Inside Pulse 12

The Saturn: Sega’s Greatest Console (Part 5)

System Spotlight: Saturn Controllers

Saturn Feature Index:
– Part 1
– Part 2
– Part 3
– Part 4
– Part 5

Many would argue that one of the Saturn’s finest aspects was its controllers. The basic controller was the Final Evolution of the Mega Drive/Genesis pad; it took the overall shape of the 16-bit version, added an extra row of three buttons (in the style of the special-edition Six-Button Pad), shrunk the design slightly, and added two shoulder buttons, while keeping the distinctive Sega 8-way D-Pad intact. This not only gave the pad a high level of precision, but the presence of all six buttons on the face meant that gamers who had been crying out for a pad to give them the same comforts as their arcade sticks would finally be appeased. However, the initial reaction to the pad in its original, bundled-with-the-machine form, was not favorable. In a reverse of the problems Microsoft had with the X-Box controller, gamers complained that the original pad was too small. As a result, Sega released a newer, larger version that quickly became the standard.

One of the Saturn’s other best-known controllers is the 3D Analog Pad that shipped with NiGHTS Into Dreams. Looking at it now, it’s easy to see how the design of the pad could be considered a prototype for the Dreamcast controller. And indeed, based on the overwhelmingly positive reception for analog controllers in general at the time (the N64’s analog stick launched nearly at the same time, but still drew praise from many players when it arrived), as well as the durability and ergonomics of the pad itself, and it’s not hard to see why Sega chose that design to model the default controller for their next machine on. Whilst the pad was designed primarily for use with NiGHTS, its versatility came to the fore when code houses started making use of the function for other games. Manx TT Superbike is just one example, where the analog pad was used to give the sort of precise racing-game experience that had previously only been possible with steering wheel add-ons. The influences of this pad can still be seen today: One need only compare the X-Box pad to the Saturn’s analog one to see the obvious R&D debt that Microsoft owe Sega.

And, of course, there is the Arcade Stick. Lauded even now as THE joystick for fighting games. Distinctive, with its six buttons facing, and the short-stick-with-knob-on (yes, just like a Wizard’s Staff…), it was an exact replica of the stick used in many arcades; particularly, it was the same layout used for the games that were ported to the Saturn, thus allowing gamers to practice, on their arcade-perfect conversions, without having to make allowances for using a different controller at home.

All in all, the Saturn managed to pack a whole lot of controller advancement into its all-too-brief lifespan. And in so doing, it laid the foundations for a generation of new controllers.

– Misha



PANZER DRAGOON TRILOGY

When the first Panzer Dragoon came out, it was visually impressive, both as a 3D Saturn title and in general. While a touch nondescript at times, it was worlds away from what many gamers were used to from consoles, and between the incredibly solid visuals and the style Sega managed to cram onto the disc, it was visually pleasing to play the game. But it wasn’t just style with no substance, make no mistake; PD revolutionized the on-rails shooter. PD changed the spray and pray gameplay shooters tended to exhibit by introducing the lock-on shot: basically, you aim in the general direction of a monster or ship or whatever, and targets pop up on it. When you’ve hit your target limit, you let fly with multiple shots all at once instead of mashing the shot button. It’s a simple innovation, but with that change, PD became less about spam shooting and more about thoughtful targeting. It also improved the possibilities for such games; by changing the play dynamics, more complex concepts could be fitted into what was essentially a simple genre. Bottom line: games like Rez that you all love, while great, most likely wouldn’t even EXIST without the PD Trilogy. The first two titles are similar games, though PD Zwei (the second title) is far more in depth, featuring more detailed graphics, the “Berserk” meter (think of it as a super bomb), multiple level paths, and the ability to evolve your dragon into different forms. All told, Zwei was basically a good game becoming even better. The third title, Panzer Dragoon Saga, however, was where things got REALLY interesting. Take the gameplay mechanics the series was known for, and turn it into a FOUR DISC RPG. Pretty neat, eh? Aside from being the best looking of the three titles, PDS was far more storyline-focused, and featured more exposition into the nature of things than in prior titles. There were also all sorts of novel RPG-esque elements crammed into the game, like being able to explore freely on dragonback and bonding with your dragon to enhance its performance, which were simultaneously surprising and highly welcome. Perhaps most interesting of all were the combat mechanics, which blended the concepts of the PD universe with real time/turn based combat dynamics, resulting in a game experience unlike any other. The combat was a simple affair to understand, but with other elements like sky position (your location in the sky dictates how much damage you give and receive) and the ability to transform your dragon on the fly, you were definitely in for an innovative experience. Unfortunately, there were only like five copies of the game pressed for American release, so finding it for under $100 is practically impossible, but it’s well worth it, as it’s one of Sega’s greatest titles ever. That the franchise lives on beyond the death of the Saturn is proof enough honestly, of how truly great Panzer Dragoon truly is.

