Do you remember that music? A twilight sounding tune with a carousel of calm chiming to it? I did but does this past gem offer up a tasty dream or a complete nightmare for new and old comers to NiGHTS into dreams today?
NiGHTS into dreams was first released in 1996 for the Sega Saturn console then again in 2008 for PS2 long, long ago and many of you out there might have played it, saw it or heard of it at those times. It was a big hitter across the world, especially in the east but now you don’t even need to hunt down a copy thanks to the marvels of digital distribution!
This game always caught my eye as it was a bit of a dream to play whizzing around, looping and bouncing off singing birds. When I first played this game the NiGHTS world was amazing to look at, the fact you could see through some of the course where you’d pass through later just excited me, like the level was one big maze and also connected by double or secret paths too. The game does still give off those vibes but you’ll notice the mechanics of the game play too on your second time round or if your used to more modern video games that have been passed through many a process.
The game still holds its own and is still a crafty and speedy challenge if you let it. Getting into the flow of NiGHTS and its sometimes rather disorientating directions is part of the fun and draw the game had originally, you’ll find so much more just messing around. It’s simply hard to remember where the best paths are through all of the distractions and obstacles the game has to offer, this is also part of the challenge. So a bit like a dream, the game is hard to remember by design which was great to look at all over again in retrospect. Nostalgia is hard to look through right though, you can get carried away wanting that initial rush of excitement but NiGHTS gently reminds you of what you were looking for by not changing the games design or balance but improves visually and adds some interactive features.
In the world of Nightopia where humans dreams are played out, Claris and Elliot must take back their Dream Energy with the help of NiGHTS! These two each have they’re own set of levels to complete. The aim of the game is to weave through the four tiered course as fast as you can, each time taking back a Dream Energy ball of a different colour (White for purity, green for wisdom, yellow for hope and blue for intelligence). You get marked up on how quick you are to complete the Nightopia level and how many items you collect along the way, then you’ll get graded again before you take on the boss of that stage in the Nightmare realm.
There’s two modes you can choose from; Brand New Dreams mode and Sega Saturn Dreams mode. Brand New Dreams comes with updated HD graphics which makes a world of difference when you compare it to the blocky Sega Saturn Dreams Mode. Both are just as enjoyable as each other to be honest but the Brand New Dreams mode gives you a wider perspective to play from and with the smoother graphics it just gives it the game that polish it needs for our new fangled technology requirements.
Controls are simple enough and can be found in the menu, it’s the camera angle you need to watch out for as it to likes to take you for a ride when your whizzing through courses. There isn’t a heap of button combinations to remember either just the analog stick to loop and A button to dash. It’s easy to throw yourself too far of course sometimes which dents your time, this can add some frustrating moments to the game but also adds pressure to win and win well overall.
To achieve the best score you can and complete the stage you’ll need to collect the blue orbs (blue chips) to destroy the Ideya Capture which holds the Dream Energy balls, fly through Ring’s for Dash Power (plus ten points for each) and Star Chips for ten points each. Then when you defeat a boss your remaining time is converted into bonus points and is added up into a total score, it scores your whole run in stages which helps narrow down better scores. NiGHTS was always a hard game to keep breaking your score on and still is but this time you also have the whole world to beat thanks to its online Leaderboard feature, there’s some amazing scores out there already which reminded me of some of the best runs me and my friends had back in the day. There’s also the trick hoops you can come across, these are a great way of boosting your score straight away all you need to do is pull off some tricks using the analog stick to loop and the trigger buttons to do acrobatics.
The boss fights can sometimes get tricky especially when you can’t figure out how to defeat them on your first try, however they’re distinctive enough to enjoy. Not all of them are straight forward fights though, some ask for a little more initiative like Elliots boss Claws on the Frozen Bell stage gets you to attack the firework mice before you get a chance to hit him. Some are rush in and bash bosses, nothing a couple of retry’s can’t fix if you fail. It’s a shame the bosses never really stood up as a challenge like the rest of the game does, this does bring the game down considerably. Who really wants an easy to push over boss after a flurry of awesome and speedy acrobatics?
The stages are mirrored from top to bottom, there’s tree’s that obscure your view and there’s some enemy’s along the way. The music within the stages is also worth taking note of, the music will change depending on the Nightopians (little singing fellas). The music engine evolves with how you treat these guys, making them happy or attacking them will change the tempo, pitch and melody. You can also merge these guys with the bad guys to create Mepian’s, then you can create a “King” pian or Superpian! The music from NiGHTS into dreams also made an appearance in the Phantasy Star Online games, so it’s not like the game wasn’t huge or remembered by fans at the time. Me included.
NiGHTS into dreams is full of charm and its old design still stands strong in today’s mad packed industry and reinvigorates gameplay with its flighty ways. It’s speed and its vibrance shines through as the controls are highly responsive which gives the game such a uplifting buzz as you play. It’s hard to really nail NiGHTS into dreams in one word but if I were to try it would be actually be dreamy, it incorporates this dream state theme so well into the game especially with the floaty music alongside.
There’s a nice wad of achievements to be hunted down, four-hundred in total. One of which, the master achievement for a tasty 100GS, is notorious to unlock. I’m not a huge chaser of GS anymore but NiGHTS brought that back, I wanted to hunt down these achievements as they’re unlocked where you’d normally try to bust secrets or the game anyway. I still haven’t unlocked that achievement but I know I’ll go back and try, that’s what I like about the older generation of video games and the developers behind them. It’s a fine port but would the NiGHTS game-design hold up to more modern pressures? Could it evolve? I think it could because of these characteristics, they’re still strong.
The only quibble I have with this game is the fact it’s way too short but it always has been. Maybe that’s why fans loved it so much, we only got a little taste of this dream world that Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima created for us. Other than that and some mad camera moments you’ll experience from time to time, the game is worth picking up if you’re a SEGA fan or a fan of the series. As for newcomers, if you want to take a look into a game that’s unique and memorable AND has some nifty flight game-play then I’d pick it up too!