The latest of SEGA’s continuing stream of modern revisions of classic videogames brings us to another cult classic, a Sonic Team spin-off that is a legend unto itself, thanks to the unique controller the publisher offered alongside special editions of the product. A misjudged re-launch on Wii a few years ago didn’t do much for the reputation of the NiGHTS series, but here on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360’s digital platforms the original NiGHTS Into Dreams… is being given a fighting chance to reach a much larger audience than it ever could have back in 1996.
When beginning NiGHTS Into Dreams… for the first time you will be offered two gameplay modes: Brand New Dreams and SEGA Saturn Dreams. The former is the remastered version of the videogame, while the latter is the original release beefed-up in high-definition (HD). The two share saved data, so the option really is one born of nostalgia versus modern demands. Gamers that are here for that nostalgia factor might well wish to opt for the original, but anyone with a passion for new experiences and visual fidelity would be best advised to steer clear, as no HD gloss can make a 32-bit production stand-up to modern digitally distributed products.
However, if you are coming into NiGHTS Into Dreams… fresh, don’t expect the all-new gameplay mode to be any more welcoming. This is a videogame that was created before handholding tutorials and gentle introductions: the player is thrown straight into the action, tasked with taking down flying pods by collecting blue gems and navigating their way around the world within the time limit, lest they find themselves falling to the ground without the magical support of Nightmaren flight. Of course, that is effectively the entire gameplay experience wrapped up in once sentence, however there’s much more to learn for those gamers striving for high scores and the benefits that come with greater completion of NiGHTS Into Dreams…’s handful of stages.
Abilities such as the Touch Loop or Acrobatic Flight may seem overly complicated and far from beneficial at first, but they quickly become second nature to those who invest in practicing the techniques. They are of course essential for those wishing to climb the online leaderboards, but also for finding the many hidden extras and successful defeating some of the bosses. The boss fights parallel the main gameplay by offering the player a 2D plane on which the gameplay exists, but limiting it to an area wherein they are always aware of where the boss enemy is located. The typical SEGA formula of hitting the boss is an unspecified manner a specific number of times is all it takes to successfully fell the guardian, and doing so will grant you access to further stages. It’s a simple, familiar and rewarding gameplay design that has been in use since the dawn of the industry, and most likely will be until that final death knell is struck.
NiGHTS Into Dreams… also includes the Christmas NiGHTS presentation, which was originally given away free on the cover of the official SEGA magazine of the time. The original discs are highly sought after, but thanks to this new edition of NiGHTS Into Dreams… that eBay hunt is over. Unless you’re a collector of rare gaming memorabilia, of course.
The visual quality of NiGHTS Into Dreams… is noticeably outdated, but that’s not exactly surprising. Many players will look at the SEGA Saturn Dreams mode and will fail to believe that’s how the original looked – such is the beauty of nostalgia – even with the added HD sheen glazed over the rudimentary polygon design. Indeed, the look of the Brand New Dreams (arguably comparable to Dreamcast standard of visual clout) will be sub par in most people’s minds, bit then that isn’t really the point of NiGHTS Into Dreams…; it’s a videogame that offers a unique gameplay experience that remains inviting to this day, not a work of visual art to be savoured throughout the decades.
After just ten minutes with NiGHTS Into Dreams… most players worth their salt will understand why SEGA has had trouble finding a place for the franchise in their modern catalogue. Without the technical realism of Virtua Tennis or Virtua Fighter, the brash connection to youth of Sonic the Hedgehog, or even the crunk attitude of ToeJam & Earl – another franchise SEGA seems loathe to rebirth despite it arguably suiting the modern gaming landscape greater than ever before – NiGHTS Into Dreams… is clearly a product of it’s time, and one that would struggle on the international market now just as it did then. Given that misplacement of style and the remarkably unique nature of its gameplay, NiGHTS Into Dreams… is perhaps one of the properties from yesteryear best suited to the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade’s cost effective digital distribution: if ever there were a videogame deserved of another chance to shine, NiGHTS Into Dreams… would be it.