Review by Mr. Sparkle

"Beautiful."

THE YEAR IS 1995- SATURN COMES TO US

What the hell was Sega of America thinking in that first year of the Saturn's life with those crappy translations of Dayton USA and Virtua Fighter and that pitiful game Bug! (well, it was okay, but not exactly a title that made you want to buy a $400 system for)? Oh god did Saturn bomb in the US. And I laughed at the fall of my once beloved company. I was looking forward to getting a Saturn as a Genesis fan, but Saturn just screamed ''SUCK!''... Or did it..?

THE YEAR IS 1996- MR. SPARKLE VISITS BEST BUY

So I went to my local Best Buy... I clearly remember how Sega was hyping up its first ''mascot'' title, NiGHTS, with the whole analog pad deal. Near that same time, Mario 64 came out (a little before, I think). I was still a retro man with my hip TG-16, Genesis and SNES so playing the games at the store was always a fun, new experience.

Well, I played NiGHTS for about a minute, since no one else played it, and I quickly threw the controller down, wondering why the hell a game where you fly around in circles was hyped up so much. Basically, I thought it sucked, and I moved on to the N64 booth, where I saw some people making Mario swim and do all these funky dances. Obviously 3D was the thing at the time, and I just laughed at Sega's 2D gameplay and attempt to sell more Saturns. To quote Gamespot... ''This is far from the Mario 64 killer Sega made it out to be...'' (go to the bottom of my review to see what I really think of Gamespot)

TWO YEARS LATER, SATURN PRICES DROP HARD, SUPER DEALS COME BY, MR. SPARKLE WISELY TAKES ADVANTAGE OF THE SITUATION

So I got my Saturn in late 1998, right after its death in the US. I got it with 3 controllers (including the analog one), Sonic R, Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop, and NiGHTS into Dreams for a grand total of $100 at Funcoland. Yes yes, it was quite an excellent deal. And I think I traded in a bunch of SNES games, so I paid about $20 total!

Well, anyways, my favorite games at first were all the games but for NiGHTS. Then, one weekend during the hot summer, I whipped in NiGHTS, and I beat the game with all C grades in a little less than 2 hours total. I put it away... But at night, I had a strong desire to play it again. So I did indeed start playing again...

And before I knew it, the game ate hours, days, and months of my precious time. I eventually got all A grades and began raising the Nightopians with the little A-Life thing that almost works like a Tamagotchi thing!

TECHNICAL JARGON

First of all, the game is about dreams, obviously, and focuses on two children who suffer from fears in their realities through constant nightmares. They eventually face their nightmare, because they're sucked into the world of Nightopia by the evil Wiseman's attempt to take it over. As Clare and Elliot, you can walk around in a fully 3D area and practically do nothing but explore and watch out for the ''Alarm Egg'', which can knock you down and send you back to reality (thus causing a game over). When you enter the little hut with NiGHTS, you get airborne and have to rack up points by flying through the rings and doing tricks, getting the chips, blowing up the machine, and carrying the Ideya for each course back to the starting point... The game sounds simple, and it is, but it actually has a lot of replay value, and thus, is really deep.

Onto the graphics... I considered NiGHTS eye-candy when it came out. Today, the graphics are somewhat ''jagged'' and there's some clipping when you're walking around as Claris and Elliot (which only happens rarely; basically if you suck, because usually you make it around the course in time to keep flying)... But they're still rather good by today's standards... When you're flying as NiGHTS, the game is fast as hell. The great thing is that there's no slowdown (besides for a few parts in little scenes, but not during gameplay).

And the music and sound effects are great. The tracks range from nightmarish to happy jolly dancing tunes to rock riffs. Furthermore, the A-Life music system is just amazing, in my opinion. The music changes based on your relationship with the Nightopians... And the songs take entirely new moods. They can become more jazzy, or more twisted, more happy, etc. Excellent scores.

GAMEPLAY

I have put sooooo many hours into this game... The overall game may be short (7 different levels), but the gameplay system has incredibly high replay value. I don't know how Sonic Team did it, but they shoved a totally original mascot character into an action/flying/racing/platform game and even have that Tamogatchi part of it all that I talked about previously (that can take up a considerable amount of playtime itself).

If you're new to the game, you'll probably not know what exactly to do the first time you play, so naturally, you'll run out of time and be forced to walk around the level on foot as Claris or Elliot. This part of the game is fun for exploring purposes, but it had lots of potential... Because you really can't do anything. I think Sonic Team could've worked more on adding some more explorable parts or some things to do when walking around... But oh well. When you play as NiGHTS, you are constantly airborne (until time runs out of course), and you just speed around the course and collect twenty orbs as fast as possible, bring them to this wacky machine, it explodes, you get an ''Ideya'' orb (which you have to bring back to the beginning of the course), and then, use the remaining time you have for the course to get extra points.

