#I sat down to play an hour or so of NiGHTS into Dreams\u2026\r\n(NiD) the other day, and whilst flying around in Stick Canyon, I noticed that one of the Nightopians (the small A-Life creatures that inhabit each of the dream worlds) was using a jackhammer near one of the various steel structures in the level. I paused for a split second. I had never seen that before! Even after all these years playing the game, and we are well over two decades since the game\u2019s initial Saturn release, there are still little surprises for me to discover.\r\n\r\n![Stick Canyon](https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/nid/images/6/60/Stick_Canyon.png)\r\n\r\n**NiGHTS** was billed as the Saturn\u2019s flagship title when it released in the West in mid-1996. This was the title that would go head to head with the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario 64. Once all three titles had landed, NiD proved so different a game from the other two that direct comparisons were rather meaningless. However, as a gaming experience it held its own incredibly well back in the day, and it continues to do so today. \r\n\r\nNiGHTS has been accused of initially being confusing. Indeed, the game\u2019s manual goes over only basic game mechanics \u2013 how to guide Claris or Elliot to NiGHTS, how to fly as NiGHTS and progress through the level and onto the boss battle, and how to ultimately face off with the evil Wiseman, ruler of the Nightmare World. Taking flight for the first time is somewhat disorientating, as gameplay switches from on-foot, full 3D (Claris and Elliot) to flying along a 2D path through a 3D-rendered environment as the eponymous NiGHTS.\r\n\r\n![NiGHTS into Dreams...](http://www.segasaturnshiro.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/TitleSmall.png)\r\n\r\nDespite the initial disorientation, it does not take long for even a semi-accomplished player to work out what needs to be done, and progress through the game. Completing the game with both Claris and Elliot can be accomplished in roughly 2-3 hours \u2013 a complete pittance when compared to the sprawling adventures that contemporary Crash and Mario embark on in their titles. So\u2026 what gives? What is it that makes NiGHTS into Dreams one of the most compelling Saturn experiences out there?\r\n\r\nThe game was marketed as a 3D flying adventure-type title, but this was a mischaracterization, with \u20183D\u2019 being a key marketing soundbite of the day. At its core, NiGHTS is best described as a score attack game, stuffed to the brim with subtle detail and nuance, graced with precise control thanks to the all-new 3D (analogue) Control Pad, a well-developed points system, a superbly addicting replay factor, and eye-popping (circa 1996) visuals, all wrapped up in strong presentation and a very unique soundtrack implementation. Whew! That was a mouthful.\r\n\r\nPlaying NiGHTS with a view of scoring as many points as possible reveals the true genius of Sonic Team\u2019s masterpiece. Suddenly, you realize the beautiful balance achieved here \u2013 a balance that the player must consistently negotiate and respect in order to be a successful high scorer. Each next ring, chip, or star is a split-second away, allowing the player to build and maintain Links (increasing your link affords you a point multiplier) and rack up points as they fly around the circular 2D plane\u2026 but the player must always be cognizant of how much time remains. Running out of time means reverting to Claris or Elliot and having the score counter fall to zero. The name of the game is to constantly keep an eye on your time remaining and to correctly judge whether to go for that next loop around the Mare (level) or not. Similarly, whilst score-attacking, the player realizes that the enemies that populate the dreams were not so much placed to \u2018kill\u2019 you, as they were to either break your link, or otherwise impede your progress or shave precious seconds off your remaining time. The layout of the levels invites the score-attacker to constantly search for that perfect line to the next link. The dream worlds are also littered with special bonuses (Bonus Balls, Streamer Loops) and power-ups (Giant Paraloop icons) that increase the ability to rack up points. Lastly, should the player collect a great deal of stars during the dream, during the 4th Mare a hefty bonus will be available for the player to collect, right above the Ideya Palace\u2026 but only if NiGHTS does not paraloop any Nightopians during the entire run! \r\n\r\nWhen all these factors are smashed together, the score-attacking player is tasked with maintaining their link whilst either eluding or defeating enemies, collecting points in the most efficient way possible, avoiding harming the Nightopians, and constantly judging the time remaining in order to maximize the amount of points collected. Genius. The replay factor -and, indeed, addiction - comes from the fact that a better result is only one move away\u2026 just one smarter turn, or one quicker lap, and so on. Have you ever been inside one of those money wind tunnels at carnivals or theme parks, where you have a short amount of time to grab as much money as you can as it is blown all around you? That is a good analogy to the experience of playing NiGHTS into Dreams \u2013 you madly do as best as you can, but you always want just one more go, as you KNOW you can do just a little bit better the next time around! The adrenaline rush when score-attacking is palpable. The lament when you misjudge and commit an error in gameplay can be heavy. The satisfaction of pulling off a perfect run (and remember: start to finish, this is a 15-minute exercise in frenetic precision gaming) is utterly exhilarating. \r\n\r\nSo, we have established what makes NiGHTS into Dreams such an evergreen gameplay experience, but is there anything else to it? Oh, Zod* yes!