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Monday, July 10, 2017

21 years ago iconic NiGHTS into dreams SEGA Saturn game was born...

On the 5th July of 1996, SEGA releases a new concept in gaming - NiGHTS into Dreams on their SEGA Saturn console.

NiGHTS was developed by their Sonic Team, produced by lead programmer Yuji Naka, and character designer Naoto Ōshima who also directed the game.

The game's central element is flight using the latest 3D graphics but combined with 2D and 3D gameplay. In 1996 it was the top-selling game for SEGA Saturn. It was also the 21st highest selling game in Japan for that year. NiGHTS has appeared in many greatest games lists since then.

SEGA approached game design on their Saturn console in a complete new way to previous 2D console games. In America and Europe, the Genesis stood its ground against the SNES largely thanks to the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog. As the 16-bit era was winding down and the 32-bit era was beginning, it made sense to promote Sonic as the main gaming character as much as possible. But SEGA didn't, instead the Sonic Team developed NiGHTS into Dreams an entirely different game merging 2D and 3D gaming for the first time.

The NiGHTS story focus is on two young children named Claris Sinclair and Elliot Edwards from the town of Twin Seeds. During the course of their days they endure humiliating failures; Elliott is picked on during a game of basketball, while Claire fails a musical audition, but at night they dream of a land known as Nightopia.

It suffers from the tyrannical rule of Wizeman the Wicked, who is challenged by NiGHTS, a purple jester, and of course, hero of the game. NiGHTS has been imprisoned, but Claris and Elliot both possess the Red Ideya of Courage. Only they have the power to free NiGHTS and they work together to destroy the boss Wizeman.

With seven stages: three as Elliot (Splash Garden, Stick Canyon and Frozen Bell), three as Claris (Spring Valley Soft Museum and Mystic Forest). The final stage (Twin Seeds) which is identical as both characters, it's the only time where the children actually interact with each other. When you begin a stage, you take on the role of Claris or Elliot.

Each stage is comprised of four Mares (paths). You start each Mare, with 120 seconds to collect 20 blue-colored coin dots. Then place them in the Ideya Cage located in the middle of each stage. You then have to return to the palace at the beginning of each Mare. Rarely difficult there's lots of time to complete each stage, instead the harder task is getting the best score.

Each object you collect, builds up combos (links), each increases your points, as you pick up more objects in turn. Flying through rings restores your (dash) power adding to your link total. Plus, if you perform a loop-the-loop this is called a (paraloop). Creating a vortex automatically collecting all items in that area, including objects normally out of your reach.

The mere act of playing the game is disorienting at first. Movement is along a 2D plane in a 3D world, with rails often move in and out of the scenery and changing direction without warning. See very far ahead in any direction is difficult, with most levels having a large vertical space, this makes it easy to miss parts of the scenery. Many stage areas the view changes completely, switching to an overhead perspective, or putting you in roller coaster - type situations in this case you're automatically propelled forward.

Eventually you learn where the perspectives shift and how the camera moves. You learn the placement of all of the orbs and all of the rings, and figure out the most efficient ways to build the highest links. In time, a confusing, perplexing mess of a game becomes an incredibly addictive challenge to perfect and control.

Zooming through gorgeously detailed stages with fab music, twirling, swirling and looping while performing acrobatics with ease, NiGHTS is a games that's incredibly fun to play, regardless of any greater goals.

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