Classic game appreciation section: NiGHTS into Dreams

I'm known for being 'the Sonic fan' on GamesRadar. So why is it that when I met Yuji Naka and there was time for him to sign just one of the whole bag of games I'd brought with me to the interview (y'know, just in case), I handed him my copy of Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams? Because Sonic is awesome - but NiGHTS is better. I mean it - NiGHTS into Dreams is a better videogame than Sonic The Hedgehog. When you've picked yourself up off the floor, I'll explain why.

I've deliberately held off doing an Appreciation Section on NiGHTS on TalkRadar UK or on the site because I don't want to bang on about it. But NiGHTS is quite literally off the Radar these days, so it's time to do this. And I've decided to 'appreciate' the full game and not my beloved Christmas NiGHTS because, firstly, it's not Christmas, and secondly, great though that game is, it's only a teaser for this - the main event. 

Above: Contrary to popular belief, I don't own a Sonic suit. Weird circus jester get-up, however...

The game tells the story of two children, Claris and Elliot, who both live in Twin Seeds City, but have never met. They're young adolescents, full of the kind of angst that young adolescents invariably are. They dream of stardom, in musicals and baskeball respectively. But when they go to sleep, these dreams turn to nightmare. The fear of failure in an audition or on the basketball court manifests itself as winged demons, causing the children to run blindly through corridors of warping walls. It's a proper nightmare.

And then, out of the darkness... a light. A brilliant, cleansing light that warms the skin and fills the heart with hope. NiGHTS is here - and everything's going to be OK.

"There is no NiGHTS"

Crucially, as you probably noticed, the game explains all of this without any spoken dialogue. In fact, there's only one line of actual dialogue in the game "There is no NiGHTS", spoken by Reala (pictured), who is NiGHTS'... well, yes, 'evil twin' is the right expression. Although he doesn't have a goatee like most evil twins do. Go figure.

And he might actually be right. NiGHTS himself is shrouded in a carefully-woven veil of mystery - something completely unravelled within 30 seconds of screen time in the Wii sequel with that awful voice. It's not clear whether 'he' is a boy or a girl (he's actually both and neither) but I'm sticking with 'he' for simplicity's sake. The instruction manual ponders whether NiGHTS is a spirit or a memory... it doesn't really matter. What's certain is that he lives inside the children's dreams and needs their help as much as they need his.

Above: Look at Claris' awe and then NiGHTS with his outstretched hand. There's nothing like this around today

At the start of every level, your chosen child is set upon by a large group of enemies, who steal coloured orbs from you, named 'ideya'. Each of these orbs represents a personality trait but there's only one the Nightmaren can't take - courage. The rarest form of dream energy. Carry your remaining courage ideya to where NiGHTS is imprisoned on the hill and you dualise with him. To the player, that means you become NiGHTS - and you can fly.

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  • DirkSteele1 - September 2, 2011 7:31 a.m.

    The primary reason I purchased a Saturn from eBay at the beginning of this year was for Panzer Dragoon Saga and NiGHTS. Both were worth every penny spent. A PSN/XBLA remake would be something I would buy despite owning the original.
  • CanadianBeaverHunter - September 1, 2011 2:59 p.m.

    That HD-upscaled video of Nights is mighty impressive.
  • Risonhighmer - September 1, 2011 2:08 p.m.

    There's a really well done updated remake that was released on PS2. It'd be worth importing from japan, I'd say. The graphics are significantly better than the saturn version, and everything else is just as fantastic.
  • ColaFlavourChewits - September 1, 2011 2:19 p.m.

    But the music in the intro is out of sync on the ps2 remake; I don't know why but that really bugs me...
  • Ded - September 1, 2011 1:43 p.m.

    Oh Justin, you disappoint. Reala doesn't say "There is no NiGHTS" (admittedly I thought he did for many years), he says "Ikuzo, NiGHTS" which means "Let's go, NiGHTS" in Japanese.
  • GR_JustinTowell - September 1, 2011 2:55 p.m.

    Sumimasen, Ded-san. Watashi wa baka desu ne. Demo... Reala ga oishi-i desu yo. Nomimasho ka?
  • GR_JustinTowell - September 1, 2011 2:57 p.m.

    I really must get back to learning Japanese. The world of 1990s-era videogames would make SO much more sense...
  • Ded - September 1, 2011 11:27 p.m.

