Version Tested: Xbox 360 Versions Available: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
It seems like I’ve been waiting for this game forever. For years SEGA have been inundated with fans begging for NiGHTS to be resurrected, on one console or another. Refusing to be put off by the poor attempts at a sequel on the Wii, the fans continued to badger the company for an answer.
The reason? NiGHTS seems to resonate with people. Maybe it was the right game at the right time for the right generation, or it could have been because NiGHTS into Dreams was so unique, especially coming from Sonic Team, the developers previously associated with the many Sonic games on prior platforms. Whatever the reason, there is genuine love for this odd little title and I admit to counting myself among the numbers.
The HD version is also somewhat of an oddity among the tarted-up HD made-over games out there in that it doesn’t really look all that different. It’s interesting that there’s a Saturn version and the new version both in the menu, allowing players to take a look at how the game would look on their HD TVs if SEGA hadn’t updated it. Yes, the edges have been smoothed and the quality improved enough to stretch the picture out to the full screen, but it’s really not a radical departure. Which is just as well. The game has a certain style and grace that may feel compromised by any attempt to add to it. Instead it just looks like a slightly nicer version of the original.
The story centres on the dream worlds of Nightopia and Nightmare, the good and bad worlds where human dreams are played out. The ruler of the Nightmare realm, Wizeman the Wicked, is taking over Nightopia and only one of Wiseman’s henchmen turned hero, NiGHTS, can save it. Meanwhile, two children, Claris and Elliot, who are both suffering from nightmares caused by stressful events during the previous day, find themselves in Nightopia and are enlisted by NiGHTS to free Nightopia.
The game is made up of 4 levels for each child. At the beginning of each level the children have their Ideyas, globes representing their personalities, stolen. Freeing Nightopia involves taking on the form of NiGHTS in order to fly around collecting blue orbs to open the cage of the Ideya in each stage. After 4 stages, all set in different areas of the same level, there is a boss battle which usually involves pushing or smashing into the enemy within a set time limit.
At first, the flying takes a little getting used to, but feels great once you get the hang of diving and climbing in the air over obstacles and through hoops. Creating a loop will gather anything inside it and entering hoops in the air will add points to your score. Certain areas will change the perspective or let you fly into the background of the screen, giving the stage a new level of depth previously unseen in platform games. Once you’ve freed the idea, the game encourages a further trip around the course to gather as many points as possible in order to get a high score and a mark from A to F. Only when you unlock a C or above over all 4 courses will you be allowed to continue to the next level and to the final boss, Reala.
Players of the original Saturn game had to find this out with very little in the way of an explanation back in the day, but it soon becomes apparent that collecting everything and circling every spinning loop is required in order to reach those elusive high scores and go after the A grade. Once you’ve got the score, though, there’s still a lot to take in and it’s possible to find new hidden features that you missed on the first 10 playthroughs.
If you need a further excuse to aim for the top, higher scores are rewarded with higher marks and will also unlock items in the Presents section of the main menu. A theatre shows the videos gathered from the story mode, there’s a jukebox style option for listening to the iconic music from the game and artwork can be unlocked to play in a slideshow, including the duet-based theme song that will stay in your head long after you put down the controller (like, over 10 years later). There are also Achievements up for grabs, some of which will require quite a bit of work to unlock.
Finally, and the bit that makes me go a little bit goosebumpy, the levels and some of the content from the special Christmas NiGHTS promotional game are unlocked at certain times of the year. Bearing in mind that Christmas NiGHTS is one of the reasons I still have a Saturn and that it gets wheeled out during Christmas, I’m pretty thrilled by this. It’s a great treat for fans of the game who, like me, remember this as their first introduction to the character. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to stretch to having the special Sonic level as far as I can tell.
NiGHTS into Dreams is a little piece of gaming history that still has the power to delight new players and will thrill those who’ve waited so long for the game to appear on the current generation of consoles. It’s unique even by today’s standards and you can’t say that about many games.