Mark B.




GUARDIAN HEROES

Let me just quickly state this is my favorite game of all time. Not Pokemon. Not Valkyrie Profile. Not Super Street Fighter 2. Not Sakura Wars. Not Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. Not Ikaruga. Nope. It’s this baby right here.

I picked up Guardian Heroes the same day I picked up my Saturn, in June of 1996, that summer between High School and College for me. I grabbed a few games: D, Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, Mystara/Blazing Heroes, and then out of the corner of my eye I saw this other game that I’d never heard of. And I considered myself an astute gamer. After all I read all the mags. (Ah the arrogance of our teenager years, eh?) I’d never seen EGM or GamePro mention this game. And me always being curious about games I had never heard of or read about, picked it up. This curiosity lead me to both Shining Forces, to Lunar and Popful mail, to Y’s. And that innate spider-sense was tingling yet again. The cover artwork was awful. But the back? It looked really interesting. Like a cross between Street Fighter and a Royal Rumble game. Six players at once in beat ’em up matches? I couldn’t even do that in the Wrestlemania game I was about to buy! AND there was a full length game about a giant Undead warrior sacking a human kingdom… and that was the good guy? I was so there! I pulled out a wad of cash and there we were. I had my sports game, my RPG, my spooky first person point and click game and my… I wasn’t sure. My mystery game. This should last me all summer I thought. Little did I know my entire summer of gaming would be spent playing Guardian Heroes and little else. I didn’t even touch D until college. And the others? Well, they got used a bit, but Wrestlemania was a 5th rate game compared to the fun my unsuspecting friends and I were to have with Guardian Heroes and our little wrestling federation we made with the dozens of playable characters on this game.

Guardian Heroes is a combination of so many genres. You have the Role Playing game in the fact you get to level up at the end of each chapter and spend points on raising your abilities. You have the Fighting Game aspects in which you can use fighting game style attacks instead of cycling through a menu. And of course the six player battle royal action. You had the 2D side scrolling action that you could find in Contra or Castlevania or any of a number of old school awesome games. But most of all, it reminded me of the very addicting (To the point where I bought the actual arcade console) Capcom Dungeons and Dragons game. In fact, that is probably the best way to describe it to those of you who have never played Guardian Heroes. Think a home version of Dungeons and Dragons: The Arcade Game but BETTER. (Of course there is a home version of that game. Only for the Sega Saturn of course.)

The story of Guardian Heroes is about 5 heroes trying to save their Kingdom from an evil Mage named Kanon. These heroes are Han, the Blue Knight; Randy, the apprentice wizard with his sidekick Nando, the bunny that turns into a fireball; Nicole, the smart mouthed princess; Ginjirou, the wise and lightening fast Ninja; and Serena, the leader of Kanon’s red knights and actually the deposed Princess of the original Royal Family. (Note that Serena is not playable until you beat the game for the first time). Each character has their own specialty, but my favorite is Randy for he has the most magic, a super fast attack, and the bunny, who was my Pikachu before there was a Pikachu.

The heroes find a magical sword that they think might aid them against Kanon. Unknowingly, the blade summons the Golden Undead Warrior, a hero prophesized to save the kingdom in its darkest hour. Together, these now SIX warriors battle through 30 stages and MULTIPLE endings depending on what path your characters take. It’s simply incredible. There’s even incentive to cover every ending and path, for each path has characters you can only find on them. Characters that once you beat, are unlockable in the player vs player arena mode!

Playing the game has so many options, I hope I don’t forget any. The Golden Undead Warrior adds an extra level of strategy to the game. You can set him on anything from “Stand there like a rock” to “HULK SMASH!” The fact you have control over his AI really changes how the game flows. Personally, I never turn him on unless there’s a boss fight. That way I get all the experience from killing the bad guys, and then at a boss fight, I can sit back, relax and watch crazy boy do all the work until it’s ready to die, then I swoop in for the kill and collect all those yummy XP. And if the fact you can control the Golden Undead Warrior’s setting to change the difficulty level doesn’t impress you, there are also three difficultly levels to play with. Easy is a cakewalk and gives you 99 lives, but you can’t unlock any characters that you defeat for Arena Mode.

