After Sega's big Facebook tease that we dissected yesterday, Sega fans' dreams have actually come true. Saturn classic NiGHTS into Dreams is coming to Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC this autumn in full HD. We've got screens. We've got video. We've got... no idea what that Facebook screenshot was from. Most likely 1996. But no matter, look at the first trailer of NiGHTS in HD:
In case you're unfamiliar with Sega's little jester, NiGHTS into Dreams came out in 1996 on Sega Saturn. It was the game that Sonic Team made instead of making a Sonic game for the new hardware. Its flowing movement was programmed by Yuji Naka - the man who programmed the original Sonic The Hedgehog, which is why it's so fluid - noticeably so when compared to the Naka-less Wii sequel.
The game is short in terms of length, with only seven unique levels (all of which are here in this HD release), each split into four sections followed by a boss - the designs for which still stand tall among videogame's greatest:
Above: The new HD version of NiGHTS. Look at the high-res textures... not Puffy's boobs
But in terms of its scoring system and the depth afforded by essentially very simple controls means that there's years' worth of depth if you want it. But what are we getting? Is it really an all-new remake with cutting-edge graphics as suggested by that teaser?
Well, no. The new version of NiGHTS appears to be an HD port of the Japan-only PS2 version of the game. To its credit, that iteration was itself a full remake of the original with new 3D models for the main characters, 3D enemies instead of the old 2D sprites, as well as improved textures, frame-rate and special effects. And videos on YouTube of that game running through an HD emulator made us wish Sega would HD it up and release it as a digital arcade title. And hey - that's exactly what they've done!
Above: Splash Garden now has proper transparency effects. Mmmm... watery
The great news is that a port of the Saturn version is going to be included as well, as it was in the PS2 release, although it's been put through a modern filter to smooth off some of the rough edges that you may not remember if you only played it in 1996. I loaded up the original last night (trying to find the exact spot that teaser screen was taken from, but to no avail) and I must say, on my 40-inch HD TV, it's starting to look mighty rough.
Above: The original next to the new 'Saturn' mode in the HD game, with the fully polygonal HD remake underneath
The other good news is that, assuming all the content from the PS2 remake is going to be included, Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams (a two-level free demo that we still play sometimes) will likely be included if you can get an A grade on every level. That hasn't been confirmed, but it makes sense - it's already in the code. The Saturn version already supported widescreen output, which has naturally been preserved - as has the close-in camera angle.
Above: Stick Canyon, looking great, but not quite as good as that teaser image implied
So. Is this going to be enough to keep notoriously hard-to-please Sega fans happy? Yes, thank you very much. Those who went out of their way to import a PS2 copy are basically going to buy anything released with the NiGHTS name on it and online high score tables will be enough to keep this fresh and exciting for them. Everyone else will get the graphically superior version of a modernised iteration of one of the best games ever. And if it sells well, maybe Sega will rethink their stance on another sequel.
Above: How crisp does this look?! Probably bewildering if you've never played it, mind
And after all, this is genuine NiGHTS into Dreams without a hint of Kinect, PS Move or anything new to detract from one of the best-designed scoring systems ever conceived. No stupid voice acting, no 'Mindsight', no weird touching to "du-al-iiiiise". Just Sonic Team's most creative game ever. If you want to read more about it, I already wrote three pages about it in our Classic Game Appreciation Section.
Here's hoping Sega Rally HD is next on the list. Oh, and seeing as somebody at Sega apparently is listening to fan requests... can we have a Vita port too, please? Ta.