Review by flex_ible2000
"Magical, whimsical, and entirely indefinable. Welcome to the world of NiGHTS."
NiGHTS Into Dreams is a game I've known about for years but never tried. It was one of the most popular games for Sega's Saturn, and one that has always intrigued me. After seeing it referenced in Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Pinball Party, I felt like I knew the world of NiGHTS in a way, even though I had never actually played the game. I was very impressed with the music style and one of a kind fantasy theme, and I really wanted to try the actual game. When I finally acquired a Saturn, I picked up a copy of NiGHTS Into Dreams along with it. What did I think of the highly anticipated fantasy-themed Sega game? Read on!
As for the story, NiGHTS Into Dreams pulls together a nice tale. It is a journey set in the magical land of Nightopia, which is apparently the land where you go when you dream. Your characters, two children named Claris and Elliot, have been beckoned into this mystical place by NiGHTS, a likable, purple, jester-like being who lives in the nighttime world. NiGHTS needs their help to overthrow Wizeman, the evil ruler of Nightopia. You see, Wizeman plans to break into our world and most likely cause major havoc, so it's up to Claris, Elliot, and NiGHTS to stop him.
The core gameplay consists of flying through magical courses as NiGHTS, collecting a certain number of blue chips, inserting them into the Ideya capture, and making it back to a gazebo-like thing (called Ideya Palace, I do believe) with your fresh new Ideya before your time limit goes up. This happens several times, each time altering the course you take, and then the stage ends. Then you face a rather bizarre boss, known as a Nightmare, and then finish the stage. Yes, it sounds a bit odd when I say it like that, but I really can't make it any clearer. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that. I'll first explain how movement works, to the best of my abilities.
NiGHTS Into Dreams plays on a 2D pane game with a 3D perspective. You start a level by walking into Ideya Palace and magically changing into NiGHTS, and then you take flight! You can fly up, down, left, right, anywhere in between, and loop-de-loop through the course, pulling off stunts while gliding through rings and avoiding enemies. The feeling of freedom while soaring through the sky is fantastic, and never gets old. If you run out of time, you drop to the ground and change back into Elliot/Claris (depending on which story you choose) and have to finish your current tasks on foot. (I'll talk more about this later.)
Upon completing a stage, you will be rewarded a rank, much like in recent Sonic games. Every lap around the course gives you a rank as well, totaling into the final score. Half the fun is trying to top your previous score, by going even faster and pulling off even better moves. The best way to rack up points is to collect the blue chips as fast as you can each lap, snag the Ideya, but before finishing up the lap, use your leftover time to collect extra chips and score even more points. This gives you a really fun period to do crazy tricks and push it as far as you can before the time goes out, because the penalty for running out of time is very harsh it almost assures you an F rank for that round.
The game also has a lot of really cool touches, like special segments where NiGHTS can bobsled, swim underwater, and more. Flipping all around, doing loops and tricks through rings, using enemies to your advantage by swinging off of them, and all the aerial freedom you are given is the one of the best parts, with lots of little strategies and stuff. Another large part is the link system. Once you fly through a ring, grab a chip, or something like that, you'll get the first part of your combo, which is called a link. If you can make it to another object in a short amount of time, it raises up to two, then three once you reach another, and so on and so on. It becomes great fun to see how high you can get your link number, and an important part of getting good ranks.
And now we come to a very intriguing feature, known as the A-Life. There are a bunch of little creatures called Nightopians, who each have their own individual traits. There are tons of little aspects built in, such as A-Life being able to mate, sadly being to kill them by doing a paraloop (which is basically a loop-de-loop) around them, and more. At first, I just didn't get it. The best way to get a good view of them is from the ground, but the ground controls are odd, and a giant alarm clock chases you around the whole time, threatening to end your game. I found the whole experience to be sort of messed up.
But after giving it a chance and spending some time with it, I really enjoyed it. First off, although the ground controls are sort of clunky, the game allows you to climb up anything on the map, allowing easy passage anywhere. And after figuring out how to do a triple jump, the going was a lot easier. And the alarm clock is pretty easy to avoid. As for the Nightopians, NiGHTS Into Dreams pulled off a very interesting addition. Each one has a special action, such as flying upside-down, singing, or just being happy. If two Nightopians get together, they might mate, creating an egg. You can hatch eggs by either walking into them on foot or grabbing them with NiGHTS from the air, and when you do, a brand new Nightopian is born!
One of the coolest aspects of the A-Life is how the music changes depending on the Nightopians' moods. If you hatch lots of eggs, the Nightopians will get happier and happier, slowly changing the background music to a cheerful tune. But if you paraloop them a lot, or scare them in some other way, they will become angry, and a less enthusiastic song will begin to form. All in all, the addition of the A-Life makes the imaginative world of NiGHTS Into Dreams even more unique with a whole little community living on the surface. It also makes it fun to drop down to the ground!
The graphics when flying around as NiGHTS are really nice, and enjoyable too, with a kind of mystical feel. All kinds of vibrant scenery and interesting objects scatter the worlds, including a snowy level with a big train track twisting all over the hills, a pleasant garden with fountains and sunny skies, and a desert canyon with machinery everywhere. It's very inspired and colorful, and fits the world that Sonic Team dreamed up great. Although the graphics while walking around on foot are technically pretty bad, they're never really unpleasant, and still keep a consistent feel. For some reason it just really doesn't matter in the world of NiGHTS.
Ah, perhaps the best part! The music, not surprising for a Sonic Team game, is outstanding. It fits the mood perfectly, and is very catchy and memorable. It can be whimsical and fun during the main levels, and then a fast piano or guitar can kick in during the boss fights. I wish I could elaborate, but what can I say? You have to listen to it. It's truly awesome, and a real joy to listen to. The sound effects are also top-notch, adding to the overall experience.
Although very short in length at first glance, playing around with the A-Life and trying to get better ranks will keep you entertained for some time. The more you play a stage, the better you'll get, and it's quite thrilling to whoosh through a level, getting your combo higher and higher. One problem is that it's not exceptionally cheap these days, I think somewhere around $25 last time I checked, although I could be wrong. But a great addition is something that I wish more games did: You can use the CD as a soundtrack! It doesn't have all of the tracks (do to the large number of music combinations from the A-Life), but it has a lot.
The sum it all up, NiGHTS Into Dreams is a pleasant ride through the world of Nightopia, with lots to see along the way. Although a bit small at first, once you relax and spend some time with it, you will be rewarded with one of the best games for the Saturn, and an inventive one at that. There's something special about NiGHTS Into Dreams that really makes it a fun experience. It's relaxing, addictive, and overall a really wonderful game, and one that would be worth checking out.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/28/07
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