Review by Kamikaze_Kenny

"A game like no other..."

There are games I feel I shouldn't be reviewing. Not because I hate them. Not because I fear I'll get it wrong. Just because. The original NiGHTS is one of those games. But I'm going to review it, before the upcoming second game, NiGHTS - Journey of Dreams for the Wii, either raises or lowers my opinion of this game.

'Twas 1996. The Saturn (you remember that, don't you?) was holding up well against the PlayStation at the time, although all us Sega fanatics were constantly asking "where's Sonic gone?". Sony had just bought in that bandicoot, and Nintendo were revolutionizing everything to do with games with the newest outing of the chubby Italian plumber. In comes NiGHTS, and nobody really knows what to make of it. Whilst Mario and Crash helped to bring platforming into 3D, NiGHTS was going down another route.

Y'see, I remember reading about this a few months before release in Mean Machines Sega. It looked great. The worlds looked huge. The colours bold. The characters outlandish and imaginative. And it sounded just like what I wanted, with excerpts saying stuff like "imagine a roller coaster in the air, built on stars" and so on.

And it was. Nearly.

We'll have to examine the gameplay of NiGHTS before I can say any more. Basically, action starts off as one of the two kids in the 3D level. You're able to walk/run wherever, jump around on platforms and explore. But let's face it - nobody's going to do that. Right in front of where the kids start off is NiGHTS, waiting to be controlled.

NiGHTS is a bizarre flying jester with the speed and grace that puts any other airborne character to shame. Comparing Mario with the wing cap in Mario 64 to NiGHTS is like comparing a dump truck to a Ferrari. By walking up to him, the kids merge with NiGHTS and control shifts to NiGHTS.

It is at this point that the gameplay switches to 2D. NiGHTS follows a predetermined path through the level, with the camera looking on from the side of NiGHTS, giving it a 2D style. You can control NiGHTS' height, and forwards and backwards, but nothing else. The aim is to get twenty blue balls, take them to a floating prison (the Ideya Capture, but there you go) and then return to the start before time runs out. If time runs out then control returns to the kids and you have to continue as them. Rinse and repeat, four times a level, each following different paths, then fight the boss.

Sounds boring.

But it isn't.

The way I've described the gameplay isn't very good, but I don't want to change it. Though you are limited to following a path through the level, it doesn't matter! There is still enough to see and do on your limited path, enough to explore, just like any other 2D game. Control of NiGHTS is wonderous, and after a few goes new players are likely to be able to pull of great feats of speed and grace. The paths are littered with bonuses, hoops and traps, and it is one of the greatest feelings in gaming to be flying at breakneck speed, looping around the flying hoops, arcing your way through them and threading your way through the spectacular looking path that they lay out, whilst keeping your combo running and carrying a bonus object that gives you points so long as your combo exceeds it's number. The L and R triggers allow NiGHTS to perform all sorts of acrobatics in the air, and pressing both at the same time literally stops you in your tracks.

There is no other way to describe it. The flight is uncanny, graceful, unique and, at times, feels like a grand work of improvisation. And most of all - it's easy.

The mechanics of the game are simple, but seasoned players will exceed them wildly. The basic aim - get twenty blue spheres, take them to the prison, make it back in time - will become an afterthought to most players. Instead, you get the twenty blue spheres whilst collecting as many bonuses as possible, as fast as possible, take them to the prison, and then collect as many bonuses as you can and make it back JUST before time runs out. On most courses I will go straight for the blue spheres, sometimes crossing back over the starting point (or, if you imagine it as a race course, completing a lap) to get to the prison, and then complete as many laps as possible, getting as many bonuses as possible, before heading back. Are you back at the start and got a spare fifteen seconds? Get a few more bonuses, then turn back on yourself and return in time. This turns the game into the opposite of a time attack, and more rather into using all the time that you are given.

The bonus objects are plentiful, and vary wildly. The blue spheres, as mentioned, are out in force, as are stars, hoops to go through and also stunt ribbons which give you extra points for stunts. As you fly, NiGHTS leaves a twinkling trail behind. Looping and crossing over that trail before it vanishes sucks in all the bonuses, and enemies (and even Nightopians, but that's for later).

The story of the game is unnecessary - two kids, having nightmares, find that the dream world of Nightopia is in peril. There. That's it. But who wants more?

The levels themselves are imaginative. Not as much as I'd like them to be, but even so. They very wildly, and go from a hilly meadow world to a museum where all the surfaces are spongy to a huge, pointless construction site. There are only seven levels, but more than enough to return to and continue trying to get high scores. There are slight moments of frustration, my most particular one being the final part on Stick Canyon.

Bosses are also varied, but that works both for and against the game. There are some good bosses, including an opera singer who has to be hit through walls and Reala, an evil version of NiGHTS to fight. But there are bad bosses too, such as a giant pirahna whom you must kill by shooting yourself out of fish, and a cat whose exploding mice you must destroy before you can get to him. Sadly, the bosses leave a lot to be desired.

The music and sounds of the game are nigh-on perfect, with different music being created depending on how happy or sad the Nightopians are. The only bad thing is the utter cheesiness of the song during the credits. Graphics are... well, standard for the time. Which is to say that the draw distance sucks. But then there is a lot of complex stuff in this game.

Briefly - Nightopians themselves? Small creatures littered through the levels. They become happy or sad with you depending on if you help them hatch from their eggs (simply fly up to one of the eggs and it'll hatch), how well you do and whether or not you kill them. You can also breed them by hitting enemies into them, creating a mutant Nightopian.

So, to sum up, how to describe this game? A perfect score attack game, with such a great way to play and a great feeling of flight. That nobody else has tried anything like it (except Sega with the upcoming second game) says a lot. It's fast, over quick, but there is a lot to come back to.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/18/07

Game Release: NiGHTS into Dreams... (EU, 10/07/96)

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