Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas and season greetings to you all, it's the Christmas review. Christmas for me is a special time in gaming, as it was the magical moment when video games became a major part of my everyday life. A young Nerdy at the age of 5 or 6 glued to the front room TV as the Sega logo showed up on the screen. Speaking of Sega let us review a game that actually had a Christmas themed bonus disc released, this is Nights into Dreams.
Ok, let's Begin!
Nights Into Dreams (NID) was developed by Sonic Team and released on the Sega Saturn in 1996 by Sega. NID was initially conceived during the production of Sonic 2 (1992) but didn't get too full production until after the release of Sonic and Knuckles (1994). During development there was resistance to moving over to 3D polygons from Sonic Team as most of them were more comfortable with 2D sprite animation, citing claims that it was difficult to get an esthetically pleasing sprite out of the polygons. Early development had NiGHTS flying in a fully 3D environment but the Sonic Team decided to change this to a fixed left to right railed system as controlling NiGHTS in a 3D environment was more complex than expected, this no doubt lead to the development of the 3D controller, more on that in the Pros. Development was apparently pretty rough on Sonic Team as a lot of the game had to be made from scratch as the usual asset library's used for the Sega Saturn were not suitable due to the fact that a game like NID had not been made before by Sega.
The plot revolves around the two main protagonists, Claris Sinclair and Elliot Edwards. Both are suffering either performance anxiety or have suffered recent failures to achieve. Elliot while playing basketball with his friends gets decidedly thrashed by a senior in his school and walks home alone defeated and Claris whilst taking a singing audition at Twin Seeds towers suffers stage fright in front of the judges who appear to laugh and mock, which causes her to run away. Ok at this point I'm going to add some of the manual's plot which differs somewhat to what you see in the game. According to the manual when Elliot and Claris get home a Nightopian escapes from the dream world and begs them to come and save there world from the evil Wizeman. Feeling needed Claris and Elliot become emboldened with courage and agree to help. The Nightopian explains to them that they will need to recover the four types of dream energy from Wizeman's Ideya Capture devices they are Purity (white), Wisdom (green), Hope (yellow) and Intelligence (blue). The Nightopian also explains that Wizeman will attempt to steal there Ideya's and send them into strange dream world's created from the depths of there minds to confuse and disorientate them. The Nightopian though believes that Elliot and Claris though also posses the fifth and rarest Ideya, Bravery (red), this is the only Ideya that Wizeman and the other Nightmarens cannot steal. Most importantly though the Ideya of Bravery will summon NiGHTS to there aid. NiGHTS is the last rebel against Wizeman and is attracted to red dream energy, Claris and Elliot will need NiGHTS's help to stop Wizeman the Wicked once and for all.
Right, how does this differ from the game's plot? Well, there's no Nightopian that tells Claris and Elliot any of this, instead, they go to sleep and enter the dream world. Upon arriving Nightmarens steal there Ideya except for the red one. They must then find NiGHTS who looks as though they're trapped inside the Ideya Palace. Upon finding NiGHTS, NiGHTS is released and proceeds to be so grateful that it decides to assist Claris and Elliot in stopping the Nightmarens and ending Wizeman's plans. It's also possible that NiGHTS might be a Nightmaren as one of Wizeman's henchmen is Reala, a Nightmaren who looks surprisingly similar to NiGHTS in design.
Nerdy C's Pros and Cons
NID's main character the exiled Nightmaren NiGHTS (yes that is the spelling and I've checked it on the game and the manual) is one of the greatest appeals of the game. A well designed 3D character resembling a purple shadowy jester with a cheeky smile. NiGHTS flies through the air with speed and grace and is quite the delight to take control of from cartwheeling, barrel rolling to loop to loops. Yes, NID's flying mechanic is very satisfying to play.
This game plays wonderfully with the 3D Controller when compared to the standard Sega Saturn controller. Not too surprising really as the 3D Controller was developed alongside NID because Sonic Team was unsatisfied with input provided by the Sega Saturn's original controller. Indeed some of the early copies NID were released packaged with the newly developed 3D controller. So I suppose the Pro here is that it literally birthed a new piece of hardware from Sega, and it works.
