NiGHTS is a very curious franchise. Originally released for the Sega Saturn as their flagship title, it never quite took off. Part of this is likely due to most SEGA fans waiting for a 3D sonic title from Sonic Team, also because quite frankly NiGHTS is a very confusing game that does a mostly poor job of explaining what it is, but once you do figure that out your likely to fall in love with it.
Being a 3D title for the Sega Saturn means that this game was destined to not age well. Or so you would think, while this version is actually more based off the PS2 Sega Ages remake, credit goes to SEGA Shanghai for really making the details and color pop in this HD release. This is more then a simple upres, many previously 2D elements have now been given a 3D facelift, most noticeably being enemies. This makes judging distance and gliding through the courses much, much easier. Even the Sega Saturn version of the title included looks much better. As for the music, thankfully nothing has changed here as it was already a masterpiece. Levels still alter their tunes dynamically based on the A-life system of creatures in it and you still get at least 3 versions of Dreams Dreams. As with the original their is no voice acting at all (thank Christ!) Save for a narrator in Christmas NiGHTS.
So what is NiGHTS exactly? NiGHTS is a score based on rails horizontal flying platformer. You start in a full 3D Platformer like mode as one of two kids but this mode is simply there to familiarize you with the course layout. You really only need to spend about 10 seconds on them before you release the titular Nights from his little gazebo. Once you are flying as Nights you loop around a pre-set course generally going from left to right. Your first object is to collect blue orbs. For each course you need to collect 20 orbs to unlock a colored Ideya. Ideya are basically the games Power Stars, or Golden Bananas. Once you have acquired 20 blue orbs you fly into a bubble like contraption that is holding one of the glowing Ideya colors to release it. After you have the colored Ideya the object of the game becomes different. Now you want to fly around the course as many times as you can collecting stars and flying through rings as fast as you can to build up your score. There is a time limit as long as you are Nights and your score is first rated on how fast you collect the Ideya, after that you are judged on how many “links” you build up. A link is flying through a ring or collecting a star without missing any. If time runs out you revert back to being a kid and pretty much lose all your points. To end a course, you simply return the collected Ideya back to the starting gazebo and the game will automatically set you down a new course. There are four courses in every level and seven levels (dreams) total. If all you want is to complete the game, it is very short. While each level has its own unique boss, simply blasting through each course to collect the Ideya and return it is very quick and easy. The core of the gameplay in NiGHTS is to get a high ranking by having a high score. You get a high score by trying to lap a course as many times as you can while not missing on rings or stars before time runs out. Your time resets at the start of each new course, so you don’t have to worry about an overall time limit. NiGHTS is a game about skill and time management, not all to dissimilar from The Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil when you boil it down to the core essence.
Completing the title will unlock Christmas Nights which gives you a new holiday themed level with four courses for each of the two kids, completing that opens op the Nightopian collection, which lets you see how the A-life is feeling. The A-life system is a bizarre sub-game or meta-game within the main game. As you fly through the courses you might find little eggs, but grabbing and opening the eggs you release weird little angel cone head things. These are Nightopians and there mood can alter the soundtrack on a level. They can also be used to breed creatures called Mepians if an enemy and them merge. All of this is entirely unnecessary but it does add more to the game. Speaking of enemies, they mostly only exist to slow you down, or take time off the clock since there is health meter in the game. You can dispose of them in two ways, but boosting into them with the drill boost button (The games form of dashing), or sucking them into a paraloop. A paraloop is a colorful black hole you create when making a loop in the air. The center of the loop sucks in any surrounding enemies, orbs, or stars. You can also suck in the Nightopians if you really want their mood to go down. Most the bosses in the game require some use of the boost or paraloop to defeat, but thankfully they are all different for the most part and present their own unique challenge.
The only real downside to NiGHTS: Into Dreams is that the controls here are more stiff and rigid then the original Saturn release. You can still get an A rank just fine, and some insane people already have scores in the 700k range online, but it should be noted this is not as smooth an experience as the first game. While the game is built for replay, 7 stages might seem pretty short for most people, 8 when you count Christmas NiGHTS. Still at the meager asking price of ten dollars it is totally worth it provided you know what you are getting into. NiGHTS also features a lot of hidden easter eggs and secrets, some relating to what time of year you play the game. In the end NiGHTS will always be an oddity, it is a strange glimpse into a video game industry that might have been, had the score based gameplay of early arcade games never died out. If you enjoy titles from before 1985, you are likely to love this game. If you are to used to the more adventure driven titles of today, you might find NiGHTS a little to shallow for your tastes. As for me, once I finally figured out how to properly play the game I have loved it ever since. NiGHTS is a perfect representation of what video games are and can be. This is the only medium such a truly unique concept could work. As such NiGHTS is the best IP Sonic Team has created, yes better then Billy Hatcher and the furry bait they are named for. I wish we could get a new NiGHTS game every few years rather then the two and a half we have only gotten so far. If you are willing to go into this with an open mind you are likely to be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Final Verdict: BUY/TRY Being a digital download only title means you can’t rent it, which if you could I would highly suggest as NiGHTS:Into Dreams is not for everyone. The quality and replay value are still there and outstanding, but this is a score based title that simply wont appeal to everyone. If you do enjoy a truly original concept mixed with a very retro style of gameplay then purchase this title, the price is great and the game will leave with an unforgettable experience.