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Comic Review: NiGHTS (Archie mini-series)

A short-lived comic based on a game that gave the Sega Saturn its fifteen minutes of fame in North America, then was promptly forgotten.  But is it any good?

Yes, they made a comic out of NiGHTS, a game that had a brief stint of popularity in the mid 90s and was for a time toted as one of the killer apps for the Sega Saturn.  While not as good as most Saturn apologists would have you believe, it was a pretty decent game - nothing too spectacular, but it provides a few hours of entertainment and has some entrancingly bizarre environments and creative boss designs.  It was also among the earliest home console games to utilize a special controller with an analog control pad, which would become a staple of just about every game system to follow.

The comic book adaptation was created by Archie and was intended to be something of a companion to their long-running Sonic series.  I never bought it, mostly because I'd stopped reading the Sonic comics by the time it was released and hadn't even known they made a NiGHTS series until long after it had vanished from shelves.  But thanks to the magic of the Internet and my own stubborn curiosity, I have acquired a CBR set of the series and was able to witness it firsthand, and boy oh boy is it an experience.

Out of respect for the publisher and their legion of lawyers, I will not be doing a page-by-page teardown as we've already done with the Brazilian Mega Man comic.  Instead, I will just summarize the events of each issue and have the occasional panel or page culled for visual reference so I can hopefully finaggle this review in under Fair Use.

The cover proudly boasts that this is the "First issue of a three issue miniseries."  Yet this comic lasted six issues before its cancellation.  We'll get into that a bit later.

Our story opens on some exposition, explaining that Wizeman (the game's villain) had possessed a smith in our world and driven him to create a golden spire identical to one in the center of Nightopia.  Somehow this will enable him to bridge the dimension between the dream world and the waking world so that he can conquer both.  All he requires to complete the merger is one crucial ingredient - the "pure, red power of One Perfect Dream!"  Which he conveniently also has thanks to two people he's captured.

Wizeman's underling Reala (the evil texture swap of NiGHTS from the game) goes into his typical villain speech about how Wizeman's going to remake both worlds into a wide-awake nightmare, which prompts nameless captured woman to plead to NiGHTS for help.

With that single sentence, she convinces NiGHTS to betray Wizeman.  Not even kidding; two panels later he takes both Red Ideya and splits.  Even Anakin Skywalker didn't go turncoat that easily!

Naturally, Wizeman is none too pleased about this as he and his flunkies give chase.  As NiGHTS  flees he meets two Nightopians named Snuze and Napp (aye, the lame puns are strong with these ones), and he eventually makes his way into the golden tower at Nightopia's center.  Inside, he casts the two red Ideya into our world so that Wizeman can't get his hands on them, but in doing so, a diamond-shaped piece of one of them breaks off and sticks to NiGHTS.

The two red orbs fall into our reality, along with Snuze and Napp, all of them conveniently landing outside the house of the smith guy we saw earlier.  He calls the red orbs the "twin seeds", which is our segway to present day where a town called "Twin Seeds" has been established; and wouldn't you know it, that golden spire he was creating tops a building at the very center of town.

Snuze and Napp emerge from the golden spire, looking to find the two "perfect dreamers" of this century.  Coincidentally, they are the two heroes of the game - Elliot and Claris.

Elliot's a basketball player who quickly gets thrased by Roger, the jerkish head of a rival team and (spoiler spoiler) a villain later on in the series.  Claris is a singer who aims to be a professional diva and has a commandeering singing instructor who I think is supposed to be a racist caricature - I'm just not sure what race she's trying to deface.  What I do know is that she weighs about 700 pounds and dresses like a lunatic.

Snuze soon meets up with Elliot, giving him the basic gist of the plot and telling him they have to find the second dreamer before Wizeman does.  Snuze then gets the dumbest idea ever to get Elliot into dreamland:

Ha ha!  Concussion.

Instead of leaving him severely brain-damaged or dead, Elliot ends up in the dream world, where both NiGHTS and Reala are sealed away in "Ideya Palaces".  NiGHTS for obvious reasons and Reala for "failing to catch him in time".  Wizeman's kind of a prick.

Elliot frees NiGHTS, fusing with him and gaining the power of flight as they do in the game.  Wizeman is instantly onto their schemes though, and in true Power Rangers villian fashion, immediately dispatches his Nightmaren forces to destroy him and capture the second dreamer.

Elsewhere in dreamland, Claris is being menaced by Puffy - another villain from the game who is apparently supposed to be the Nightmaren version of the clownish instructor from earlier.  Ironically, she's much less terrifying in this form.

Despite that, Claris screams for help, causing NiGHTS to split from Eliot and fly off to save her, sending him plummeting to the ground with Gillwing (another villain from the game) in pursuit.  What a nice guy!

NiGHTS easily dispatches Puffy as Elliot and Snuze flee through a clock-shaped portal back into reality.  This results in his real alarm clock somehow being destroyed and the first of an endless procession of name puns with the quip "Don't hit the Snuze!"  Urgh.

Snuze warns Elliot not to go back to sleep since NiGHTS is currently fused to the second dreamer and he'd be helpless on his own against Wizeman.  Elsewhere, the Roger the bully from earlier in the story gets pulled into the nightmare world by Wizeman, saying there's someone he'd like him to meet...

In our second issue, we open with Elliot back in the dream world, having created a scheme with Snuze to dispatch all the villains in the dream world while the second dreamer is awake in order to protect her from Wizeman during the night hours.  But he can't sleep through the entire day, of course, so what's he to do?  Why, copy a premise straight from a Calvin and Hobbes strip and have NiGHTS possess his body during that time instead, of course!  Not-so-wacky hijinks soon ensue.