Quite possibly my favorite aspect of the game is the fact there are three fields you can fight on. By fields I mean planes. There is a layer closest to the screen, a middle layer, and one all the way in the back. It gives the game a 3D field, as you can be battling in the back, while your friend is up front. This also gives you an extra level of strategy to the game, from moving to a different plane to avoid an attack, to splitting up enemy forces for a two pronged (three if you have a friend, FOUR if it is a stage with Serena as an NPC) attack on the bad guys. No other game has ever touched on this type of control scheme, and it’s a shame, because it is amazing. Simply amazing.

And then there is the music. My god is the soundtrack heavenly. You can stick the game disc in your CD player and it will run through all the tracks. I burned a copy of just the music and I actually have it in my car. Almost a decade later, I still listen to it and it gets the blood pumping and fills me with nostalgia. Especially that opening theme. One of the greatest tracks ever in a video game. I defy anyone to listen to that and not go, “Wow, that’s awesome.”

Yes friends, Guardian Heroes has it all. It can not be classified by one genre, as it encompasses so many. It transcends those genres. It does everything RIGHT. There are no crappy control problems. No ugly graphics. No terrible music or sound effects. No boring plot with characters that never really develop. No. This game has no flaw. NONE. It gets everything right. And it goes above and beyond just any old game by loading itself up with extras. The Vs Arena mode alone makes the game double in value. What other game besides Guardian Heroes on the Sega Saturn lets SIX people play against each other in a Wrestling/Street Fighter style gameâ┚¬Â¦all at once! There’s the unlockable characters, the half a dozen endings, and 30 different levels. The music, the characters, the gameplay, the fireball bunny, the constant intricacies in the story, and the ability to play this game over and over and to never grow sick of it.

Reviewers and VG journalists often talk about a system seller. Games like Halo for the Xbox, Final Fantasy 7 (ugh) for the PSX, Bonk for the Turbo-Grafx, Lunar and Snatcher for the Sega CD, and so on. But the problem is those games are often niche and limited. I hate FPS games, so why would I buy an Xbox just for that? Final Fantasy to me is a horrible game plot wise with 2-D characters and boring combat sequences but jaw dropping graphics and music for its day. Lunar? I can get it for the PSX for cheaper than the Sega CD version and it’s got better animations. But Guardian Heroes? It appeals to fans of so many different genres, it’s a catch-all game. This is truly that “If you only own one game for a system, make it this one” game. It’s the first game I ever owned for the Sega Saturn, and it will be the last. It’s a true masterpiece and I beseech everyone reading this to try it, to savor it; to fall in love with this game like so many millions before you have. It might not be your favorite game in the world, but it will be one you can’t help but call great.

And the less said about that failed abortion known as Advance Guardian Heroes for the GBA… the better.

– Alex Lucard.



ASTAL

The story begins when the Goddess Antowas created the world known as Quartalia. She constructed the world out of a multitude of gems. Gems for the land, gems for sea, and gems for pretty much everything else. Including the humans! Out of a green jewel, Antowas created Leda, a girl who had the power to create life. Out of a red jewel, Antowas created Astal, a boy who had the power to… um… kick the living crap out of anything that moves. He was pretty much Leda’s bodyguard, and he took his job very, VERY seriously. Such as chucking boulders at snails that got within ten yards of her. Still, the reckless youth and charming lass developed quite a bond between each other, and were always together… until a giant douche demon by the name of Jerado decided to go and muck everything up. He created his own human by the name of Geist out of a black jewel, and sent him to capture Leda. Geist did as he was ordered, and Astal chased after him with a fierceness no one could comprehend. Astal practically tore the planet apart in saving the poor girl, and ended up cracking the ocean in the process. Astal saved Leda, but the Goddess Antowas was INCREDIBLY pissed off about the whole ordeal. She decided to banish Astal from the planet by chaining him to an asteroid, but before he left, Leda gave him the green jewel she possessed. Later, Antowas defeated the evil Jerado and sealed him away. Of course everyone conveniently forgot about Geist, who hung in the shadows until the time was right. Antowas fell back into a deep sleep, and Geist seized the moment capturing Leda AGAIN. Astal saw this, and with his rage broke free from his eternal prison. Returning to Quartalia, however, he found the world was slowly falling under Jerado’s control without the watchful eye of Antowas. The once peaceful creatures had transformed into hideous beasts. And partway into his journey, he frees a captured bird that for some reason won’t stop following him. So now it is up to Astal and his new companion to save his home, as well as find the balance to his own power. Thus begins one of the first, and best, 2D platform games the Saturn had to offer us. As you can see in the story, the crux of Astal’s abilities came in the form of pounding the crap out of things. He could smack baddies all across the screen, as well as lifting incredibly heavy objects and tossing them with ease. He also possessed a Kirby-like ability to inhale deeply and blow winds up to 150 MPH, dealing with any enemy in his path. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game is the bird companion you run into during the first stage. As you play, you’ll accumulate “karma points”. You can use those karma points to make your bird do various things, including attacking enemies and fetching health power-ups / extra lives. You also have the option of playing a two-player game with the bird as the second character. The main draws of the game, however, are the stunning visuals. The character sprites were top notch for its time, and animated incredibly well. The backgrounds were BEAUTIFUL. They were clear, shiny, and consisted of a myriad of colors. Walking through those stages was akin to walking through several works of art. The bosses also were built to take advantage of Astal’s abilities. Boss on fire? Blow air to put him out! Boss charging at you full speed? Pick him up mid-charge and chuck him across the screen! Astal captured and can’t move? Have the BIRD SMACK THE BOSS AROUND!!! This was a platform game that just SCREAMED to be played. And it still screams to be played today. YA-TAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Alex Williams




