Nights Into Dreams…

If there is any console that I wish I was more familiar with, it has to be the Sega Saturn. While definitely a flop, I also find it to be an interesting 32-bit machine that received some neat and unique titles. Die Hard Arcade, Sega Rally Championship, Shining Force 3, and Guardian Heroes, are just some of the gems that I always wanted to get my hands on. However, one that I never got the appeal of as a kid, was Nights Into Dreams. From footage alone, it seemed like you were mainly flying in a 2D side-scroller and not much else. Despite that this is somewhat true, playing through it made me finally understand why so many consider it to be one of the best games of its generation.

SuperNights 32

Within a city called Twin Seed, you meet one of two children who are struggling due to feeling like failures. Elliot is humiliated on a basketball course after being challenged by older students, while Claris has a hard time auditioning for a musical because of her stage fright. When they go to sleep after having their tough days, they have nightmares about their difficulties. Luckily, they end up in Nightopia where they meet Nights who require their help to be set free and stop the evil Wizeman in order to return peace to their world of dreams.

After the intro cutscene, you choose to either play through Claris’s or Elliot’s story, each having three unique levels and one finale that is shared between them. Initiating any of them will have your “Ideyas” in the form of wisdom, intelligence, and purity stolen from the villain’s minions as one of the kids. With only courage left, you need to touch a tiny palace nearby in order to turn into Nights and retrieve them. It is here that the game truly begins, as you will then fly in a 2D plane where you are tasked to collect 20 blue chips and then touch a strange capture device to retrieve the Ideyas inside before looping or going back to the start to finish this portion of the area you are in. Following this, you continue to the next playfield automatically, with each location containing four such acts in total.

This is pretty easy to grasp, but there is a lot to this simple setup that makes Nights Into Dreams a memorable and fun experience, despite the ability to levitate sounding overpowering. You can drill dash for gaining some speed and take out fiends, make circles to suck up trinkets for points, and use contraptions for acrobatic purposes! There are rings to pass through in order to make combo scores, swinging of ledges for going faster, and an elevator that moves you around to name a few of the diverse ways you will travers in every stage. A big focus alongside this is to get the best rank, which is genuinely exciting to do for the added challenge, with an A being demanding to achieve. Even a C is hard in its own right.

Outside of the protagonist’s main strengths, there is not much to speak of in terms of power-ups, except for the multiplier where you get more points for doing tricks and collecting trinkets. Thankfully, by having a drill meter that only recharges when going through rings and a strict timer that can go quicker down with hits from enemies, you are always forced to keep up a high pace to reach the goal and must do it so with style. Every level even loops if you are not able to take down the capturing device after the first run, giving you plenty of possibilities to do so before the next section.

What makes this title so exhilarating is the amount of variety each stage has with new gimmicks and layouts being presented constantly, including turning you into a sledge or having you jump between trees while avoiding obstacles. It is all done from a 2D perspective, but you might fly towards the screen or have an overhead view of your avatar for some solid alterations. Sadly, the controls can be difficult to get accustomed to, due to the reaction time being brief and it being cumbersome to aim straight towards where you wish to soar. This comes from both how stiff the movements are and that you cannot exactly traverse in 360 directions. It should be noted that it is far from bad, but it does show that this instalment was one of the first to use an analogue stick.

Not to mention, restarting a level can feel harsh because of how much there is to take in and since you need at least a C rank in each of them to reach the finale, you are most likely going to redo some of them. Luckily, this is simultaneously a challenge I feel is fair due to how short every single act is. In fact, the overall length of Nights Into Dreams is nothing grand, clocking in at about three hours. Even the boss fights that each area ends with do not help, as they are merely about hitting a general weak spot. They do differ in approaches to make them intriguing, such as having you launch yourself to attack a beast inside a water unit or push a fiend backwards until it pops, but none are what I would call a threat.

Even if the controls are uncomfortable, this unique entry to the Saturn’s library brings so much diversity and creativity to a simple premise that it is hard to not have a blast and smile at all the events occurring. With inventive layouts, fun moves to pull off, and a difficulty that makes getting a good score exciting, this product is really an impressive package. A small one, but one that is as mesmerising as a big firework.

