SEGA may not be as prominent of a developer/publisher as they were in the 90s but one thing that you cannot deny is that they are not afraid to take a risk on quirky and odd titles – have you played Hell Yeah?. There latest downloadable HD release is NiGHTS Into Dreams – a visual update to an incredibly odd cult classic that holds a special place in the heart of many gamers.
The original NiGHTS was released on the SEGA Saturn, around the time Nintendo and Sony were revolutionizing the gaming industry with free-roaming 3D titles. This HD port is not based on that version but instead off the 2008 PS2 remake that was released only in Japan. To this day classifying which genre NiGHTS would fall into is difficult since it is equal parts racing and platformer, but that is what gives it character. For those unfamiliar with the premise, players take control of two children, Claris and Elliot, as they are swept away into the colorful and dreamlike world of Nightopia to join forces with the nimble Nights on a mission to defeat the evil lord Wizeman.
Each of the several levels are set in 3D with NiGHTS flight limited to 4 different paths in the environment. Flying through the air as NiGHTS is still thrilling, as the dream warrior controls fluidly with the analog stick. Collecting the blue orbs provides an adorable experience as you go through spinning hoops, overtake harmless enemies and yellow gateways as you build up links and chains that will drastically increase your score. A specific number of blue orbs is required to unlock a magical cage holding one of four Ideya, which represent different parts of the dreamer’s personality. Once that’s accomplished, you’re free to fly the course to increase your score before time runs out.
After finishing all four routes, players are presented with a boss battle. These usually revolve around throwing an enemy into something, or throwing an object at them. Boss battles aren’t always self-explanatory either, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you’re inflicting any damage. As a matter of fact, NiGHTS Into Dreams never explains to players how to properly enjoy its odd premise. It comes from an era before tutorials were worked into a title. Even with a new in-game manual, expect to go through some trial and error. Considering NiGHTS is a score attack premise, not knowing how to capitalize on the scoring system will lead to a low rank upon completion. Once you understand that you’re supposed to use your bonus time to continue to fly laps and accrue as many points as possible, then you get a feel for how the scoring system operates and how to fully enjoy this title.
After familiarizing themselves with obtaining a high score, players will then need to learn how to complete each course and boss battle within a time limit. Running out of time during the level forces players to control one of the children. These moments are dreadful as you slug around on the ground, avoiding an alarm clock and working all the way back to NiGHTS’ respawn station. If the time expires during a boss battle (which will happen often), players will need to play the entire level again.
Unlike other remakes, NiGHTS Into Dreams is a proper HD update that does more than just make the play area fit a 16:9 screen. SEGA has enhanced the character and boss models with more polygons and smoothed out the jagged textures. The sprites that made up the floating rings or the random animals that inhabit each of the levels have been rendered in full 3D and the same addictive soundtrack that accompanied the original game is back as well. One could argue that NiGHTS Into Dreams grew a strong fan-base thanks to the brilliant uptempo soundtrack to back up the colorful levels. If players want to relive some nostalgia, or show the youngsters how 3D video games looked in the 90s, they can also opt to play NiGHTS Into Dreams in its original standard definition with its boxy character models, pixelated sprites and muddy textures.
Along with the main game, we get a bunch of bonuses to unlock like interviews and FMV movies in the the Theater mode. Although this version lacks the 2 player components from the original, players can post there high score and best times on an online leaderboard. A pleasant surprise was the addition of the Christmas NiGHTS spin-off which was originally shipped as a bonus disc with the Official SEGA Magazine years ago. Only a few gamers were able to experience the holiday themed two levels and its nice to see that SEGA was thoughtful enough to include it for free. Unfortunately, most of the bonuses featured in the original Christmas Nights (including a playable Sonic the Hedgehog) seem to be missing.
With NiGHTS Into Dreams HD, SEGA has showed a beloved classic plenty of respect in this remaster, but it doesn’t stand the test of time. It is a beautifully crafted HD version that faithfully recaptures the dreamlike gameplay gamers fell in love with, but its simplistic premise and lack of explanation may not capture today’s plot-driven audience.
Editor’s Note: NiGHTS Into Dreams HD was reviewed using a PlayStation 3 copy of the game. If further investigation reveals any substantial differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.
Release Date: October 2, 2012 • Publisher: SEGA • Developer: Sonic Team • Genre: Racing, Action • Multiplayer: None • Achievements: Easy • Cost: $10 (800 MS Points) • Replay Value: Moderate