Hey all! Last week sent us down to the depths of Hell to battle the Lord of Terror.
This week, we'll fly upwards instead. Oh, and down, left, and right. And everything in between.
Nights into Dreams...came out in 1996 for the Sega Saturn (though sadly, it probably came too late for the system). It's my favorite game for the system, and this is a system with some great stuff (Panzer Dragoon, Dragon Force, Guardian Heroes and a selection of Capcom arcade ports, to name but a few).
You play as either Eliot or Claris, two children with troubles in their life. Suffering from nightmares, they escape to the dream world of Nightopia and quickly get involved with the problems there: Wizeman the Wicked is stealing Ideya, or basically essences of people, in a bid to conquer Nightopia and eventually the real world. With their Red Ideya of Courage (which Wizeman cannot steal), the kids release Nights, a jester-like "Nightmaren" whom rebelled against Wizeman and was imprisoned. Nights then sets out to defeat Wizeman.
Nights has the power of flight. That's the selling point, right there. The game is side-scrolling, so you fly down a predetermined path. The gameplay mostly consists of flying through rings, and defeating enemies by looping around them-called a Paraloop. The idea is to collect enough gems to progress to the next lap of a given level, and defeating a boss at the end.
All of this is timed. You have a set time limit to go through each lap, and you get a letter grade at the end of each level, meaning you're gonna be chasing high scores. And it gets tough if you're going for those A Ranks.
But like I said, the main thing is: you can fly. Despite the limitations of the Saturn hardware, as well as the constraints of a side-scrolling design, Sonic Team succeeded in creating a game that really gives you the feeling of exhilaration you should feel as you soar through Nightopia. It never, ever gets old. At least for me.
Sega made a gamepad with an analog stick for Nights, and it was a must-own for the game. This was back when analog was not the standard, so it was a cool thing for a console controller to have. It also helped emphasize the complete freedom you had in controlling Nights. You could go anywhere you wanted, and even though there's only technically eight directions to go, the possibilities felt infinite.
All of this wouldn't matter if you didn't care about the characters or the story, but Nights tells a charming tale. Nights himself is a non-speaking entity, but he's got a personality all his own nonetheless. And it's easy to empathize with Eliot and Claris; they experience problems and insecurity we can all relate to.
The graphics, from a technical standpoint, probably don't seem like much these days (again, it was 1996), but this was one of the most impressive looking games for the Saturn. The art style is the most important thing; it still amazes me today. It feels like you're in a fantastical dream. Enemy designs are varied, and the bosses get more unique the further you get.
The music amazes, too. Full of bright, peppy, dreamy tunes, Nights' soundtrack continues to impress to this day. It's one of Sega's most beloved soundtracks, and the songs keep popping up in other Sega titles. The soundtrack's a masterpiece; seek it out.
Nights had a long-awaited sequel in the form of Journey of Dreams for the Wii. It's really good; check it out if you have the means. Or better still, get the HD remake of this game, on 360 and PS3. Either way, Nights is an incredibly unique masterpiece that will stick with me forever.
Play Nights. It's a cure for the blues.
Questions, comments and future GOTW suggestions are more than welcome! And follow me on Twitter @WingZero351 if you're into that.
Next week, we'll check out a beat-em-up set to the most awesomely inappropriate surf-rock soundtrack ever.