NiGHTS decides to go to the Twin Seeds Museum at that point where, in the mother of all coincidences, Claris happens to be with her friends.  But before he can explain the whole deal with the dream world and Wizeman to her, he gets pulled away by Elliot's friends so they can catch the museum tour.

Before we go any further, I just have to point out that everyone in this comic has absolutely massive feet.  Everyone.  They makes Kingdom Hearts' oversized extremities look reserved in comparison.  The tour guide on the next page is the only one spared and... hey, it's the panel Gonterman blatantly stole for his crappy comic.  Now we can see it in its original context!

...Actually, it's pretty much the same.  Only this time the one interrupting is Elliot/NiGHTS, who basically sums up the whole plot of the comic.  Meanwhile, on the other end of the museum, Roger (now possessed by Reala) is giving the exact same speech to a crowd that includes Claris and her friends.  Also at the same time, Roger, now in Reala's body, is in the dream world being given the typical villain spiel by Wizeman, who wishes to recruit him to the dark side.

Eye... live on an eyeland... in Eyeowa.  Or Weyeoming.

Meanwhile, another of Wizeman's flunkies named Jackle captures Napp, fusing him with a Nightmaren, which apparently turns him evil and causes him to spill the beans about the gateway between worlds.  Wizeman himself is too large to fit through, but someone small enough can go through the portal instead.  He sends Jackle and another bad name pun named "Shleep" to put Claris to sleep and keep Elliot occupied, respectively, which will give Wizeman the chance to attack one of the dreamers while they're defenseless.

Short version, the plan works, causing both Elliot and Claris to get dragged into the dream world.  NiGHTS splits from Elliot to assist Claris against another boss monster (a giant fish named Gulpo) before zooming back to Elliot as he comes under attack by Jackle, leaving Claris back in the lurch.  Fortunately, NiGHTS leaves her a clue for how to defeat Gulpo...

We go to another parallel situation as Jackle gives the typical villain speech in an attempt to get Elliot to give up his red Ideya and Wizeman does the same for Claris.  Elliot declines of course, defeating Jackle shortly thereafter, but as Nights zips off again to fight off Wizeman, he loses the ability to home in on Claris, suggesting that she's accepted Wizeman's deal.  Sure enough, she has, as back in reality she's received an invitation to sing the soloist spot in the production of Twin Dreams and Wizeman now has her fragment of the Red Ideya...

The third issue starts off in pretty dire straits: With both dreamers banished from the dream world: NiGHTS is now stuck facing down Wizeman on his own.  It's not long before he's defeated, causing another villain speech from Wizeman.

Elsewhere, Snuze tries to negotiate with the transformed Napp, again convincing him to turn away from Wizeman with only a few sentences of dialog.  Well, at least it makes some modicum of sense this time; he reasons that since he's half Nightopian and half Nightmaren, he's still half good and should therefore help him. ...Yeah, it's still silly.   Just go with it.

Snuze exposits some more about how his only chance to save both worlds is to enter the portal once Wizeman opens it, which will only give him a few minutes to find Claris, get her help, free NiGHTS and defeat Wizeman.

Back in reality, things aren't going well for Claris because she gave up her half of the Ideya of Courage...

Is it just me, or does the German heckler look an awful lot like Butt-head?

Elsewhere, Elliot enters the dreamworld, quickly being intercepted by Reala who tries to steal away his fragment of the red Ideya; he escapes and reunites with Snuze as Napp swipes the other fragment from Wizeman.  Napp quickly returns it to Claris, explaining that she can now fly without NiGHTS' help because the rules of reality are being overwritten by the rules of dreams or something.

Elliot comes to the same realization and both of them converge upon the golden tower, attempting to free NiGHTS.  Cue another scene straight from the game as both of them fuse with NiGHTS.

Wizeman's defeat comes a mere two pages later.  No really, only two pages.  How anticlimactic is that?

Reala is understandably pissed about his master being destroyed, attempting to kill off Snuze for what he's done; however, the day is saved by Napp, who is backed with an entire army of freed Nightopians all after Reala's head, causing him to flee.

Elsewhere, Elliot and Claris' double fusion has left NiGHTS in bad shape, with Snuze explaining that the only way to save him is to sacrifice the red Ideya - and with it, their dreams.  They attempt to do so, but it isn't enough to revive NiGHTS.  Snuze states that their dreams must become more powerful, and to do that, they have to make them come true in reality.  Reala, still despondent over Wizeman's defeat, makes a grab for a consolation prize:

...But since we're down to the last few pages, he doesn't get much of a fighting chance.  In scenes that mirror the game's endings, Claris wows the audience with her performance, Elliot makes the winning basket even with the menace of possessed Roger looming over him, and NiGHTS is saved.  Not only that, the power of their dreams was so strong that he's become real himself...

Actually, this miniseries is pretty good.  It has some silly writing and a lot of dumb humor, sure, but overall it was a decent adaptation of the game and it actually features some solid artwork due to the contributions of Patrick Spaziante, Manny Galan and Harvey Mercadoocasio.  I also actually enjoy the irreverent tone of the comic; it reminds me of the good old days of the Sonic series, before it devolved into an uber-serious furry soap opera with pandering artwork like all comics eventually seem to.  Seems like it misses the whole point of the medium to me - after all, the word "comic" implies that there's, you know, humor to be found within.

But I digress.  NiGHTS may not be perfect as a comic, but as a tie-in to a cult classic Sega Saturn game with no dialog and the barest minimum of an in-game plot, you honestly couldn't ask for much more.  It's just a good thing Archie never make a sequel story that was a total piece of crap!

...Except, of course, they did.  Tune in for part 2, where I look at the latter half of this short-lived series!

Go to part 2!