NiGHTS into Dreams HD Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: SEGA Developer: Sonic Team Genre: Action Players: 1-2 Age Rating: 3+
Other console/handheld formats: PS3
It’s a shame that SEGA are no longer the creative company that they once were, and you could say that they are soulless compared to how they used to be. It’s just a shame that we now happen to live in an age where SEGA’s creativity is cancelled out by their poor financial situation, forcing the company to play it safe.
Sonic Team’s NiGHTS into Dreams was originally released on the SEGA Saturn back in 1996, and it was certainly one of SEGA’s most unique games released on the console, and, even to this day, it remains one of the most distinctive games in their library. It’s a game that is talked about and greatly admired by many all these years later, and it’s also a game that received a forgotten Wii sequel in 2007.
Yes, the 2007 sequel is the newest game in the series, but it’s the original game and Christmas NiGHTS (a free disc given away with SEGA Saturn magazine in 1997) that people still talk about, and that’s a sign of both a cherished original game and a disappointing follow-up. So why are NiGHTS into Dreams and Christmas NiGHTS so fondly spoken about?
Well, before I answer the above question, I’ll answer another first: what exactly is Nights? Taking inspiration from the platform and racing genres, it’s one of those games that is difficult to pigeonhole into any single genre. Flying around the colourful 2.5D levels as the eponymous Nights, you collect things and fly through hoops, but that is merely NiGHTS into Dreams described in a nutshell for those who aren’t completely aware what the game has to offer, as there’s more to the game than this.
Having a PlayStation instead, I am one of those who missed out on the original 1996 Saturn release. I was of course aware of the game back then, but I never really knew much about it and what exactly the goal of the game was. Playing the game for the first time in 2015 with this delightful HD remaster via the Xbox One’s new Xbox 360 backward compatibility feature, I even found myself wondering what I was supposed to be doing, but, rest easy, as things do eventually click.
The basis of the story sees two child siblings, Claris and Elliot Sinclair, end up in Nightopia, which is basically the dream world. At the beginning of each level, you actually take control of Claris or Elliot, but it’s when the characters step into the Ideya Palace and the characters merge with the soaring NiGHTS that things become a lot more interesting and thrilling, and this is primarily what NiGHTS into Dreams is all about: flight.
With dreamy and acrobatic animations, the flight in the game is an absolute joy to behold. Your main task is to release four Ideya’s (orbs which represent dream energy) from their Ideya Capture prisons in each level, which happens through collecting 20 blue chips and then flying into the said Ideya Captures to destroy them. But it’s the way that you accomplish this task that makes NiGHTS into Dreams all the more memorable, and it’s certainly a game that has lots of appeal to the high score chasers out there, and also has continued appeal for such people.
When you first take control of NiGHTS at the beginning of each level, you are given 120 seconds, and time extensions happen through returning to the palace after releasing the Ideya’s. Taking hits from enemies results in 5 seconds being deducted from the clock, and if you run out of time, Claris or Elliot will plummet from the sky, your score is then reset and you’ll also lose any chips that you are carrying, forcing you to recollect as many as you can before they disappear. You’ll then have to return to the palace to regain control of NiGHTS, with all of this proving to be annoying to those aiming for big scores.
The scoring system is based on speed and style. Releasing the Ideyas as quickly as possible is important, as is flying through hoops as swiftly as possible and collecting items. Combining these things results in links, which is basically another name for combos. It’s certainly satisfying to see the numbers of your links rise, and it’s also satisfying to get a high rank when you return to the palace after releasing an Ideya as well as at the end of a stage. Upon releasing an Ideya, you can then make the most of the time you have left to score as many points as possible, which means that speed becomes less important during these moments. Staying with the scoring, and more advanced techniques such as doing a full circle around pick-ups in order to collect a lot at once is important, as is doing acrobatic tricks within the short time that you get to perform them after flying through specific hoops. Another thing that you should never forget is the boost button, which obviously makes NiGHTS even faster in flight.
There are 7 varied 2.5D levels in all, with each character having three unique levels each, as well as a final level in which they share. The aforementioned final level is only unlocked for each character once you have achieved at least a C rank on each of their previous levels. There’s also boss fights at the end of each stage, and defeating them as fast as possible is certainly the way to go.
Where NiGHTS into Dreams falters is in the way that it lets you loose in its world, although it never fully explains as to what you are supposed to be doing, and I found myself referring to online tips to attempt to play the game in the best possible way. There’s a help option in the menus, although it doesn’t really tell you how to maximise your score and things like that. The game also requires a lot of time and patience in order to get the most out of it, as it’s definitely a skill based game, and it’s best to learn where everything is within each stage in order to create impressive links and big scores, which some may just not have the patience for. With all the latter said, it’s not a game for everyone by any means, but it certainly has the potential to hook some new players in, while also obviously having lots of revisit appeal to long-time fans.
That’s the thing with NiGHTS into Dreams though, even when I found myself not performing particularly well, I found that the bright and cheerful visuals, the fluid animations as well as the very pleasant and memorable soundtrack pulled me back time and time again. The potential to improve upon previous scores is also an enticing reason to return, and also a very satisfying reason if you are able to set a shiny new record. Speaking of records, the presence and introduction of online leaderboards is also most welcome.
In spite of the option on the menu suggesting that the remastered version is brand new, that’s not actually the case at all. This is still the original game, although it looks a lot better with vastly improved character models and it’s all displayed in glorious full screen HD. The remaster is beautifully done, although if you have the urge to play the original then that’s fully intact here as well. If you dig deep enough, the festive Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams is also a hidden extra, which makes things feel all the more complete, although the lack of the advent calendar bonus items present in the original release is a bit disappointing.
With its enhanced HD visuals, NiGHTS into Dreams HD does justice to a cherished game. Like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a game that will appeal to everyone, and some just won’t get it and will let it pass them by after a brief play, but for those who stick with it, they might come to realise that there’s much to like here, and also a lot more replay value than what there initially appears to be. All in all, NiGHTS into Dreams is colourful, magical, satisfying, memorable and all just a little bit mad, and that’s why the game is fondly remembered by the cult following that it received, and, while not particularly mainstream, also the reason in which it will attract some new fans.