\r\n\r\nNiGHTS is infused with a charm quite unlike any other. The levels are all based on dreams and include many bizarre and surreal scenes, such as massive globes of water that litter the Splash Garden, or eerie traffic lights in dark corners of the Mystic Forest, or even the sweetly warping ground in the Soft Museum. The use of colours and interesting special effects is splendid in this Saturn game. Then there are those little Nightopians flying around everywhere\u2026\r\n\r\n![King Pian!](http://www.segasaturnshiro.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/King-Pian-282x212.jpg)\r\n\r\nNiD creates two save files when you play \u2013 one for your scores, and a second one for your A-Life. The A-Life is the Nightopians, and they are not just random sprites \u2013 they have moods that are tracked in-game, they can reproduce, create tiny changes in the landscape, and even die, either by being eaten by a Badpian (enemy) or by being paralooped by NiGHTS. In this manner, generations of Nightopians come and go, independently of the main game itself. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that most NiGHTS players, although obviously aware of the Nightopians\u2019 existence, are completely oblivious of the life cycles that they go through! However, there are minor ways in which you can affect their population. In just the right conditions, a Badpian can breed with a Nightopian and create a Mepian \u2013 having some Badpian and some Nightopian parts! These little Mepians come in almost endless variations, and, since you had a hand in creating them, adore NiGHTS and are always cheerful. Then, again under just the right conditions, two Mepians of opposing attributes can mate to produce a King Pian! This super Pian was long thought to be nothing but rumour, until one day, he was found and proven to exist. He wears a golden crown and, over the course of the next few nights (playthroughs), works on building himself a massive floating castle. Once the castle is complete, he departs, but the castle remains part of your A-Life save file and appears in that particular level forever. \r\n\r\n![Happy Mepian, Frighened Nightopian](http://www.segasaturnshiro.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Mepian-250x250.jpg)\r\n\r\nThere are other ways in which the Nightopians impact the game. Each NiGHTS level music (BGM) is a stitching of 5 sections of MIDIs that each have 4 variations, and these variations are selected based on the mood of the Nightopian population. Treat them well, and your BGM will be light and cheerful. Upset them, and the music will change along with their moods. How utterly brilliant and unique! I don\u2019t know of any other game that implements a dynamic sound score in this manner \u2013 certainly, nothing else on Saturn or on the Saturn\u2019s contemporary competitors. Yet another unique quality to this most impressive of titles.\r\n\r\nOne cannot talk about the NiGHTS into Dreams experience without at least mentioning the companion \u2018demo\u2019 disc, Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams. CNiD was a freebie given away to Sega fans and contained just the Spring Valley level for both Claris and Elliot to play in, with Elliot benefitting from a mirrored and re-arranged \u2013 therefore, exclusive \u2013 version of the level. However, unlike NiD, CNiD contained clock/calendar-sensitive features. Utilizing the Saturn\u2019s internal clock (another feature that the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 lacked), the game would throw on a winter or Christmas theme and the entire game would be completely re-skinned with beautiful new graphics, complete with countless little touches for the player to discover. There were also presents to be had, and these presents included extra game modes and features aplenty. And of course, the save files of NiD and CNiD would interact in neat and clever ways. CNiD completed the NiD experience and added yet more depth to this already gargantuan game. \r\n\r\n![Christmas NiGHTS](http://www.segasaturnshiro.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Link.jpg)\r\n\r\nThink you\u2019ve seen all there is to see in NiGHTS? Let the Shiro team leave you with a few missions to accomplish as you explore the many layers of NiGHTS. Every single first Mare can be infinite-linked, including Claris\u2019 Spring Valley \u2013 can you pull them all off? Can you find the broken toy car in Mystic Forest, and guide it back to its\u2019 garage? Can you breed a King Pian and add Pian Towers to your Dream? Can you break a million points in a single run? Of course you can. Go on. There are so many other clever and delightful quirks in this game that have not been mentioned. Explore and have fun!\r\n\r\nIn closing, it has been reported that Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo\u2019s grand-master designer, was quoted as saying that the one game he\u2019d wished he had worked on was NiGHTS into Dreams. Yuji Naka has confirmed that Miyamoto would occasionally ask him about his plans for a NiGHTS 2. Let that sink in for a minute.\r\n\r\nNiGHTS.\r\nA symphony of the most pure of gaming experiences.\r\nThe heart of Sega of the mid-90s.\r\nThe soul of the Saturn.\r\nLadies and gentlemen, Prepare to Fly!\r\n\r\nNiGHTS into Dreams\u2026\r\n\r\n- Peter\r\n\r\n*Zod. A reference to Shining the Holy Ark.