GRANDIA

By the same team that brought us Lunar, ESP Software gave us yet another game about growing up, and finding maturity and wisdom through life’s experiences. However, with Grandia, we received a completely different take on this theme. Where Lunar was a game about developing romantic relationships and focused on several couples, Grandia focused more on the concept of making friends throughout your life and how they give you strength, a shoulder to cry on, and help you to become a better person. There is only one romantic relationship in this game, that of Justin (the main character) and Feena, and it is one of the best developed relationships in any video game. Unlike Luna and Alex who have the perfect seamless relationship where they are in love from day one, and their true wonderful perfect love saves the world, Justin and Feena’s relationship is far more realistic. They start off as acquaintances, become friends, get to know each other, begin to open up and reveal intimate aspects of themselves, and then eventually become lovers. The characters are so much more developed than in Lunar too. Each character is flawed and has a personality that isn’t ‘perfect’. Justin is cocky, arrogant, and often gets his friends into trouble with his rash behavior. He is cowardly sometimes, and truly acts like a teenager, full of the conflicting emotions and actions that one is filled with while in that age bracket. Same with all of the other characters that populate Grandia. Sue is a preteen and thus is immature, pouts, and reacts like a small child would to these events around her. Well, how a small child with magic powers and a strange mystical animal for a pet would react, but you get my point. But it’s the engine of Grandia that makes the game so fantastic. Grandia used an engine that combined real time combat along with turn based strategic combat. In Grandia when a battle (None of which are random btw, thank god) happens, your characters and their opponents are all based on a battle map featuring various topography. At the top of the screen is a bar that shows their charge time. When a character’s icon reaches the first checkpoint of a bar, you can choose their action, and when it reaches the second, they act on it. Things to take into consideration are the distances they are away from you, what type of weapon or spell you have and how long of a time that particular action will take to get you from the first check point to the second. Also of note is certain attacks can cancel your opponents, sending them back to the very beginning of the bar. But my favorite aspect? The way experience is handled. Everything has experience. You use a sword, you get sword experience. You use a fire spell, you get fire experience. And the more you use it, the stronger your character gets. It’s wonderful. Grandia was the first game you could truly customize a character however you wanted. I really enjoyed this and it increased the replay value several fold for me. Grandia was sadly (like many, many games), one of those RPG’s that made the Saturn the best system of all time for this genre of gaming, but remained solely on Japanese shores, until an inferior port was brought over to the PSX in 1999-2000. No matter what system you play it on, it’s a game that helped redefine the entire genre.

Alex Lucard




NIGHTS INTO DREAMS

Oh my anticipation. My excitement. I had been waiting for months. Since the very second it was announced. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on what people were calling Yuji Naka’s and Sonic Team’s opus. It was my need. My obsession. And finally on September 1st 1996, I had it. I finally had it. I finally got my grubby gaming hands on the majesty that is NiGHTS Into Dreams.

