent happy dreams, and vivacious songs that could easily represent nightmares. One of the things that continue to surprise me most about the album, however, is the sheer number of collaborators that worked on this phenomenal album. Altogether, there are 32 independent artists who all contributed to the album, culminating in an epic two-disc album that spans 25 tracks. I could quite honestly wax on and on about this album, and the infinite planning that seems to have gone into it, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll limit the majority of my review for four specific tracks.

The album starts off with a nice gentle track that acts as an overview for the album, both foreshadowing a lot of the themes and songs in a manner that is reminiscent of that time when you’re just beginning to drift off to sleep. Then right off the bat, we get an amazing song based off of the definitive song of the NiGHTS franchise – Dreams Dreams – in the remix “Dreams Dreams

I have no clue what's going on here, but it looks so much fun!

(Disco NiGHTS Mix)” It utilizes a euro-dance beat tune that is so mind-numbingly infectious, you will never be able to get it out of your head. It makes full use of the game theme motif, and manages to capture the fun of the game in a wonderful remix that has almost nothing in common with the source song stylistically, but the message is still strong; that one can do anything they want to in dreamland. The track also has a very strong vocalist, Robbie, whose voice is just amazingly entertaining. It’s a cheesy, retro style that reflects the carefree nature of the original game, and is the perfect track to lead off the album, guaranteed to reel you in for the meat of the music.

The next song that stood out to me was “Lies Within Dreams (Deep It Lies)” After a brief, quiet piano song preceding it, this track utilizes keyboards and electric guitars in a creepy intro, that signifies that something may be going wrong in the dream. Nothing overtly bad is happening yet, but the numerous notes that don’t quite fit in with the melody or key make it clear that everything is not well. It’s a funky little ditty that has lots of fun switching off different instruments, from piano, to synthesizer, electric guitar, and even an Arabic-sounding horn for a verse. It’s very high quality music, that does a great job at taking one melody and stretching it out through an entire song without the listener becoming tired of it, as they tinker with the line in a dozen different ways, changing the sound of it by just a little bit each time. It has a lot of body and soul to it, and foreshadows that the dreamer’s dream may be in danger of falling into a nightmare, which it does two tracks later.

NiGHTS's polar opposite and primary antagonist.

Of course, no game soundtrack would be complete without amazing boss music, often the best that the composer has to offer, and OCRemix’s album delivers with the track, “The Nemesis Schema (NiGHTS and Reala)” It opens with a very creepy spoken line that is perfectly villainous: “There’s no room for the both of us. In my future, there is no NiGHTS.” We are then treated to an amazing and lengthy guitar riff that represents one of the main villains of the game, Reala, as the boss fight begins. NiGHTS, the protagonist, is represented by horns and synthesizer. The track itself feels like a battle itself, as the two instrumental sections trade off blows. One can almost envision the two foes fighting each other, even when the horns disappear for a moment, giving the feeling that NiGHTS may have been defeated, before it returns and wallops the guitar into submission. This track is quite possibly my favorite of the album, as the juxtaposing instrumentation manages to have a violent feel, even though orchestral instruments like brass are usually not exciting enough for hard rock music. Thankfully, the arranger proved me wrong here.

Even heroes need to rest. On air...

Another amazingly catchy song is “She Had Angry Pixels (She Had Long Ears)” This arrangement sounds like it was taken straight from the 8-bit era, and I can never help but wonder how this game might have performed during that graphically naïve period of gaming. It’s rife with percussion and old school synth sounds that invoke nostalgia in most gamers that still remember when auditory and visual game quality was low and the game actually had to enthrall the gamer through more than just stunning visuals. The song stays true to the source material while quite obviously changing the sound and feel of it, and it’s very easy to hear the original song underneath all the 8-bit goodness. The song also goes through a few musical sections, building up to a fast climax, and then suddenly the song is over. Poof. Sad. I wanted so much more, but the cutoff worked perfectly. You know those tracks where you hear it and you love it so much, even though it’s hard to express exactly why (And then do anyway)? Well, this is one of those.

Join the dream. You'll not regret it.

This is only a small taste of the lovely music in this album, though. As I mentioned before, the album does more through its arrangement to express the idea that everything in it is dream related, beginning and ending on soft songs, representing dusk and dawn respectively. There were another few songs I wish I could have reviewed, such as “Dies, Nox Et Omnia (D’Force Master),” which is a fantastic opera song with which I feel anyone would be able to connect, despite its ancient style, and “The World is Dreaming (Dream Dreams),” another arrangement of the theme music that uses the voices of everyone that worked on the album in a very touching song that reminds us that no matter how different we are, we are all similar on some level.” Even the song that I dislike is only that way because of personal dislike for the genre upon which the song was based, but even past that, I can understand that it, along with every other song on this album, was perfectly arranged, conveying the artistic message that this game was meant to put forth. Whether or not you are familiar with this game franchise or not, every one of you positively needs to go download this album. It’s perfectly free at the OCRemix Official Site, and it’s not something you will regret doing. Join the dream.

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2 responses to “Music Review: NiGHTS: Lucid Dreaming

  1. Mike says:

    …one minor point, NiGHTS was a Sega Saturn game and not a Dreamcast one.

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