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In August. Sega will be releasing a game that it hopes will provide the Saturn with the same magic (sales magic, that is) that Sonic the Hedgehog provided for the Genesis: NiGHTS. Created by the same development team that brought us Sonic, NiGHTS is their newest ''3-D" flight/action title that will draw the attention of many.

The Saturn is facing tough competition on all sides from the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64. Sega needed a game that will be their killer app of killer apps-a game that will cause such excitement and such a following that Saturns will be rolling off the store shelves and into consumers' waiting hands.

So they looked to Yuji Naka and the rest of the Japan-based Sonic Team, the original designers of Sonic 1-3 and Sonic and Knuckles. All were great hits for the 16-Bit Genesis, and all can arguably be called [along with some EA Sports titles) the games that put the Genesis on the map of success.

Now that the game is finished, Sega will wait with nervous anticipation to see how well the public will receive it. Why nervousness? Well, it will be one of the top two games (the other being Sonic Extreme) in 1996 in which Sega will be investing very heavily. Marketing, PR, print ads, television commercials...you will see it all. They are really counting on this game's success.

You couldn't tell this by Sega's outward appearance, however. They are showing complete confidence in the product.

A press release by Sega stated that when NiGHTS was first unveiled, it was a "nightmare on Sony Street and bedtime for Mario's N64." Of course, it is not uncharacteristic for Sega to attack its competitors (as the other guys do to Sega), but an outright challenge to the new 3-D 64-Bit Mario? WelL.Nintendo and all the other game players who played both games might tell Sega something different Tom Kalinske, president and CEO of Sega of America, isn't worried one bit. He once said. "NiGHTS is like nothing anyone has ever seen before on the Sega Saturn or any other next-generation platform. We are completely convinced that this title will do for the Sega Saturn what Sonic the Hedgehog did for the Genesis."

That should bring joy to their Japanese stockholders' lives, but will the game live up to expectations?

The graphics and music are definitely not in question. NiGHTS showcases gorgeous and detailed scenery. The backgrounds are a bundle of bright colors. The levels are as imaginative as they are fascinating. Throughout the game, your sense of reality will be suspended as you fly around the dream-like environment backed by gentle and soothing tunes.

The flight aspect is NiGHTS' biggest seller. Like Sonic's (albeit a bit hokeyj "blast processing," speed is key. Claris and Elliot, the two children you play as, will fly loops and spins at dizzying velocities. You won't find any slowdown or break-up here.

Although the worlds are vast and look three-dimensional, you'll find that you can only fly in two dimensions. Most of the time, you'll be flying on a track in a flat plane of some sort. It may be a top-down view, or more commonly, a side view. Sometimes, the levels will switch to a forward-scrolling motion, but you'll never find yourself flying in total freedom.

This was done on purpose, as the creators wanted the emphasis placed on gameplay and speed, not flashy 3-D open space. The general thought was that creating a high-speed platform-style game in an open space would be disorienting to the player and detract from gameplay. The designers, therefore, concentrated their efforts in making sure the flight was as smooth and realistic as possible. To aid with this task, a special 3-D analog controller (see sidebar) will be bundled with NiGHTS for a precision feel. The only time you'll find real 3-D play, however, is when you lose the power of flight and find yourself hoofing around by foot. Only then will you find total freedom to move around the large worlds.

So how exactly is it that children are flying around in a dream world? The story starts out when Elliot and Claris return to their own homes to retire for the evening. A creature called a Nightopian escapes from the world of Nightopia, the realm where dreams are dreamt. This Nightopian explains to the two children that an evil being named Wizeman the Wicked is in the process of stealing precious dream energy from sleeping humans to gain the power needed to leave the subconscious and enter the world of the waking. He's obviously up to no good and must be stopped. Enter the two kids.

Both Elliot and Claris have separate levels (four each) to play. When you pick one character, you will enter his or her first respective dream world as that person. Upon arrival, enemies will immediately swoop down and steal four out of five of your dream energies. The fifth is the dream energy of Bravery, which is represented by a red ball called an Ideya. This Ideya will give you the power of NiGHTS, an aerial acrobat. Your job is to use this ability to retake your other four Ideyas (Purity, Wisdom, Hope and Intelligence).

The stolen Ideyas are placed in the Wizeman's contraptions called the Ideya Captures. You can call upon NiGHTS to fly around and capture blue chips, which are the keys to unlocking these Captures. These chips, and all other items, can be gathered by running into or looping around them (called paralooping). If you gather 20 chips, you can bring them to the Capture to get your Ideya back. Bring the Ideya back to the beginning of the stage, and you can start on the next track to retrieve the next stolen Ideya. Once you are back in possession of all five, you have finished the stage and will face a Boss monster.