Ya know that “new videogame smell”? The breeze that comes from a freshly broken seal as you open up the jewel case? That smell was especially mystifying for NiGHTS, or so my heightened senses lead me to believe. I bought the box set that came with the new 3D Analog Pad and simply seeing the new controller was a marvel in of itself. Forget the feel of the innovative but awkward N64 controller; THIS is what a 3D pad should feel like. And I just knew that a controller this perfect and intuitive packaged in along with a game must mean that there’s something equally special about the actual game. Plus the box art was awesome and all dreamy-like. I even loved the instruction manual. Every single thing about seeing, obtaining, and opening NiGHTS Into Dreams was exciting and brilliant in some way.

So with a little bit of drool falling from my lower lip, I popped the disc into my Saturn and prepared for the ride of my life. I started playing and wow, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe how… uh, confused I was. What the blood clot am I supposed to be doing here? There were rings to fly through, enemies to destroy, crystals all over the place, obstacles everywhere, and a clock timer ticking time away. A bit overwhelming at first but thankfully I got the hang of things. As a matter of fact, once I caught on the game was a snap. But it was just as quick that I got used to the smooth control and intuitive gameplay that it was all over. Yes, I mean over as in DONE. That was it. Seven levels, a few bosses and the trip had ended. My disappointment was devastating. I remember beating NiGHTS and just feeling… empty. Like I had gotten gypped. Where was my masterpiece? I’d just beaten what many would come to consider the greatest game ever made… and I just didn’t get it.


“Slobbering lunatic fans the world over see it as gaming perfected.”

That was what my first play-through was like with NiGHTS Into Dreams. And looking back, I wasn’t alone. Others within the gaming industry felt similar. At the time of its release, NiGHTS just didn’t attain the mass market success of its greatest rival during that generation, Super Mario 64. Reviewers back then, outside dedicated Saturn magazines and websites, handed the game respectable to moderate scores. Comments ran the gauntlet of, “I don’t get it. What’s the point of the game? Why is it so short?”, or “Great first effort by Yuji Naka, but why isn’t his first Saturn game Sonic The Hedgehog?”, and “Yeah it’s pretty good, but Super Mario 64 rocks my world ten ways to Tuesday.” Yup, same things I was thinking. But ah, ask anyone today? Complete revisionist history. NiGHTS is all but universally regarded as an all-time classic. We’ve got hardcore cult followings. We’ve got fan sites out the wah-zoo. We’ve got never ending online petitions for a sequel. We’ve got game journalists unable even to conduct an interview with Yuji Naka without subtlety alluding to or all out blatantly begging for another edition of the game. Slobbering lunatic fans the world over see it as gaming perfected. It’s recognized and celebrated on such a mass level that it’s just overwhelming.

So what was it that I and several others were missing back then? I can’t speak for everyone else. But where I had gone wrong was that I simply PLAYED the game. To just turn it on, blaze through the levels, and finish it all in record time was to miss the whole point. NiGHTS was to be experienced. One had to slow down and savor it. It wasn’t about beating the game; it was about beating your best scores. It was about getting wrapped up in the superb level design, imaginative character design, and captivating world. It was about the sensation of flight and the fun of experiencing its freedom. I was expecting the intense, instant gratification of a “Sonic The Hedgehog”. What I actually got was so much more.

What I got was a classic, memorable, enchanting story. Elliot Edwards and Claris Sinclair are two children living in the city of Twin Seeds who have both recently gone through a personal life crisis and as a result are plagued by nightmares. Their dreams bring them into the world of Nightopia where they get caught up in events much larger than their own insecurities. An evil creature known as Wizeman the Wicked is amassing dream energy, called “Ideya”, to gain complete control of the dream world. All is not lost, as the kids come in contact with a Nightmaren (nightmare-dweller) who has sided with all that is good and rebelled against the tyranny of Wizeman. His name? NiGHTS. Because Elliot and Claris possess the one type of Ideya that Wizeman can not steal, that of bravery, the children are able to team up with NiGHTS to recover the stolen Ideya, defeat the remaining loyal Nightmarens, save the world of Nightopia, and gain release from their own nightmares. Inspired, original, and imaginative, the narrative here is one of the reasons why I love this game so. The world of NiGHTS Into Dreams grabs hold of your heart and imagination and then never let you go.

