Review by AGBear
"Words cannot describe how much I love this game. A masterpiece."
Why did nobody buy the Saturn, when it had fantastic games like this?
If there was any doubt that the Saturn 'couldn't do proper 3D' then NiGHTS completely dispels it. The graphics knock anything seen on the Playstation into a cocked hat, and make N64 owners feel even more foolish than they did already.* The characters aren't overly detailed, but the environments look very good with a mixture of true 3D and sprite overlays being used to best effect. The boss stages look spectacular too. The only thing stopping NiGHTS from getting a 10 is that sometimes things can look a little blocky, but it's no big deal and not so much that it looks messy.
The best thing about the graphics in NiGHTS isn't the detail, it's that even with so many polygons being thrown about the screen it never drops below a rock solid 30 FPS. The sheer speed of NiGHTS makes it almost like Sonic reborn for the Saturn generation. Being a Sonic Team product, that's essentially what it is.
*Fun Fact: Did you know the Saturn actually had more quality games than the N64? Trust me. If you disagree, feel free to email me and I will happily list them all.
To put it simply- NiGHTS has the best soundtrack in a game, EVER. The music alone is pretty good, with a nice organic feel to it. The sound effects are great too, nothing harsh on the ears. But the fantastic part is that the soundtrack changes while you play, depending on your progress through the game. Play badly, and the music becomes more deep and depressing. Play well, and the music sounds more upbeat and happier. Combine this with Q Sound (as seen in most recent Capcom fighting games) and you have an unrivalled audio experience.
A lot of games play well, some very well. But only the elite few play perfectly, and NiGHTS is one of these games. It's hard to define exactly why it is so great, but I'll try my best.
The basic gameplay flows as follows- players control either Claris or Elliot, two children who have the ability to contact NiGHTS in their dreams. Obviously, the game wouldn't be as much fun running about a dream world as a kid (probably) so play quickly transfers to NiGHTS. From here on, the idea is to collect 20 blue spheres before destroying a cage, then returning to the start. After four courses, you face a boss and it's on to the next level from there. Sounds boring, right? Wrong.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, actually. While novice players will simply race through the levels as quickly as possible, more talented individuals will keep lapping the same course to maximize their points- and it's here that the game begins proper. With a tight time limit for each course in each level, you'll have to push your skills to the limit if you want to be the best.
As NiGHTS collects two items in a row, you form what's called a Link. The more items you collect and rings you fly through in a row, the more points you get. Once again, the pressure to get the most Links you can keeps the game moving on incredibly fast. In some courses, it's possible to travel the whole way around the course and keep a Link going for as much time as there is on the clock.
The stages in NiGHTS are luscious to look at and surprisingly varied. Each one has its own unique features to separate it from the others and enhance replay value any more (as if it needed enhanced!) There are three stages for Claris, and three for Elliot, plus a seventh stage which is the same for both characters. Here is a brief synopsis of each stage:
Spring Valley- The trademark green first level. Roaming hills and gushing waterfalls, ascending to the peaks of an icy mountain. You can almost feel the cold as you whistle over the mountain top. It's not too tough though.
Mystic Forest- A darker jungle level. Notorious for being full of destructible blocks which get in your way, and ancient ruins which can be opened up, allowing NiGHTS to travel deep underground. It's all kind of eerie. And there's a strange car waiting to follow NiGHTS around on one of the courses.
Soft Museum- Looks a bit like Spring Valley at first, but the floors ripple like Lego on a water bed. The 'Soft Museum' is a giant mirror-filled building made out of rubber, and can be a nightmare to traverse. Don't worry, you can take out all your frustration by firing NiGHTS out of a cannon. You sadist.
Splash Garden- The first Elliot level, imagine a peaceful town with fountains and a huge lake nearby. Wouldn't you love to go for a swim in it? Well, you can once NiGHTS mutates and gains flippers, letting you dive down and explore the crevasses before popping out again.
Frozen Bell- ''Argh! Not an ice level!'' I hear you cry. Far from the slippin' n' slidin' antics of a platform game, Frozen Bell has a train running through it which you can do your best to avoid. And who could resist riding NiGHTS down the slopes like a toboggan?
Stick Canyon- This site is under construction... no, not other dead website, just a funky setting for a level. The centrepiece is a giant tower with a working lift that rotates up and down it. Careful not to get crushed. It would serve NiGHTS right for not wearing a safety helmet anyway.
Twin Seeds- The final level. Needless to say, if you can get this far you wouldn't want me to spoil it for you. Enjoy.
NiGHTS does boss encounters a little differently from most games. You have a time limit once again, and each boss has a weakpoint to exploit in order to beat it. The trick is, there is usually some very quick and extremely difficult way of beating the boss. Depending on how quickly you beat the boss, you get a Score multiplier from 2.0 down to 1.0. After having played through a whole level, the multiplier can make or break your top score, so it's important to do well.
Another defining feature of NiGHTS is A-Life. Little angel-like creatures called Nightopians run rampant throughout the level. As NiGHTS goes about his business, he can help out the Nightopians by breaking open eggs to hatch new Nightopians and disposing of baddies. If you do this, they'll be grateful and you'll notice a difference in the tone of the game- as mentioned before, the music changes to reflect the mood of the Nightopians. Go around slaying the Nightopians and pissing them off, and you will suffer the consequences. This idea was unheard of in games at the time, and still pretty much is. In a way, it's similar to the Chao of the Sonic Adventure games, but it's also pretty unique.
There is only one thing wrong with NiGHTS- to get the most out of it, you really need the Saturn 3D Control Pad (which was sold along with NiGHTS at first.) The fully analogue controls make what is merely a great game into incredible. The fact that a control pad was designed just for this game shows the attention to detail Sonic Team went to in creating NiGHTS. Without the pad, it's still playable, but it looses the special something that makes NiGHTS truly memorable. If you're going to play it, use the 3D Pad. Simple really.
How can I sum up the gameplay in one word? Flawless. It feels like you're flying in a game, much closer than any flight simulator will ever get. They say games this good are only in your dreams... exactly, I say.
Whoever criticised NiGHTS for having only 7 levels was clearly missing the point. After all, Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast only has 2 levels, and it's brilliant. The key thing here is that the whole point of NiGHTS is to go back and beat your old scores, challenging yourself and your friends. You keep playing it, and you'll never stop. Don't forget the compelling A Life feature, which could nearly sell as a game on its own! I haven't stopped playing NiGHTS since 1996. I think that says enough for its Lastability.
The best game of the last decade. NiGHTS defies words by being so absolutely ****ing fantastic that it's difficult to come to terms with. It's as close to perfect as any game will ever get. If you don't own it, never admit it publicly, and don't even consider yourself a real gamer. It is a masterpiece.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 04/29/03, Updated 04/29/03
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