Christmas Night's, "ahh remember back in the day when extra content was a welcome surprise rather than an excuse for game publishers and developers to give you half a game." and NID defiantly had that with Christmas Nights which was a bonus disc attached to the December issue of the official Sega Saturn magazine. This disc has a level and boss battle all decked out with bells and holly. It's super effective in bringing me some Christmas joy with its jingle bells soundtrack and Christmas card cut-scenes. The game developers also added some presents for you to play with, such as museums with 3D models, karaoke and playing Sonic in Christmas Nights, it's nothing too spectacular but a welcome addition considering Sonic never had a stand-alone game on the system, except Sonic R.
Colourful creative environments provide an interesting backdrop to fly through as NiGHTS. The dream worlds are small and spherical giving the impression of being in a bubble or indeed a snow globe if you will. Apparently, there was a lot of thought put into the dream world and the nightmare world of the Nightmarens with the developers studying the works of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud about REM sleep and what people experience in their dreams.
NiGHTS is fast, indeed I'd say the games more built for speed than even Sonic. NiGHTS can zoom so fast that you can easily miss everything from orbs, stars and even enemies. Although I do like that NiGHTS can go this fast, I am rather concerned that the speed came into being because of the brutal time limit of the levels. The initial game was apparently developed to be at a slower pace according to Sonic Team accounts but got decidedly faster as work moved on.
The time limit is one of the most oppressive problems I have with the game and because of it, it's kind of hard to enjoy the rest of the games wonderful features. Now don't get me wrong I'm aware that without the time limit there wouldn't really be any challenge to this game but for myself, I'm so focused on the time limit that I can't take in the background, enemies or necessarily work out the routes in the levels without multiple tries. This is even more apparent with the bosses which vary up quite a bit in how you deal with them. Some times it takes me three tries just to work out exactly what I've got to do with them. If it was a bit longer or had a varied difficulty level so you could have the timing extended in an easy mode then I could at least take time to enjoy the scenery and work involved in the game.
Another thing that is quite annoying about NID is the fact that when you fail a level you aren't given the choice to retry the level. No, your given a hint then thrown right back to the start. Not the level select but the starting title card. I mean it's a nice title card but for the amount of times I've died trying to get through the levels and bosses, this title card starts becoming a bane to see.
NID's final Con is it's size there are from what I can see 7 to 8 levels, this depends on whether you think playing the same level as a different character classes as 2. Each level also has its own boss to defeat making the level about 10 minutes long if you're really stretching out the time, this gives the game a total possible time of about 1 hour 20. Which of cause shouldn't actually happen as the whole point of the game is to complete the game as fast as possible in order to get the best ranks and scores. Now compare that total time with let's say Sonic 1. If I take the full time of actual in level play then we come to just over 163 minutes or 2 hours 43 and that's not counting special stages. So yes, NID is short and arcade-like, which some people do prefer.
Nerd O Meter Rating
Very much a High 4 out 5
NID is an interesting game and the fact that it caused the release of the Sega Saturn's 3D controller and a bonus disc shows that NiGHTS could have been a brand new mascot for Sega. Sonic Team really put a lot of work into this project and it shows. That been said I have one major issue with NID and that's it's core gameplay mechanic. Which when we really boil it down to its bare bones is just a time attack system. It's not especially difficult to play or complete but it is rather annoyingly oppressive. Which is a shame because I want to see more of this magical world that Sonic Team created. If I was playing the game on its own without the peripheries it would probably be a high 3 to a low 4, a better then average game but hardly amazing. This is also the reason why I don't feel comfortable in giving it a 5 as ultimately the Bundle would have been more expensive initially and still commands a higher price today over the game on its own, would I recommend NID though. Yes, it's a well put together game that harkens back to the mascot wars of the late '80s and early '90s gaming. It has a wonderful character and a unique mechanic that's definitely worth trying and casually playing for a bit of fun, and if you have the add-ons it's even better.