Rewind back to 1996. I had just finished my first year of college and started writing game reviews for a large metropolitan newspaper, which helped me decide on my major. Nintendo was about to rock the world with Super Mario 64, and people were beginning to use something called the “World Wide Web” to send “e-mails” on the PC. This was the world when NiGHTS was released for the SEGA Saturn. It was a beloved game by many a SEGA fan, and now you have the chance to play (or replay) an HD remake, downloadable on your 360 or PS3 (360 version reviewed here).
In the game, you play as a boy and a girl, Chris and Elliot, who are haunted by nightmares in the dream world and must enlist the help of a flying jester-like hero named NiGHTS. At first glance, NiGHTS appears to be a 3-D platformer, but it’s really an arcade style flying racing game. In each stage, you must fly around a set 2-D plane, picking up blue chips along the way. Collect 20 blue chips and ram a jellyfish looking cage to free the trapped Ideya inside, and then bring the Ideya back to the starting point to begin the next different lap to repeat the process.
Along the way, NiGHTS can fly through rings and do tricks for points. If you do a loop, any item in the circle will be added to your inventory (a great way to collect lots of blue chips), and you can even make enemies disappear. If you run out of time during the main stages, NiGHTS will disappear and you’ll have to hoof it on the ground as Chris or Elliot, all the while avoiding an alarm clock that could end your game. But if you collect all the Ideyas, you’ll enter a boss battle as NiGHTS. Finish off the boss before time runs out to complete the level.
I don’t know if it’s the game’s age or something else, but the main problem with this game is the lack of clear goals and objectives. If you’ve never played NiGHTS before, you’ll have a hard time understanding what the heck to do here at first. There are in-game instructions that you can read, but they’re not very well written and it may take a time or two to figure out what’s going on and what to do just by playing. Even then, there are still some things I’m not sure about, like what are those round bomb things that float around? And supposedly you can collect Nightopian creatures in a virtual pet mini-game, but the game does nothing to tell you how to unlock that feature or how to collect those critters. Even worse, if you ‘die’ because you can’t figure out how to defeat a boss, you have to replay that whole level again, which is both tedious and annoying. The game will sometimes give you a helpful hint after the level is over, but by then it’s too little, too late.
It’s a shame that this was so problematic for me, because otherwise you’d think this would be a game I would like. While the HD remade graphics aren’t the best, they’re still bright, colorful, and imaginative. You can even play the game with original SEGA Saturn visuals, which hold up rather well today, despite being a bit ‘janky’ as the reviewers say. And the music is fantastic. So catchy and well done, I wouldn’t mind having a NiGHTS CD soundtrack. Supposedly, Christmas NiGHTS is on here, too! If you are fond of time attack racing games, you may enjoy this one. But otherwise, I think the only folks who will truly appreciate this remake are the gamers who have already played NiGHTS before and have special memories tied to it. Otherwise, it’s a 50-50 shot. You’re either going to love it or hate it. And unfortunately, I personally fall into the latter. But for only ten bucks, it may be worth trying if you’re curious.
NiGHTS is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Comic Mischief. There’s not really any violence of any kind. Enemies just disappear or fly off screen, and if you lose, your characters just wake up to a “Night Over” screen. Nightmare monsters are more cute than scary. Reading skill is required for the instructions, but because of the unclear goals, kids might get frustrated with not knowing what to do.