Any Sega Saturn fan worth his or her salt has seen, heard of, or played Sonic Team's NiGHTS into Dreams at some point. Like many of the best cult classics out there it took a while for NiGHTS to achieve mainstream popularity despite its critical success, and it became a title that was well-respected and sought after long after the Sega Saturn died.
When Sega began porting Saturn and Dreamcast classics to this generation's systems, NiGHTS into Dreams almost instantly became one of the most-requested titles by fans. For years they begged, and now Sega has finally delivered with NiGHTS into Dreams HD.
For those of you out there that were unfortunate enough not to be able to live and love the 32-bit era or experience its greatness, here's the skinny: Though many would believe NiGHTS to be a platformer, it is, in fact, a time-attack-style racing game at its core with only mild platforming under certain conditions. In NiGHTS, your primary objectives are to collect orbs and defeat a series of Nightmaren in as short a time as possible. Based on your speed and how many pickups you collect, you can get a letter rank between 'F' and 'A', with the average at the end of the stage contributing to your overall score. Finding the fastest paths through each of these stages and whittling down your time made NiGHTS quite an addictive experience, espcially in 1996. NiGHTS also debuted the Saturn's analog “3D Gamepad,” which came packed with it on release.
Another prominent feature of NiGHTS was its use of the Saturn's internal clock to change the time of day and seasons right in the game. There was also the A-Life (or, “Artificial Life”) system which evolved based on your actions in the game, and changed the environment depending on the mood of the Nightopians that reside in the world. It was all very advanced for its time and seems like a very good fit for today's hardware given the large amount of memory needed to save all of the data for this game. NiGHTS would eventually make its way to the PlayStation 2 in Japan, featuring improved models and texturing and even included the special Christmas NiGHTS Sampler as an unlockable bonus. Which brings us to NiGHTS HD. What to you get for your $10 (or 800 Microsoft Points?)
In actuality, NiGHTS HD is a high-definition version of the PS2 port. It features both the original Saturn game in glorious lo-def and the enhanced PS2 remake remastered in high definition with the updated models and extras – including the much sought-after Christmas NiGHTS and a special developer interview. The transition to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 is pretty smooth, overall. The control translates to moden control configurations more or less flawlessly, so if you're familiar with how the original feels then you'll be right at home. However, because the controls are identical to the Saturn original, it will feel quite a bit less refined than many of today's 3D games. Especially to newer or younger gamers that may have never had to deal with stiffer three-dimensional control.
The presentation is improved across the board, though. With the PS2 version's updated visuals, newly rendered 2D elements and the power of modern home consoles making every edge crispy smooth, the sights of Nightopia are always nice to look at, pop-up notwithstanding. Even the prerendered video sequences look really, really nice, with a clarity that the Sega Saturn just couldn't hope to match, though they definitely show thier age.
One thing that hasn't changed a bit is the sound, which is great. The soundtrack in the original NiGHTS was almost iconic with its cornucopia of fantastic Redbook and synthesized pieces that were real standouts when NiGHTS first released. NiGHTS HD still has the metric ton of beautiful BGM selections from the original that sound just as good now as they did in 1996.
Even after all of this time, NiGHTS into Dreams still has the magic that captivated me when I first played it shortly after the Saturn's demise, and it remains quite playable despite its age. Sega Fans should be very pleased with the new visuals and extras, and new players that are itching to see what all the fuss was about should be able to jump right in and have a retro blast. NiGHTS into Dreams comes recommended!