A Gamer's Love Letter: Nights Into DreamsSome games are near and dear to a gamer’s heart. We all know these deep connections need to be shouted from a rooftop. In this edition of A Gamer’s Love Letter, we open up J.J.’s neatly folded note on why Nights Into Dreams will always stand the test of time.
Nights into Dreams
was recently released on the PlayStation Network
for $9.99 on October 2, 2012. I have been waiting years for this! I still own the original Nights
, first released on the Sega Saturn
in 1996. Before Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
stole my life, and my heart, there was another game that held it's place. Despite being knocked down to number two in the nostalgia ranking of my memories, Nights into Dreams
is still one of the greatest games I've ever played.
When I was growing up in 1996, and the console war between Nintendo 64
, the PlayStation
, and the Sega Saturn
was first heating up, me and my brother never really owned anything aside from a Nintendo
. Then, one day, we were browsing through a gaming magazine, and splashed across the cover was a purple jester. We flipped to the article and read about Sega and the new mascot for the Saturn
The images of the 3D worlds, the colors, the environments, and the promise of flight through open 3D realms actually scared me. Seriously. I felt like games had come to such a technological advancement that I wouldn't be able to understand how to play them. Up until then, we were Nintendo
fanatics. Every game we played belonged to the Mario
banner. We never owned a Genesis
. Never liked it. Never cared to play it. So when we first heard news about the Saturn
, we were a bit skeptical, if not completely overwhelmed. One day, my brother had a choice between the N64
, and the Saturn
. Our younger cousins owned the N64
, so we weren't interested in that. Our friends and other relatives all had a PS1
, so naturally we didn't want that, either. No one we knew owned a Saturn
The Sega Saturn
was the first console we ever owned, the one gaming system that wasn't given to us by our parents, or given as a gift. It came with a normal controller and the fat, beautiful Saturn
3D controller, and Nights into Dreams
. What first shocked me about the game is that is was on a disk? I didn't understand. Everything about this system made no sense. Where were the cartridges? Anyways, my brother placed the CD into the Saturn
, booted up the game, and I watched as the screen filled with scattering cubes of light that flashed, danced, and eventually became the Saturn
symbol. I was ushered from pixels into the 32-bit era.
The cutscene that followed will forever be seared into my mind as one of the greatest moments I'd ever experienced as a gamer. First was the tell tale Sonic Team
logo, with the ever memorable whisper and chime. Then Nights appeared, gliding through the air. The colors, the visuals, and the music, all set the enchanting tone of the game. It swept me away.
The character select screen, where you can choose to be a boy named Elliot, or a girl named Claris, was absolutely beautiful. The haunting theme, with the children speaking in the background, gave me chills of excitement. It is one of the most beautiful tunes I've ever heard. When we finally got to the game play, I was lost in a cluster of colors, objects flying in and out of space, things glowing, floating, sparkling, all happening at once. Then our character followed a multicolored path to a small citadel where a floating puppet awaited. The jester hovered, spinning, dancing, waiting for us to arrive. As soon as our character touched the purple acrobat there was a burst of light, and we were now playing as Nights!
I didn't think I'd get used to the controls, or to the spellbinding new graphics, but I couldn't turn away. I couldn't stop watching. At first, I was bumping into the floor, flying into enemies, with no idea where to go, or what the objective of the game even was. So, we read the manual. There was no way we were going to unlock the secret of Nights without some proper guidance. As we took turns playing, we eventually got use to the new 32-bit landscapes, mastered Night's acrobatics, and learned to drill dash, dance, and vortex through the levels! The freedom and speed was exhilarating. I could actually feel the rush as we zipped mindlessly through the world! We played for hours, beating stage after stage. It was impossible to put down.
Nights into Dreams
main gameplay begins in each level, or mare, when the child's Ideya (which I always thought was pronounced “idea”?) is taken by cute little creatures, and locked into Ideya Captures. The point of each level is to gather blue orbs, which overload and destroy the Ideya Captures, allowing you to retrieve the stolen Ideya. Every Ideya represented an emotion, feeling, or what have you: red was courage, yellow was hope, green represented growth, blue was intelligence, and white represented purity. Once all five were reunited, the level ended and it was time for the boss battle.
There were six bosses in all, split between both Claris and Elliot: three for each, and then Wiseman the Wicked, the game's final boss. First, we blitzed through the three levels of Claris, defeating the nightmare bosses Gillwing, Gulpo, and Jackle. I have to say that Jackle is the most annoying character in the entire game, as far as battles go. As a character, he's amazing. Of all the nightmaren, Wiseman included, Jackle's the hardest, simply because he flings these giant cards and can't be injured until you knock off his cape. He is the only boss that requires you to do something before you can actually defeat him. However, he can fly back to his fallen cape, retrieve it, and then flies away before you even have a chance to attack him again. And the boss fight is timed. Yeah. Frustrating. Not to mention touching him can also injure you, which doesn't deplete a health bar, but it depletes your timer.
So, after defeating Twin Seeds, Claris' final level, and wiping Wiseman out of existence, you're treated to an ending FMV, then the credits. The song that plays, “Dreams Dreams”
, sung by the children first, and then two adults as it closes, is one of my favorite songs in a game. Ever. I felt such a powerful emotion when Nights ended, and the song began to play, that it will forever be one of the greatest endings a game has ever had. I felt both accomplishment and an unexplainable sadness. When a game makes me feel like that in the end, I know it was good.
I know his name was pronounced “REE-ala” in Nights: Journey of Dreams, but I always thought it was “Real-uh”? Anyone else with me on this, or is it just me?
We blazed through Elliot's story, dropped Puffy by grabbing her by the face and hurtling her through walls, blew up Clawz, and then were faced with the most amazing character in all video game history: Reala. The moment I saw the black and red checkered realm, Reala standing from his throne with a sweep of his arm, and “Theme of a Tragedic Revenge”
began to play...my mouth dropped. I absolutely loved everything about him! Even to this day, I have an uncontrollable fascination with jesters because of Nights and Reala.
Then, once we defeated Wiseman for the second time, went back and got all A ranks in every level, we were treated to the ending where Claris and Elliot finally meet in the real world. The credits, with the alternate version of “Dreams Dreams”
, begins to play. Greatest ending ever. The true ending was so wonderful I almost cried.
Nights into Dreams still stands as one of the best games of its generation. It was the 21st highest selling game in Japan during 1996. He/she has shown up in Sega SuperStars
, Sega SuperStar Tennis
, Sonic Riders
, Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing
, Sonic Pinball
, and several other games. Nights is a classic from the beginnings of 3D gaming. It will eternally remain one of my favorite, most nostalgic, experiences that I'll keep for a lifetime. I look forward to reliving it all over again in HD!