Review by johnathanblade
"If my dreams were like this I'd be asleep right now!"
Every gaming console has a game or games that come out in the life span of said system that fulfill the promise of what the console can do and become synonymous with the it. For the Sega Saturn those games are Virtua Fighter 2, Sega Rally and Nights: Into Dreams. Nights came out as Sega's answer to Super Mario 64, and Crash Bandicoot (from a marketing standpoint.) In its own way it was just as, if not more revolutionary than Super Mario 64. Nights was not well understood when it came out, but years later it is considered one of the best games of the 32-bit generation.
Nights is hard to define as a game. It is a beautiful cross between Sonic and Pilot Wings. In the main game you play as a powerful dream fairy named Nights who is the personification of hope. You speed through levels, flying on rails(the games moves in 3-dimensions, but you only control your character in 2 dimensions along a set path.) your objective it to achieve a high score for each of the seven levels. It doesn't sound like fun in the conventional gaming sense, but once you really play you'll understand. The story is trippy. It involves two children who must save the world of dreams from a god-like personification of Nightmares. There is a weird artificial-life system in place that affects the music in the game. When the nightopians (the cute little denizens of the dream world) are happy the music is happy and upbeat. When they are unhappy (because you have accidentally killed too many of them) the music becomes funkier. You can also create odd hybrids with the nightopians and the enemy creatures by spinning attack loops around them when they are close to each other.
The game starts with you as one of the free roaming children. You make your way to an Idea palace where the captured Nights is waiting. When you free Nights you become him and the bulk of the gameplay starts. You fly through the levels passing through rings and collecting glowing globes for points. What you are trying to do is keep a connected chain going as long as possible so that you can rack up the highest score possible. The other major means of scoring involves chaining tricks Tony Hawk style after passing through special rings. Each level has a time limit. As you race though the levels on a looping track you must keep an eye on the time lest you run out of time and loose all of your collected points. If you do run out of time Nights turn back into one of the children. When this happens you have to run back to the Idea palace from wherever you are as fast as possible lest the giant floating egg-alarm clock gets you trippy.
Each stage is based on a different theme starting with a Sonic like aesthetic in the early stage and moving to intensely psychedelic themes for the later. The levels are genius in their design and moving through them is intuitive and fun. Each stage has a random boss fight connected to it. The boss fights are as psychedelic as the stages. Where else can you fight a giant cat that attacks you with firecrackers shaped like mice (WHAT?) The final boss fight with Wiseman is one of my favorites ever. He is one of the easiest last bosses that you will ever face, but there are a lot of impressive things going on during the fight. His music is pleasingly dramatic. All of the superficial things come together to convey the feeling that you are fighting some kind of deity.
Graphically Nights is a mixed bag. The artistic design is wild and beautiful, like Van Gogh, the game. Technically Night's accomplishes 3-D tricks that are far and above what had been seen on the Saturn at the time of the games release. Real time reflections, true transparent fog, real-time polygonal deformation and morphing and simulated colored lighting are some of the many effects that you will see. The frame rate is fairly consistent at 30-fps. The trade off is that the draw distance in Nights is poor. Somehow, I guess due to meticulous game design, this doesn't adversely affect the gameplay.
I don't know that the genius of this game can be significantly portrayed be a review. You have to play it, and play it and play it! It is magical and it is Sonic Teams best game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/31/04
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