So the goal is to get all As on the courses, and after a while, you should be getting scores of 20,000+ on each course, average, as opposed to the 5,000-10,000 or so you'll get your first time playing. After four courses of racing around the track, you'll be warped to fight a boss mare... They are not too difficult once you figure them out (although I did have lots of trouble with one of the bosses, the Jackal I believe; he keeps throwing cards at you and floating away, so it's hard to reach him, but you have to keep dodging his cards and then push his cloak off... then he can do nothing but run away, while you can smash him back to hell).

Many things make the ''race-style'' NiGHTS gameplay even more addicting. You can also do tricks by using the L & R buttons; when you get a special ring, you get a few seconds to do as many tricks as possible, but you'll only be able to squeeze in 5-15, so you don't get too many points, but it's still fun... Also, by (para)looping around Orbs and Stars, you can collect them because you cast out a spark, which sucks in everything (yes, you can indeed kill your Nightopians this way, or attack enemy mares also)... Getting orbs and stars gets points, but doing ''Links'' really pumps your score up. There are rings planted all over the skies, and if you fly through them, you get a ''link'' number, which is basically the number of rings you've flown through consecutively, and getting orbs and stars adds to the link number also. It's tough to string together high links, but with practice, you can really rack up high scores.

By the way... It is a lot easier to do all this with the special Sega 3D Analog Pad, because with all the looping you'll be doing, use with the D-Pad will definitely bring forth pain in your left thumb.

Lastly, there is much to do with the Nightopians. You of course can breed them and hatch eggs, and do tricks for them to make them happier. If you hit an enemy mare into an egg, it will undergo a mutation, and make a completely new Nightopian. There is also a king and queen to be discovered (which I haven't found yet), and you can supposably have a castle built; after 2+ years of play, I still have stuff to find. Unfortunately, Sonic Team did not include a little feature that let you see your Nightopians (how many you have, their mood, etc.), but, you can access it in Christmas NiGHTS (the data from the original NiGHTS is loaded).

Well... Words can not describe NiGHT's brilliance. It's fast, it's fun, you raise Nightopians and have them breed and work and do tricks, and the music is always new and it fits the gameplay perfectly. The game mixes a bunch of things together to create a really high replay value.

PERFECTION

Hmmm... As great as this game is, and despite the fact that it is one of my favorite games of all time, it is not perfect. If you don't know, this game was rushed, and as a result, a few things were left out. Some ideas were demonstrated in the later released sampler disc Christmas NiGHTS, which is actually rather expensive and rare these days (it was a free promotional disc when it came out). You play one level, Spring Valley, with a Christmas setting. The cool thing is that the level changes based on the date. For example, on Easter, the colors are pink, there are easter eggs, etc. Each time you beat the level, you get a change to unlock presents through a matching card game. With these presents, you can play as Sonic, do karoake with the tunes and mess with their pitch, watch special videos and pictures, and play in special time attack and link modes... (I actually reviewed Christmas NiGHTS, so check it out)

Well, in addition to what was added in Christmas NiGHTS, I have some of my own ideas... A 2-player race mode could of been added (rather than the lame battle mode in NiGHTS, which is practically useless, where player 2 controls Reala, and you just play in the same level as Reala's boss level in the 1P mode; it gets boring fast), and most of all, more interaction while walking around as Clare or Elliot. It would also be cool if you could search for presents hidden in little caves in the hills or under the water that would unlock extra features like the presents do in Christmas NiGHTS. Also, building Nightopian farms would be neat, to raise younger ones... I dunno, the possibilities are endless. Hopefully Sega will make a sequel for Sega Dreamcast (hopefully), or maybe Nintendo Gamecube, despite the fact that Sonic Team said they don't want to mess with making a sequel to this classic... A remake that includes both NiGHTS and Christmas NiGHTS with better graphics for Dreamcast would be awesome enough.

GAMESPOT'S REVIEW OF NiGHTS

If you go to the general review section of Gamespot.com (for console games of course), you'll see that a few Saturn games are still on the list. I clicked the NiGHTS review, and never realized what idiocy those game reviewers spread at the time of NiGHTS' release! The game got a freaking 6.3 out of 10!!! A weak score for graphics... A 7 for gameplay... A 6 for value (yeah, it's funny, because I'm still playing the freaking game after playing it so much for so many years)... It's ridiculous I tell you! I recommend to anyone reading this review... Send an email to Gamespot telling them they were dead wrong!!!

VALUE

Get this game, and get a Saturn. You can get the Saturn, NiGHTS, and a 3D controller for a total of about $30-40 these days. Any gamer who has not played it, must somehow get a chance to play this classic. Be forewarned... While the overall gameplay is based on a simple concept, getting very good at the game requires practice, therefore, it might be easy to get turned off by the game after playing it once, so definitely buy it and play it alone for a weekend or so... From there on, you'll be addicted... I guarantee it.

SCORE -- PERFECT 10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 05/01/01, Updated 08/20/03


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