Nights Into Dreams HD Review

Nights Into Dreams is short and sometimes frustrating, but that doesn't prevent it from being magical.

The freedom of flight appeals to nearly everyone; there's something magical about the ability to leave the ground and take to the skies. That fascination people have with flight is clearly what made the concept behind Nights Into Dreams so thrilling years ago, and it's what will draw people to the game even now.

If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it!

As the story goes, a girl named Claris and a boy named Elliot have ventured into a world of dreams. Now they must save that magical world by teaming up with a purple flying creature known as Nights, the last of his kind to avoid capture by an evil army. You choose one of several courses, and at first you control one of the two children. Awkwardly, you wander the landscape until you reach a series of columns that encircle your airborne friend. Touching Nights causes him to take flight, and then you are free to soar through the skies for as long as two minutes.

Though Nights Into Dreams is an old design at its heart, it offers a liberating experience even by today's standards. Nights moves responsively, and he can perform air dashes and somersaults as he negotiates an aerial wonderland filled with magical rings that regenerate his energy meter. (Nights has no gender, incidentally, although we've referred to the jester as "he" for the purposes of this review.) That energy allows him to keep moving at high speeds while he collects blue orbs. Once he has gathered 20 orbs within the current portion of the course, he can toss them into a giant translucent bubble, and then he is permitted to return to the columns and begin flying through a new portion of the current course.

Collect the blue thingy-ma-bobbers or be sorry.

A certain number of restrictions are necessary to ensure that Nights Into Dreams works as a game. The most prominent of those restrictions is that if Nights doesn't return to the starting columns within two minutes, any orbs he has in his possession go flying everywhere like rings in a Sonic game after a collision with an enemy. Nights departs, and then you're left controlling the child, who fumbles around the landscape in an effort to collect and turn in orbs, just like his or her winged friend. However, a hostile pod is in pursuit by that point, and the game unceremoniously ends if the pod captures the youthful hero or heroine in its tractor beam. This dynamic adds tension to the experience while you're controlling Nights, because you want to do everything you can to avoid a risky reunion with the child, and yet you also want to collect as many orbs as possible before you return to the columns just ahead of the last few ticks of the timer.

At a glance, Nights Into Dreams is a platformer wherein you happen to fly a lot, but it feels more like a racing game when you're playing it properly. Speed runs are your goal, and your most capable enemy is the timer. You want to obtain 20 blue orbs as quickly as possible, and you want to turn those in promptly because then you can get more points by collecting additional orbs before finishing one of the four legs of the proper race. Courses that at first seem like a jumbled mess slowly take form as you memorize the location of jewel caches and try to move from one to the next without slowing down too much.

The boss encounters at the end of each course tend to drag the entire experience down a bit, unfortunately. Even once you have figured out how to defeat each boss, which rarely happens during the first meeting, trouncing some of the bosses can prove quite difficult. Battles are distinct and therefore memorable, but sometimes they're difficult to see because the camera doesn't always follow the action as smoothly as it should. You're still on a very strict time limit, as well, even though you're facing foes that will potentially stun you and leave you dazed for several seconds at a time as you make failed but necessary approaches.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

For instance, one boss hurls giant playing cards at you, three in a row. Those projectiles can be difficult to see coming, so you just have to get used to diving and swooping as you approach. Then you can hopefully draw close enough to perform an aggressive dash before your foe retreats. A properly timed dash knocks loose the fellow's cape so that you can actually start to do some damage with subsequent strikes. You then need to try to stay between him and his cape so that you don't have to worry about knocking it loose again before you can continue inflicting damage. The process is more tedious than fun, unfortunately, and it tends to eat up the seconds at an alarming rate. Other bosses have their own ways of layering on the monotony.

The good news is that once you beat a stage for the first time, you can then practice fighting its boss at your leisure. The bad news is that until that happens, you have to play through as many as eight minutes of flight just to earn another shot at the boss. This tends to discourage a lot of exploration on your initial visits to a given stage, since odds are decent that the first few times you meet a boss, he will cut your adventure short just shy of the finish line. There aren't a lot of stages in the game, either, so you cover a lot of familiar ground if you play for more than a couple of hours.

Even with restrictions in place, though, Nights Into Dreams does a good job of capturing a sense of whimsy. The courses are populated by clowns and toy cars, oversized traffic signs, and beautiful foliage. The game tends to look muddy, even when you're playing through the Brand New Dreams version of the game that is taken from the PlayStation 2 port, rather than the original Sega Saturn edition. By default, the newer version gives you a wider viewing perspective, and the characters and environments feel more like magic and less like polygons. You can also head to the settings menu to tweak certain elements in either version, if you like. There are also several adjustments to the core package that factor in the platform. Leaderboards are available so that you can compare scores with your friends or with the world at large, and there's a variety of unlockable content that includes brief video clips, artwork, and musical selections that you can listen to from a menu. Achievements are also available, but they mostly reward you just for completing stages, rather than for doing anything particularly creative.

