NiGHTS was born out of a simple concept: capturing the sensation of flight. Released the same month as Super Mario 64, some viewed it as Sega's answer to Nintendo's mascot superstar. In reality, NiGHTS into Dreams, much like the Sonic titles, shares more in common with traditional arcade gaming, complete with high score tables displayed at the end of each level and a score multiplier awarded depending on how well you perform during the boss encounter. NiGHTS was known for its innovative, gravity-defying, gameplay mechanics.
After choosing between playing as Elliot Edwards (the boy) or Claris Sinclair (the girl), players are dropped into a fully 3D environment where their most immediate task is to reclaim the four "Ideya Spheres" that have been stolen and hidden within the level. While players can go searching for them on foot, they are incredibly vulnerable whilst in their human form, so their best bet is to approach and enter the Ideya Palace and transform into the flying purple jester known as NiGHTS.
The gameplay shifts between 3D and 2.5 D. As Elliot and Claris the game offers a fully developed 3D landscape, as Nights however the game changes to a side scrolling perspective with Nights locked into one of four possible paths. The game is essentially lap based with each lap consisting of a different path. The only way to switch paths it to collect 20 blue chips and bring them to an Ideya Sphere. Doing this and completing a lap will cause the path to alternate in which the player must do the same thing again. After completing all 4 paths the game switches a boss' lever.
As Nights players are essentially invincible with the only penalty for being hit being loss of time. Time however is a very valuable resource in this game with players only being given a limited amount as Nights before being turned back to human form. Failing to complete all the paths in a regular level before time is up means that players will have to collect all 20 blue chips and return them to an Ideya Sphere before being allowed to become Nights again. On foot players can die with one hit. Furthermore, an alarm clock relentlessly tracks players while on foot, which will also kill the player if it catches them.
In the boss levels there are no humans allowed. Running out of times in these will lead to an immediate game over.
The evil Wizeman, King of the Nightmaren, is no longer satisfied with simply controlling the dream world of Nightopia. He seeks more! Wizeman hatches a plot to use Ideya Dream Energy to shake off the shackles of the dream world and enter our reality, where his power to shape and create nightmares will leave him unstoppable. To help him accomplish this task, he crafts two special first-class Nightmaren: a pair of jesters by the names of NiGHTS and Reala. He commands the pair to seek out and capture any Ideya they can find, especially the rare red Ideya, representing the emotion of Bravery.
Ungrateful to its creator, NiGHTS rebels against Wizeman's orders. As punishment, Wizeman seals NiGHTS in an Ideya Prison; the only way he can be freed is if somebody uses their Ideya energy to temporarily unlock his cage, and with his Nightmaren collecting all the Ideya for themselves, it is not likely NiGHTS will ever be released. However, two special dreamers - a pair of children named Elliot Edwards and Claris Sinclair - have an abundance of Red Ideya energy and find themselves very near NiGHTS' holding cell...
- Spring Valley ~the IDEAL~ (Boss: Gilwing)
- Mystic Forest ~the POSSIBILITY~ (Boss: Gulpo)
- Soft Museum ~the CONFUSION~ (Boss: Jackle)
- Twin Seeds ~the GROWTH~ (Boss: Wizeman)
- Splash Garden ~the AFFECTION~ (Boss: Puffy)
- Frozen Bell ~the CONSCIOUSNESS~ (Boss: Clawz)
- Stick Canyon ~the REVIVAL~ (Boss: Reala)
- Twin Seeds ~the GROWTH~ (Boss: Wizeman)
PlayStation 2 Re-Release
NiGHTS: into Dreams... was released for the PlayStation 2 exclusively in Japan on February 21st, 2008. Initially thought to be part of Sega's " Sega Ages 2500" releases, it did not bear the budget line's branding and was instead a full-priced product. The PlayStation 2 version of NiGHTS features most of the content from the original Sega Saturn release as well as a visually remastered "Brand New Dream" mode.
Instead of being a port of NiGHTS, the Playstation 2 version is a from-the-ground-up recreation of the original Saturn game, leading to many subtle differences in control, visuals and mechanics, even while playing in the game's "Saturn Dream" mode (which attempts to replicate the original look and feel of the Sega Saturn version).
A number of bonus features from Christmas NiGHTS were also incorporated in to the Playstation 2 version of NiGHTS, including image galleries, the Nightopian viewer, and the Christmas version of Spring Valley. However, other features, like Link Attack, Karaoke Mode, and Sonic into Dreams remain exclusive to the Sega Saturn version of Christmas NiGHTS. The PlayStation 2 version of NiGHTS also adds four new calendar-related events, which imbue Claris and Elliot with special bonus costumes:
- July 20th: Play Splash Garden as Claris in a summer outfit.
- August 31st: Play Splash Garden as Elliot in a summer outfit.
- October 1st-30th: Play Mystic Forest as Claris in a witch costume.
- October 31st: Play Mystic Forest as Elliot in a vampire costume.
