Saturday, 6 October 2012

REVIEW - NiGHTS : Into Dreams (XBLA)

NiGHTS : Into Dreams [800 points]  

SEGA are on a mission to bring back many of their older titles to the XBLA service. Not all the games have aged well, but there is no doubting that they are brought back with care and attention, and designed to please long term fans. 
NiGHTS : Into Dreams is the next game to get the HD treatment, and is another example of a respectful update from the Sonic Team.
NiGHTS was pretty groundbreaking when it came out on the Saturn way back in 1996, made more so by being bundled with the excellent '3D' analogue controller (which would inspire the design of the Dreamcast controller). But how does it hold up to today's standards?

Well the first thing you need to know is that the game is still great fun to play. The feeling of flight is a wonderful thing, and you will soon be dashing around, performing loop the loops with ease. It retains it's sense of magic that will appeal to the child within you. The colourful backgrounds, and lovely musical score all make this a very dream-like experience. Unfortunately the parts where you control the ground based kids still remain very cumbersome to play. You will always want to get to the airborne NiGHTS character as soon as you can.

The game looks to be 3D but it actually plays like a 2D sidescroller, with the circular levels wrapping around on themselves. Travel far enough to the right an you will be back to where you began. The levels are referred to as Nightopia, and have one objective. You must collect 20 blue orbs to destroy the Ideya capture, a cage like sphere. Once this is done you enter bonus mode, which is where the real scoring takes place. You collect gold orbs, stars, glide through chains, and perform acrobatic moves to score points. Once the levels are completed in this manner, you then face a boss. You are on a 2 minute time limit, and the left over time counts towards your score, and this your overall level rating. It can be very tricky at times, and some cheap boss encounters can ruin a great run through the nightopia stages.

The levels themselves play like speedruns. You will need to get the 20 orbs part done as quickly as possible, then use bonus time to go around and around the level collecting as many items as possible. When the time is nearly over, dash to the exit and hopefully you will have amassed enough points to get an 'A' rating. 

The game can be played in it's original Sega Saturn form (with or without borders), or the updated PS2 version, which only saw release in Japan. Both look lovely, the new textures are crisp and sharp, and there are even extra graphical effects on the Saturn version to make it look nicer. Sega have done a lovely job with the visual and presentation side. There is also extra content in the form of the excellent 'Christmas NiGHTS', previously given away as a Saturn freebie back in 1996.

Like the other SEGA games to be given the HD treatment lately (Jet Set Radio, and Sonic Adventure 2), the game can seem clunky in areas. You can tell this is a game from the era when 3D games were in their infancy, where developers were trying new things, yet still learning how to give players the best gameplay experience. But the overall joy from the core gameplay itself make up for it's shortcomings.

This is Classic SEGA to a tee. Bright, colourful, magical, and fun.

The Good:

  • Lovely colourful graphics and a beautiful soundtrack
  • Flying as NiGHTS is still magical
  • Lots of content
  • Great score-attack game

The Bad:

  • Cheap boss encounters spoil the experience
  • Controlling the two kids is still awful

Sure it sometimes shows it's age, but it is a fun experience that will bring nostalgic joy to those who played the original, as well as captivating a whole new audience.