Push on through to the other side!

If you spent many happy hours with Nights Into Dreams when it was first released, odds are good that you'll enjoy this reunion. The game hasn't aged perfectly, but it still provides a memorable experience that players should enjoy even if this newest edition serves as their introduction to Nights, Claris, and Elliot. Flying through magical worlds is still fun, much like you probably dreamed it would be.

The Good
Dreamy courses
Creative flight-based gameplay
Nice extras
The Bad
Cheap boss encounters
7
Good
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Pffrbt
Pffrbt

The bosses are easy as shit and hardly take any time to defeat.

malachi_27
malachi_27

I still play this game every once in a while.  Hasn't aged all that well, but the atmosphere is timeless.

Rat_King
Rat_King

Loved this game on my Sega Saturn. Along with Clockwork Knight...

tjoeb123
tjoeb123

The only (minor) problem I found with this version - at least from the demo - is that Claris and Elliot move too goddamn slow compared to the Saturn version.

 

Of course it's a minor thing, because I like to go back and replay the levels as the kids so I can just run around and see what I can do in them. (besides fly around as NiGHTs, of course)  You can do the Super Mario 64-style triple jump, which increases your speed every time you jumped after you began your third jump in a row, until you stop.

 

The best thing about that was that you could easily clip through walls and other objects you're not normally supposed to go through as the kids this way.  For example, in Splash Garden, there's an invisible wall between the rock-wall thing and the purple ocean.  If you continuously jump through there, you'll find yourself in the ocean!  (Careful though, because you can enter the crushed ceilings/floors.  Touch the purple ocean in those areas, and...well....)  Do this in the museum in Soft Museum, and you'll wind up flying WAAYYY outside of the level boundaries (even the purple ocean), and land on TOP of the level!

 

But all of that was for the Sega Saturn version, and only if you were using the digital controller.

thegamezmaster
thegamezmaster

Love it so far. Great update of the original! Way to go Sega!

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man moderator

Was my favourite game on the Saturn.

I also recommend Nights on the Wii as well.

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

I have a Saturn but never played this. I want to get it just fit the Christmas version. Looks fun.

nunchuk28
nunchuk28

You guys thought the bosses were cheap? Sure I had to figure out what to do at first and maybe lost once to each boss, but they are still rather easy. The only one I would consider cheap is the first boss from Claris path as I think it has a weird collition detection

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

It is a great price for what you're getting. Even though I feel that games like this are more for nostalgia's sake, it is a great opportunity to sample this cult classic. 

El_Zo1212o
El_Zo1212o

While I am perfectly thrilled to play NiGHTS Into Dreams again, am I the only one who thinks it would have been a perfect fit on the 3DS?

Gxgear
Gxgear

This got reviewed rather quickly.

thom_maytees
thom_maytees

It should be mentioned that Nights is not male, but is actually genderless. Many people seem to forgot that.

disneyskate
disneyskate

@Nintendo_Man The Wii one was inferior in many aspects. Clunkier control, most of the extra levels were crap, cheap boss battles, etc.

disneyskate
disneyskate

@nunchuk28 No, you probably just weren't hitting it right. hit it below the mouth for the best results.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @Gxgear We got a code well in advance! If only we were always so lucky.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @Gelugon_baat  @thom_maytees There is text right in the review that addresses this. "(Nights has no gender, incidentally, although we've referred to the jester as "he" for the purposes of this review.)" It is similar to a sentence I wrote in my own review of Nights: Journey of Dreams. Not writing "he/she/it" isn't "lazy:" it's a purposeful choice to not disrupt the flow of the writing by using a single pronoun instead of an awkward amalgam. For heaven's sake.

El_Zo1212o
El_Zo1212o

@kavadias1981 @Metamania especially when trying to loop up orbs on a different track.

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

 @Gelugon_baat  @Kevin-V

 No need to be so PC. Are you getting offended over a non-human video game character with no specified gender being refered to simply as 'he', or are you just trying to stir things up?

NiGHTS Into Dreams... More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 2
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • Saturn
    • Xbox 360
    8.9
    Average User RatingOut of 825 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate NiGHTS Into Dreams...
    Developed by:
    Sonic Team, Sega
    Published by:
    Sega, Samsung
    Genres:
    Platformer, 3D, Action
    Kids to Adults
    SAT
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    X360 PS3 PC
    Comic Mischief