What I got was breathtaking graphics. Aside from some minor clipping issues, this is the most “beautiful” game on Sega Saturn. A rainbow of brilliant, flashy color fills the screen with bustling activity comprising what is some of the most gorgeous level design you’ll have ever seen. Bursting with atmosphere, the thought and planning that has gone into every aspect of each fully 3D world is just wonderful to behold. And a visual departure from the bright happiness that is this game’s main stages is the appropriately disturbing boss battles. From an enormous beach ball colored bouncing balloon opera singing rabbit to a boss based on playing cards that looks like a maniacal Joker from the deck, each Nightmaren Dream Boss is an imaginative graphical splendor. Fighting these ingenious abominations, you truly feel like you’re trapped in a twisted nightmare. Plus NiGHTS himself is a marvel to behold as he flips, spins, loop-de-loops and zips around the screen with such beautiful ease that it needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

What I got was excellent music and sound. There’s just something special about this game’s soundtrack. With orchestrations befitting a dream world, NiGHTS’s music is serene yet exciting evoking happiness and wonder in the player. Hardly could there be a better fit for the images coming across your screen than the mystifying compositions this game offers.

What I got was tight, responsive control and gameplay honed to perfection. Ground movement with Claris or Elliot is in full 3D, with the ability to manipulate the camera to see a variety of angles as in most platformers. The real meat of gameplay, however, takes place in 2.5D flight and this is where the game really shines. A simple control scheme allows NiGHTS to link together and perform over 50 acrobatic maneuvers. In no small thanks to the Saturn’s analog controller, movement is so natural and fluid that this is the attribute fans most exalt when trying to convey the greatness of this game. To achieve the goal of recovering Wizeman’s stolen Ideya NiGHTS must collect 20 blue chips and deliver them to the “Ideya Capture”, which will then overload and release the orb it holds. After destroying four Captures, NiGHTS is then transported to a boss fight against one of Wizeman’s Nightmaren henchmen. A huge part of gameplay is the grading and points system. Simply, the more points you earn the higher your grade for the stage. One does not need to earn the highest grade possible to progress through the levels (although earning all “A” grades will slightly alter the ending), but the true fun comes in mastering NiGHTS various moves and techniques, stringing together long chains of aerial combos in order to build up points ala sort of a Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater but without the restriction of gravity. You see, for all its flash, bells and whistles, and storyline components, NiGHTS is, at its heart, a Score Attack game. This fact takes what would otherwise be quite a short experience and adds endless replayability to it. Between the addictive nature of the game’s combo system and the impulsive and intuitive control, Yuji Naka and Sonic Team have created a title that transcends generations of consoles and stands the test of time as a true gaming classic.

What I got was Reala. An evil version of NiGHTS, Reala was also created by Wizeman as a First Level Nightmaren. NiGHTS and Reala share similar powers with both having the ability to fly and perform amazing aerial stunts, but while NiGHTS used his free will to rebel against Wizeman, Reala revels in his evil and has remained loyal to his creator. This is relevant because as a cool bonus, defeating Reala for the first time will unlock a 2-player VS mode, in which you and another player can dog-fight it out using these ying-yang rivals.

What I got was “A-Life”. Short for “Artificial Life,” imagine it as a large scale Tamagotchi-style mini-game built right into the world. The world of Nightopia is inhabited by small beings, appropriately called Nightopians. These creatures go about flying, singing, building things, taking naps, throwing snowballs at each other, pointing the way toward goals, and other various cute-like tomfoolery. Sometimes they’ll even mate creating an egg that, if NiGHTS touches, hatches into a new Nightopian who shares the traits of its parents. Nightopians you’ve helped by hatching react more friendly toward the player, while Nightopians you’ve made fearful by nearly hitting them or by killing their brethren (yes, you can kill them) will avoid and run away from you. The game even features an evolving music engine, allowing tempo, pitch, and melody to alter depending on the moods of these creatures and how you treat them. A neat trick is knocking a defeated Nightmaren enemy into a Nightopian or into one of their eggs. This results in Mepians, genetically mutated Nightopians that end up looking quite disturbing but amusing nonetheless. None of this needed to be included, yet it was just another pleasant addition that made the experience all the more unique and replayable.

What I got was one of the most engrossing gaming experiences of my entire life. By my 60th addictiveness filled play-through of NiGHTS Into Dreams, with no apparent end in sight, I finally realized what it was all about. The point of the game isn’t to just finish but rather to experience everything it has to offer. The enchanting story. The mystical world. The beautiful visuals. The striking music. The perfect control. The endless playability. The cute little extras. All of these aspects and so much more came together to create a gameplay experience unique and unparalleled. NiGHTS Into Dreams is one of those games that the longer you play it, the more you discover to enjoy about it. For that reason it will forever be one of my favorite games of all time.

Do yourself a favor; hunt down a Sega Saturn, get this game, open up your heart and imagination and experience the magic that is NiGHTS Into Dreams.

– Bebito Jackson