NiGHTS Into Dreams HD review
As part of its one-two punch to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network this week, Sega has brought back Sonic Team's innovative NiGHTS Into Dreams, retouching it with a high-definition transfer and adding some bonus goodies for good measure. And the fact they're releasing it for ten bucks (800 Microsoft points) is a welcome relief, especially to those who don't feel like hunting down an original copy of the game – along with a Sega Saturn to play it on – on eBay. While the game isn't exactly perfect, it does present itself well enough to a new generation of gamers and old-schoolers alike. Plus, did I mention Christmas NiGHTS?
The game puts you in control of a dream warrior named NiGHTS who works with two kids trying to fight through an imaginary world loaded with enemies. To eliminate them, NiGHTS must form circles around them to make them disappear or, with some bigger boss enemies, grasp onto a weak point and let loose with a powerful throw or push. It's a non-violent approach to defeating enemies (compared to, say, a missile launcher), and for the most part it works.
Each level is also loaded with other objectives, such as flying through hoops and putting together "links" to get a better score on each part of the stage, as well as collecting gems. You'll need to do this and hit certain points on the map within a time limit, or the "dream" is over.
Playing as NiGHTS is a fantastic experience, as the dream warrior controls with very little problem, and the gameplay quirks can be picked up on in a matter of seconds. However, when you're stuck playing as one of the kids (which happens if you lose dream power), you have to slug around on the ground, avoiding an alarm clock and working all the way back to NiGHTS' awaiting station. It's tiresome, so your best bet is to just keep alive as the main hero.
Along with the main game, which will take you some time to get through when it comes achieving A grades, you've also got a bunch of bonuses to unlock, as well as online leaderboards, supported by Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, so you can compete for the best times. That's great, but the real treasure in this package is Christmas NiGHTS. This spin-off, originally shipped as a bonus goodie for the Official Sega Magazine years ago, is wonderful, with not only new levels to complete, but presents to open. Some are better than others, but the fact the game is thrown in at all – without the extra cost for DLC – is a superb move on Sega's part.
The presentation is fantastic. Like Sonic Adventure 2, NiGHTS Into Dreams has undergone a cool HD transfer. Some of the level designs are a little weak compared to others, but the visuals have been prettied up enough that you probably won't care. The boss battles are real standouts, as the camera zooms out wide enough that you can see everything that's happening. For purists, you can also play the original Saturn version, though that oval-shaped Saturn controller isn't thrown in. Ah, well.
As for the music, it's traditional Sonic Team stuff, fun little melodies that'll keep you hooked. There could've been more sound effects (unlike the little "whine" noises), but overall it's acceptable.
I enjoyed NiGHTS Into Dreams HD more than Sonic Adventure 2, because, as a whole, it's way more accessible, and packed with more than enough extras, particularly Christmas NiGHTS. Its approach to dispatching enemies and flying through levels may not be for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to play through this dreamy world at least once. And who knows. Like me, you just might be hooked.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]