Gameplay Score: 7/10

Sweet dreams

Being set in a universe of dreams, vivid styles and imaginative designs are to be expected. This is something Nights Into Dreams gloriously delivers upon, with remarkable landscapes in the form of snowy mountains, thick jungles, construction sites, and a house of illusions just to name a few. Further enhancing these places is the amount of content they each hold, such as the peaks including slopes to slide downward, the wildernesses having trees and ruins to interact with, and a bunch of other things to witness, providing a gorgeous assortment of sights to behold in this world.

Unfortunately, there are three stages set in a forest and one in a jungle, making them feel quite similar in tone. They do have different adaptations, with even one being a strange recreation of one of the first levels, but it sadly presents a case of deja vu when there are only seven locations to visit in total. Still, with the number of manifold set pieces, colourful textures, and bewitching backgrounds, there is a ton of elements to admire here. Even the construction site goes from exploring caves to being pushed around by an elevator, which is as tense as it sounds. The bosses especially deserve a mention due to their creative takes on familiar creatures, like a clown bouncing around or a surreal fishy dragon, all of them taking place in hypnotic surroundings that are just bizarre.

Every motion is accompanied by wonderful effects, be it hearing the wind reacting to Nights flying at a high acceleration or the unique chimes from going through rings and collecting trinkets that will alter depending on your combo! It is all beautiful and satisfying to create, with the ambient audio of trains driving, kids chatting, and equivalent ones, adding to the comfortable atmosphere this game wishes to provide its player with.

The music is something I find incredibly hard to summarize as it includes a magnificent variety of pieces and genres that are all uplifting, such as orchestral and jazz! Every melody possesses diverse buildups and notes, with the instruments utilized being just as outstanding. Flutes, piano, and trumpets, all have distinct emotions attached to them that fit the respective areas they are being played in, with the forest containing a more mysterious vibe due to lower tones being a favourite example of mine. 

However, all of the compositions have a bombastic amount of rhythms thanks to amazing drums, with the only exception being the main theme, as it is calm and touching with heartwarming vocals! Even this one gets remade versions of in the plenty that focuses on making the atmosphere exhilarate alongside this project’s overall pace. Finally, the boss fights come with their own tense tracks to showcase how dangerous they are and are all memorable. To put it short; the developers absolutely captured the magic of being trapped in a wonderland.

Presentation Score: 9/10

Worth visiting on special occasions

Finishing both stories rewards you with a secret ending cutscene, though simply playing the levels alone gives a fantastic adrenaline rush! Leaderboards in the HD edition do help too, but getting high ranks is quite the task and will require tons of attempts, making it an exciting challenge to take on in itself! Speaking of this adaptation, you can choose to play through the campaigns in either classic mode or remastered. The latter provides widescreen, smoother models, and general updates to the presentation, with the former being true to its original look. Besides the stunning polish, I also intend to choose the modern take for the additional cute unlockables that include some cosmetic changes depending on when you play this instalment!

Although, the Nightopian collection that showcases how many of them you found is merely there with no real reason other than bragging rights. Exploration could be argued for making this a neat form of replay value, but the stages do not contain grand enough layouts for this to be anything to write home about. I also do miss the minor multiplayer function from the Saturn edition that had you fighting one on one, but it is not a big loss due to the core focus of this project being on blasting through and beating your own score! I just wish the rest of the options were similarly entertaining.

Extra Score: 7/10


I can definitely see why Nights Into Dreams turned into a cult classic, as it is an admirable arcade title with tons of variety and creativity to offer, both in its presentation and its levels’ structures. Yet, it is also simple to pick up and play, while also providing a satisfying difficulty for anyone getting sucked in. It can feel light on content and only perfecting my runs where my cup of tea, but the core design is thrilling and always a delight to revisit, even if the controls could have been smoother. An immersive game for anyone enjoying the idea of soaring through imaginative landscapes at high speed, and is certainly worth spending an evening on.


Published by slionr

A guy who likes to talk about video games and loves tabletop gaming. Writer for, you can always follow me on twitter @GSlionr if you ever want the latest article from me :)

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