NiGHTS: into Dreams... was re-released in HD on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on October 5th, 2012. It was later ported to the Personal Computer and released via Steam on December 17th, 2012. NiGHTS HD is simply a port of NiGHTS for the Playstation 2, with a lot of the same features. Initially, the Xbox 360 version of NiGHTS did not have proper analog control (a feature the original Saturn release relied on so heavily it came bundled with an analog controller), but this was later corrected in a patch some months later. Even though the patch fixed the controls to be more in line with the Playstation 2 version of NiGHTS, the HD version still features a handful of missing graphical effects to this day.
Music for NiGHTS was composed by Naofumi Hataya, Tomoko Sasaki, and Fumie Kumatani. The soundtrack was released in Japan by PolyGram on July 10, 1996. The game contains one vocal track, with two variations: one version is sung by children (presumably Claris and Elliot themselves), with a second version playing over the credits as a reward for completing the game with all A ranks.
NiGHTS Original Soundtrack
Total length: 57:30
- Gate of Your Dream
- Paternal Horn
- The Dragon Gave a Loud Scream
- Take the Snow Train
- The Mantle
- Message from Nightopia
- Gloom of the N.H.C.
- E-LE-KI Sparkle
- The Amazing Water
- Deep it Lies
- Dreams Dreams ~In Silent Memory~
- Suburban Museum
- She Had Long Ears
- Under Construction
- Nights and Reala
- Growing Wings
- Nights and Reala ~Theme of a Tregedic Revenge~
- D'Force Master
- After the Dream
- Know Thyself!
- Sowing Seeds
- DREAMS DREAMS
- Fragmented Nights
Shortly after completing work on Sonic the Hedgehog 2, future Sonic Team president Yuji Naka had a flash of inspiration on the plane ride back to Japan: What if a game captured the thrilling sensation of flight? This idea was shelved for many years as he continued work on games in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. After completing Sonic & Knuckles, the team revisited the concept of flight for Sega's new Saturn game console, hoping that technology had advanced to the point where a game based around the concept would be feasible and enjoyable.
Initial concepts involved a newborn baby bird who was just learning how to fly; over the course of the game, this character would grow stronger and learn how to fly more gracefully. This concept was scrapped after deciding it somehow resembled Sonic the Hedgehog too much. Eventually the concept of a graceful jester called NiGHTS in the dream world of Nightopia was decided upon. Hundreds of animations were created to convey the acrobatic sense of grace NiGHTS had, easily gliding through the air, defying the laws of gravity. To help control NiGHTS, SonicTeam simultaneously launched a new Sega Saturn analog joystick with NiGHTS into Dreams..., allowing players full control over NiGHTS' speed and direction.
To flesh out Nightopia, Sonic Team designers actually studied dream psychology for many weeks, reading and comparing the works of psychologists like Carl Jung and Frederick Holtz for inspiration. Each level in NiGHTS was carefully constructed to reflect the apparent memories and emotions both the main characters had growing up.
Yuji Naka likened his feelings about NiGHTS: Into Dreams... to Steven Spielberg's own regarding the film "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.". Much like Spielberg's aversion to making a sequel to E.T., Yuji Naka repeatedly stated that a sequel would spoil the original game's purity, and it would be difficult to build upon it without ruining it. He maintained this position all the way up until quitting Sonic Team in 2006 to go start PROPE. Within less than a year of Naka's departure, Sonic Team announced they would be developing a sequel, called NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams.
- The gender of NiGHTS is never mentioned and is meant to be androgynous, given they are open to fusing with both male and female hosts. Reala, despite being a doppelganger of NiGHTS, is officially gendered as male.
- A boss fight against a character called "Selph" was cut. Reportedly, Selph would be a mirror image of NiGHTS. The unused orchestral track "Know Thyself!" on the official NiGHTS Soundtrack is said to be the music for the deleted Selph boss.
- Despite NiGHTS existing only in a singular Sega Saturn game for many years, NiGHTS had a cameo in nearly every Sonic Team game produced following the release of the original Sega Saturn title, with appearances in Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Phantasy Star Online, Sonic Shuffle, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, and more.
- NiGHTS was the debut of Sonic Team's "Artificial Life" (A-Life for short) system. Each level in NiGHTS is inhabited by small pixie-like creatures called Pians. Pians freely move about the level, doing various activities on their own accord; singing, socializing, and generally having fun. NiGHTS can interact with Pians one of several ways: Killing them (which makes all Pians witness to the event very upset), or helping them to mate: by touching a Nightmaren, Pians lay special eggs, and from these eggs hatch hybrid Pians with characteristics of the enemy their parent contacted. Pians also have a secondary function: Depending on their mood, the tone of the music for that given level will change, with 20 total music variations present for each level in the game. If undisturbed, Pians naturally grow happy over time. However, if a Pian witnesses another being killed, they grow sad or angry.
- Many of the concepts included in Christmas NiGHTS were intended for this version of the game, and numerous features in Christmas NiGHTS can be used to analyze save files from the full version.
- A sequel known as "Air NiGHTS" was planned for the Dreamcast, but never came to fruition. Reportedly, the game would have used a gyroscopic motion sensor that slotted into the Dreamcast's VMU port.