Sega failed to impress me last time. How will they do this time with their recent re-release Nights into Dreams for the Xbox 360? Let’s find out.
NiGHTS into Dreams... HD
Genres: Platformer, Racing
Developer: Sonic Team
GView : Nights into Dreams HD Review, 8.7 out of 10 based on 10 ratings Sega failed to impress me last time. How will they do this time with their recent re-release Nights into Dreams for the Xbox 360? Let’s find out.
Subscribe for LP’s and Reviews : MegaGWolf‘s Youtube
Visit my Site and Forums
Follow my Twitter & Facebook
Prefer to watch on Blip? Click Here
NiGHTS Into Dreams… is the story of Nightopia, a magical realm where the dreams of mankind gather. In this dimension, Wizeman the Wicked summons an army of “Nightmaren” to steal the energy that is generated by the “Ideya” of human dreams. Luckily, a harlequin-shaped Nightmaren named (what else?) Nights rebels against Wizeman and decides to put right what once went wrong with the help of two children. Together they gather up enough energy and points to challenge the most powerful Nightmarens and finally Wizeman himself. At least, that’s what the instruction booklet for the Sega Saturn version says.
|PROS||Updated visuals, Score, Christmas NiGHTS|
|CONS||Lack of storytelling and tutorials, Didn’t age well|
|WTF?!||It’d be easier to name the non-WTF parts.|
As far as cult classics go, NiGHTS is a no-brainer for the HD treatment. The game is unique, maintains a sizable following, and debuted on an unsuccessful console to reasonable acclaim. However, the adventures of the titular androgynous purple clown are in an interesting case study for the transition between 2D and 3D gaming, as well as the point in history when story became a major part of most releases. When Sonic Team first released Dreams it was an ambitious experiment, but the landscape of the medium was completely different even a single year later. Planet Earth has revolved around the sun 16 times more at this point, and age has really caught up to Nightopia.
As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, NiGHTS is the archetypical RTFM game. If you just boot up the software and jump in then you will be completely lost. There are no tutorials. There are no introductory cutscenes. There are no Pavlovian early sections to train you to play the rest of the game. Trial and error is the only possibility, unless you already know how to play.
“Well,” you may be asking, “How do you play?” I’ll tell you: There are seven total stages in the game; 3 for the boy, 3 for the girl, and a final shared level. Each starts you off as a child, but you are quickly mugged by Nightmaren. Therefore you must run to the nearest gazebo, take the form of Nights, and race through a 2D track in order to collect 20 blue orbs and destroy the thieving monsters. Once you complete all the laps and reclaim your Ideya it’s time for a boss fight. If you lose the boss fight (or run out of time) you have to start all over.
If that sounds unappealing to you, that’s because it is… at first. The time restrictions, limited navigation, and unclear mechanics (How do I Paraloop?) are frustrating at first, but eventually everything falls into place. This isn’t the left-to-right type of experience you expect from a Team Sonic title. This is a racing game with an important “Score Attack” element. In fact, the final boss doesn’t even became available until you score high enough on all of the other levels. This is an old-school exercise in repetition, incremental improvement, and precision. At first it may seem archaic and broken, but after a few hours it becomes clear: it is archaic and awesome.
The passage of time may not have been kind to may facets of NiGHTS, but it still pulls off many satisfying tricks. First of all, we all know that there is a simple lizard-brain pleasure in collecting things–rings, coins, gems, it doesn’t matter–and the game scratches that itch in remastered 32-bits. There’s also a strange, intangible pleasure in the flying controls. Sure, they aren’t perfect, but that sense of speed, freedom, and weightlessness is the defining characteristic of the IP. Finally, the game speaks to that perfectionist streak in many gamers that has lain dormant in mainstream releases for the majority of this generation. Can you squeeze those last few points out of the second lap of Frozen Bell?
Of course, fans of NiGHTS already know all of that. What they really want to hear is the differences between the original and the HD version. Fortunately, the Saturn version is actually included and accessible right from the main menu, so you can easily compare and contrast the two. Big shock: The new version is far superior, rounding the edges off of jagged polygons and giving everything a more polished feel. The real question is whether or not there is any difference between this HD release and the PS2 port. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference.
Besides the graphics, the other big addition to the HD version is Christmas NiGHTS. This is a pretty big deal for a lot of people, especially since the original disc is pretty hard to come by. A quick eBay search shows that a copy of the stand-alone holiday promotion will run you about $40–ten times more than this HD package. Sure, hardcore NiGHTS fans probably found other ways to play it over the last decade, but it’s available legitimately now, and for a reasonable price. On the downside, it seems as though you have to beat the main campaign to unlock Nights’ festive side.
If you’ve played this game before, there are probably two things you’re waiting for me to talk about. The first is the art direction. It is wonderful. The second is the score. It is wonderful as well. The reason I’ve left these until the end, and why I haven’t bothered to examine them too deeply, is because everything that can be said about these aspects has already been said. The art covers the blogs of almost every nostalgic Sega addict on the internet, while the NiGHTS soundtrack is so beloved that you can find fan remixes of just about every song on it. Say what you want about the gameplay–I sure have–but nobody is going to argue that NiGHTS Into Dreams… looks and sounds like nothing else.
This is a game truly representative of its time and place. If there is ever a museum solely dedicated to gaming NiGHTS deserves a place right next to Sonic in the Sega wing. That doesn’t mean it holds up–a lot of it is obtuse and outdated–but it’s still special. Fans of the original should pick this HD version up and take to the friendly skies once again, but newcomers can probably give it a pass unless they’re just in it for the history lesson. And yes, the official title of the game does include that silly ellipses.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes and played for about 6 hours. The title was played on Xbox 360, but is also available for PS3 and PC.
Also, follow me on Twitter @austinyorski (please).