Nights ~Journey of Dreams~ Original Soundtrack is a worthy follow-up to the classic original, offering a healthy dose of nostalgic reprises and a wealth of new compositions boasting the energetic, positive sound the series is known for.
Unfortunately none of this is apparent at first, as the first disc is full of simplistic, childish pieces that try capturing the innocence of the Nights universe but with only a few exceptions offer little of the energy or complexity of the first game's soundtrack. The main culprit is the lead synth instrumentation, which reminds me of the cheap Casio keyboards I would fiddle with at the local Sears store as a child. Even tracks like "Eloquent Echo" and "Drifting Donbalon", which boast enjoyable melodies and diverse instrumental accompaniment, are hurt by the hokey lead instrumentation.
Fortunately once disc 1 is over the real Nights sequel begins, one that offers the same combination of innocent cheer, energetic melodies, and complex instrumentation as the Saturn classic. Each game world in Journey of Dreams has a common musical theme that is shared among its various BGM tracks, and the true joy of the soundtrack is hearing the creative and sometimes quite contrasting forms these arrangements take. "Sweeping Seashore" for example is a bit on the childish side in its bouncy original form, but its "Marine Escape" arrangement turns the theme completely on its head in an insidious sounding jazz-funk rendition. "Crystal Choir" is gold in every form it takes, with its namesake synth-tinged choir being peaceful and uplifting in one version yet rousing and hyperactive in another. The star of the soundtrack though is the "Al-Di-La" suite, which boasts creative, varied synth work and an infectious vocal lead melody. Even when the "Peppermint Vers." threatens to overdo the theme with its simple intro, the onset of some lights breakbeats and electronic filter effects, followed by the faultless lead vocal, redeem the arrangement to make a perfect four for four.
Accompanying the level BGM tracks for each world are two arrangements of each boss theme - a normal version and a "hard" version. The boss themes are typically funkier and indeed harder than their counterparts, but as in the original Nights the great charm of the soundtrack remains in its stage themes.
No Nights soundtrack would be complete without the saccharin sweet "Dreams Dreams" vocal theme. Previous Nights soundtracks are renowned (notorious?) for their inclusion of numerous different versions of the theme, and the trend continues here with the various instrumental and vocal arrangements totaling almost an hour's worth of material. Notable among them are the poppy but nostalgic "Adult Version", which sounds identical to the one in the original Nights, the string-happy "Cruising Together", and the chipper "Located Link Mix". The only clear cases of overkill are the three versions featuring children's vocals, which are significantly inferior to the adult vocal versions and vary only slightly with each other.
Along with "Dreams Dreams" there are a few other selections from the original Nights. "Growing Wings" offers an upbeat arrangement of the main theme, the character select music "Gate of Your Dream" mixes a myriad of synth sounds and children's speech samples ("Hello?"), and the level clear music "Peaceful Moment" adds a relaxing acoustic guitar to the synth mix. Length-wise these tracks comprise only a minuscule amount of the soundtrack, but they make welcome, nostalgic additions.
Hearing the Nights sound renewed so successfully after a ten year absence is unexpected but oh so sweet. The mediocre first disc is a disappointment, but it's compensated by two discs of energetic, diverse synth music that is gamey in all the right ways.