The best games out there are always the ones designed to capture our imaginations. They suck us in with their creativity, and often prove to be so rich with brilliant ideas that those who play them can’t resist singing their praises to other gamers. In 1997 Sonic Team’s NiGHTS into Dreams blew the minds of Sega Saturn owners and now it’s back with a shiny new coat of paint.
Fifteen years on it’s still a game like no other. Even the title character, Nights, is impossible to describe. Of no specific gender and mute for the whole adventure, you’re pretty much left to draw your own conclusions as to who or what they are.
The game itself is against the clock but not a racing game. Orbs have to be collected and enemies dealt with, but it’s not a platformer either. It’s a whole lot easier to explain what you have to do, thankfully – fly around colourful levels collecting 20 blue orbs, then return and deposit them before the time expires. Each level has four paths and then a boss, and each is rated depending on how well you did. Surplus orbs collected affect the score the most, but time left on the clock also comes into it.
Again, proving that it isn’t a platformer the structure is different from what you may expect. Claris and Elliot are the two main characters who have eight dream worlds between them to whizz around. Once a C rank or better is gained then the final level opens up. The final level is identical for both characters, whereas the rest are unique. This is one of the few gripes we have although the final level does play a little differently from the previous ones; the orbs are harder to find and the time limit is strict.
It’s the numerous little touches that help to overload your imagination. Nights is able to transform into different things, like a snow sledge, and there’s also underwater section where Nights spawns a tail. AI creatures roam the lands that can cross-breed with enemies and there’s even a car in Soft Museum’s top-down section that can be lead to a garage to bag an achievement. The music too remains magical while the bosses all have to be defeated in different ways. We found one of these – a magician that throws a trio of cards hard to avoid cards – pretty tough to beat while playing the re-mastered HD mode, but when trying it in the Sega Saturn mode we did it at the first attempt. Not sure why, but there you go.
The re-mastered mode isn’t entirely new – it’s formed from the bones of the Japan-only NiGHTS into Dreams PlayStation 2 re-release. The enemies are now 3D characters instead of 2D sprites, the three main characters are more polygon heavy and the textures have been cleaned up. By default the Sega Saturn version has borders around the screen but these can be removed by looking in the options. The textures appear to have been smoothed over too.
Christmas NiGHTS has also been included but it’s not the whole package. It has the hand-drawn intro and ending, two Christmas-themed levels and a boss but the advent calendar full of bonus items has been omitted. This means no Sonic into Dreams or Two-Player Vs mode. We should just be grateful though that Sega hasn’t included Christmas NiGHTS as extra DLC, as per Sonic Adventure 2 HD’s battle mode.
This is very much one of those games that’s not for everybody. It takes just a few hours to see the ending credits roll, but that’s not what NiGHTS is about. It’s about returning to previously completed levels and bettering your scores to gain A ranks on every level. Learning the level layouts like the back of your hand in order to top the leaderboards takes an awfully long time, and if you’re anything like us you’ll love every second of it.