NiGHTS into Dreams HD review
What makes NiGHTS into Dreams hold such a high place in the minds of a lot of gamers is that it has yet to be replicated. It is one of those few concepts that are praised by everyone who gets a chance to play it, but it is almost never imitated. But after all these years is the reason for the lack of NiGHTS clones due to the original game not holding up well since it’s initial release in 1996?
The one thing that really hurt NiGHTS when it hit the Sega Saturn in fall ’96 was the fact that games like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot were taking the 3D platformer in exciting new directions. NiGHTS was marketed and largely interpreted by the gaming masses to not only be a 3D platformer like those games, but Sega’s flagship 3D platform game for the Saturn. This confused people because NiGHTS isn’t that type of game.
If you had to force NiGHTS into the same category as the best N64/PS1 3D platformers it would be forgotten in an argument over whether Banjo Kazooie outclassed Nintendo’s popular plumber. Doing that is a huge disservice to the game Sonic Team created. NiGHTS is a racing game more than anything, and is in a category of it’s own.
You play a handful of missions as two children (Elliot and Claris) in a sort of dreamland, Nightopia. You don’t have to put up with these kids slow movement for long because you play 99% of each stage as NiGHTS, a purple dream jester or something along those lines. It’s never entirely made sense to me what NiGHTS is.
Why are you playing as these kids? Well, each of them has a bad nightmare. (Claris about her stage fright, Elliot getting beat at Basketball by some older kids) After these nightmares they venture off into Nightopia and discover that they posses the Red Ideya of Courage. There is a wacky, but amusing plot about the children teaming up with NiGHTS to stop the Wizeman’s diabolical plans.
There are 3 missions for each character that take you to 7 different levels. Each level has 4 mini-stages inside of it before you go to a fifth and final stage to fight that level’s boss. During these stages you are flying on a pre-determined path but you can freely move about the screen and collect rings, blue orbs, etc.
Each mini-stage requires you to collect twenty blue orbs and take them to an enemy to clear that part of the level, and doing so is rather easy. But accomplishing this while stringing together combinations of item pick-ups and flying through rings is much harder to do than you think. You’ll probably replay all the levels to get better scores on them because you’ll know where all the rings, orbs, items are placed on the map, thus making it easier to string together combos.
Pulling off successful and long combos during flight will increase your score and give you a better chance at receiving a good grade for your performance at the end of each mini-stage. The game refers to these combos as “linking”. Then, based off the four scores you received in the mini-stages you’ll be issued an overall score for your performance on the entire level.
In order to unlock the final mission and complete ending you must score at least a C on all of the missions. You could clear each mission with a D without breaking a sweat but in order to get those higher grades you’ll need to string together impressive combos all while finishing the mini-stages quickly.
Claris and Elliot have three unique missions each, but they both have the same final level, “Twin Seeds”.
There is a timer counting down at all times during gameplay. It resets whenever you complete a mini-stage and always starts at 120 seconds. Should you run out of time you will lose all of your orbs and be forced to play as the child again. Then you’ll have a dreadful walk of shame as you guide the child character back to NiGHTS to resume playing as the flying sensation him/herself.
The story can be a bit odd, and it is very 1990’s. But it is enjoyable for what it is and it does glue together the characters pretty well. Don’t expect to walk away from this with a new favorite plot in video game history but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see how Claris and Elliot’s stories are resolved.
The game allows you to play it in the HD remastered mode as well as with the original Sega Saturn graphics. The game was a looker back in the day, and it has aged pretty well. The HD treatment makes it look much clearer, and the art style shines in HD. That said, it won’t knock you off your feet especially if you’ve played the recently re-released Sega classic Jet Set Radio HD.
You also get a cut-scene viewer as well as a sound test. You’ll love the sound test in particular because it allows you to listen to the wonderful music from the game, but more on that in a moment. The free expansion to the game, Christmas NiGHTS is also present here.
Thankfully Sega decided to not sell Christmas NiGHTS as separate DLC, because it is truly a treat to play through once you beat the main game. You could unlock the ability to play as Sonic through Christmas NiGHTS back in 1996 when the expansion originally shipped with Saturn magazines but sadly Sega has removed the hedgehog from this re-release.
The music is one of the stronger parts of the game. Each level has a catchy, addictive melody that keeps a good tempo pushing you forward. Sonic Team sure had a great streak of games with terrific music in the 90’s. This is one of the more memorable soundtracks in gaming history, and it holds up pretty damn well considering it’s age.
Controls have been complained about by other reviews, but I had no major issue with them. Perhaps it’s because I spent very little time in my youth playing the original game with the Saturn’s analog controller. I had no issues with controls whatsoever, they were responsive at all times.
The part of NiGHTS that has held up the best over the years is the gameplay. There truly isn’t much out there like it. It’s a blast to fly through levels linking together combos, and racing against the clock to complete a stage while earning a high score. Many people have said this before, but it feels like a 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game on rails that takes place in the air instead of the ground.
NiGHTS is a classic that you need to play sometime in your life. This HD remaster is a great version to pick up, especially since Saturn units are hard to find these days. The art style, music, and gameplay hold up remarkably well and the game is truly unique. To this day very few games have replicated the experience you will have with NiGHTS, and this is an essential experience for all gamers.
(Review copy provided by Triple Point PR)