    Nom nom, sounds good x.x I think.
  • GR_JustinTowell - September 2, 2011 1:56 a.m.

    His head does look like a candy cane.
  • thecresta - September 1, 2011 1:33 p.m.

    Sonic, Sega Rally, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Tomb Raider, and now're writing my top-ten list out for me ;) Christmas NiGHTS was an amazing freebie, I remember getting a few copies that Christmas. HMV gave me three with Daytona CCE, along with a free 3rd party controller. I'm surprised that they're going for a pittance on ebay, but saying that I never could part with mine, or my NiGHTS/controller set. My favourite present was the music box, where you could play the tracks of the main NiGHTS game in all their possible variations. Another amazing soundtrack using the Saturn's impressive sound processor. What's next...Exhumed maybe? ;)
  • ColaFlavourChewits - September 1, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    Exhumed was great on the Saturn. Lobotomy managed some pretty impressive effects with the Saturn hardware, culminating with Quake, though I had a soft spot for Duke Nukem. I actually destroyed every toilet in the game (including the toilet-packed secret level!) in order to unlock Death Tank Zwei since I had traded my copy of Exhumed in. Speaking of Exhumed, did anyone else ever collect all the developer heads? That took me a few days. In fact I think I spent an entire day off school getting that one behind a laser maze; one of the most frustrating secrets to unlock of my gaming life.
  • thecresta - September 5, 2011 12:42 p.m.

    Yep, got all the heads - including the one at the bottom of that damn that laser maze! You struggle through the first drop only to be rewarded with another set of the damn things! And no checkpoints! Death Tank was a neat addition. The prize of flight mode was a tad disappointing though. Lets face it - if you were persistent enough to get all of the heads there was no real incentive to explore further. You could already get wherever you wanted by bomb-jumping ;-) I remember CVG re-rated the game when the PlayStation version was released, upped it from 4 to 5 stars. It was relentlessly difficult at times, but put enough time into it and it was a very rewarding experience.
  • ColaFlavourChewits - September 1, 2011 1:07 p.m.

    Oh, and I play Christmas Nights every December; gets me in the mood for mince pies and turkey sandwiches for weeks on end. I still have my original copy, given away free with the December '97 issue of Sega Saturn Magazine (Oh how I miss Rich Leadbetter!).
  • LordsOfTechno - September 1, 2011 11:17 a.m.

    Wasn't there news of SEGA creating a poll during NiGHTS' 15th anniversary to see which console fans would like to see a HD remake on? I swear I read about it somewhere... Anyway I've always wanted to play this game but sadly I've never had the chance. The closest I've been to experiencing it is sadly by watching youtube gameplay videos; come on SEGA re-release it on XBLA and/or PSN!
  • ParanoidAndroid - September 1, 2011 11:09 a.m.

    There's no way I'm buying a Saturn, but I really want to play this. Is the PS2 version worth it?
  • ColaFlavourChewits - September 1, 2011 10:53 a.m.

    I love this game; I used to keep replaying each level trying to beat my best score. More than that though, I used to love playing the last level time and again thanks to the wonderful music and the sheer joy of seeing Elliott or Claris speeding out from the abyss when a game over looked certain. Magical. Not to mention the ending; I agree wholeheartedly with Justin. The moment when the theatre dissolves to the final scene in Nightopia still brings a lump to my throat. Plus hearing "Dreams Dreams" for the first time was quite a shock for someone coming up from the Megadrive! At the time of it's release it's overall aesthetic was praised as being like a Disney film and for me at least the story and especially the ending inspires that same feeling I get when watching Snow White or Alice in Wonderland; it's like stepping back into the innocence of my childhood. Definitely my best game ever.
  • Discokingz - September 1, 2011 9:08 a.m.

    I want this on 3DS, perfect home for this game as long as the controls are right! =}
  • b-dog1991 - September 1, 2011 8:47 a.m.

    This sounds as if it would be perfect for a re-release on XBLA or PSN, otherwise I think I'm going to have a hunt down a Saturn and a copy of the game. If there is time to do that, isn't Justin saying that he prefers any other game to Sonic a sign of the apocalypse?
  • Draijan - September 1, 2011 8:43 a.m.

    Heh I use to own this game back on the saturn...don't remember much of it except the flying around bit..It had a story?