These Bosses are all products of some pretty twisted imaginations. They all have to be defeated in a different and unique way. For example, one Boss is a fat opera singer named Puffy. You must bounce her around a tunnel, smashing her through weakened walls. If you can send her all the way to the end, you have sent her to her demise. After defeating the Bosses, you then travel to new dream worlds.

Besides the one-player game, an interesting Two-player Mode is included. Dogfighting takes on new meaning as the two players Cone plays the role of NiGHTS, the other Reala, a dark counterpart of NiGHTS) duke it out in dreamworld. To "kill" the opponent, you must either run into him at top speed or successfully paraloop (again, perform an aerial loop around) him.

The Sonic Team wanted players to take a different approach to beating the game. It had an appeal for those who aren't heavy gamers and want to zip through to the end. Anyone can do this, though you'll find yourself playing a very short game. Everyone else who wants to see everything NiGHTS has to offer has to shoot for a high score (see sidebar Making the Grade). At the end of each stage, you'll be given a letter grade of A-F that indicates how well and how fast you finished each level. It's rather difficult to get all A's, but the game was designed like that intentionally.

The creators were hoping to add more replay value by forcing players to keep aiming for higher and higher grades to see some of the secrets in the game.

Will this formula work? For Sega's sake, it had better. Otherwise NiGHTS will be a short ride. Some of those secrets that can be found in the game include a hidden track on each level. For example, on one particular stage, there is a water fountain. By sitting on it, you'll be launched onto a brand-new secret track. Also, each character's fourth level can only be accessed by getting C's or better in his/her first three levels. If you can manage straight A's, you can be witness to a bonus ending. Perhaps school teachers can learn something from NiGHTS on how to motivate students to get better grades.

It will be interesting to see how Sega will be making the public aware of the game. It's a new formula with new characters that lacks the name recognition other 32- and 64-Bit mascots enjoy. Marketing NiGHTS will be as important as it will be challenging for Sega.

For a detailed strategy session on this enchanting game, you can look to a future issue of EGIVF for help and cool tips. As well, you can get the Review Crew's comments on NiGHTS in this issue of EGM.

Continue: Panzer Dragoon 2 (arcade/action)

People say:

8.0

NiGHTS is a pretty cool game. The graphic push the Saturn to the limit with the transparency effects and sharp texture-mapped graphics. They really are amazing-fitting the style of the game well. The controller was absolutely perfect for the game and the music was surreal. The levels are big even though l wish 1 could really go anywhere instead of being on a "track" that simply rotates around in the 3-D world. I found that having to retrieve five crystals in the same world got to be annoying. I can't say that NiGHTS puts "Mario's N64 to bed," as Sega said in a release, but it is a great game with a cast of interesting characters.

8.5

Just keep saying to yourself, "It's not supposed to be a 3-D game, it's not supposed to be a 3-D game," and you will enjoy NiCHTS. This game has the Sonic feel, with fewer enemies. The sensation of flight and speed is great. The levels are creatively drawn and are rich in detail and color. Those of you who like playing a game as quickly as possible just to get to the end will be disappointed with NiCHTS, being that only eight levels are available to play. Those of you who must find every secret and play for high scores will love NiCHTS. I would have liked to have seen more levels and a greater variety of them.

8.0

Sega has hyped the heck out of this game, and some have gone as far as to label it a "Mario killer," but I was a bit disappointed when I finally played it. Sure, NiCHTS' graphics are nuke, and the levels are richly detailed (so detailed, in fact, that the Saturn is unable to extend them very far into the background). But what NiGHTS boils down to is a side-scrolling platform game-without the platforms. Instead, players fly along a track most of the time, collecting gems and avoiding a surprisingly small number of enemies. Still, players have a lot of room to maneuver along their flight paths, and the levels are fun to explore.

7.5

NiGHTS has been building some hefty hype over its use of the new Sega controller and its fast-moving gameplay. After playing, I felt that the game seemed only half-developed and had a great difficulty holding my attention for long. The ability to select different paths all the way through the game does add something to this title, but I was expecting more. With other games out there like Clockwork Knight 2 and Panzer Dragoon II, Knights just falls short in the playability and graphical ends, not utilizing Sega's total capabilities. It's not a bad game, but It's just not my style of fun.

Nights rating

Nights system requirements:SystemP-200.

Systems: Win9x Windows 9x, Windows 2000 WinXPWindows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.

Game modes: Nights supports single modeSingle game mode

2016-09-07 Nights game added.

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