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Nights into Dreams...

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Nights into Dreams...
European cover art
Developer(s) Sonic Team
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Naoto Ohshima
Producer(s) Yuji Naka
Designer(s) Takashi Iizuka
Programmer(s) Yuji Naka
Artist(s) Kazuyuki Hoshino
Naoto Oshima
Composer(s) Naofumi Hataya
Tomoko Sasaki
Fumie Kumatani
Platform(s) Sega Saturn, PlayStation 2, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Nights into Dreams... (ナイツ Naitsu?, stylised as NiGHTS into Dreams...) is an action video game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Saturn in 1996. The story follows two teenagers, Claris and Elliot, who enter a dream world called Nightopia where all dreams take place. With the help of an exiled "Nightmaren", Nights, they begin a journey to stop Wizeman, an evil ruler, from destroying Nightopia and consequently the real world. Gameplay is centred around Nights flying through Claris and Elliot's dreams in order to gather enough energy to defeat Wizeman and save Nightopia. The game is presented in 3D and imposes time limits in every level, in which the player must accumulate enough points in order to proceed.

Development began soon after the release of Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, although the concept originated during the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Development was led by Sonic Team veterans Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Takashi Iizuka. Naka began the project with the central idea being flight, and Oshima designed the character Nights to resemble an angel that could fly like a bird. Oshima also designed Nights specifically as an androgynous character. The team conducted research on dreaming and REM sleep, and was influenced by the works and theories of psychotherapists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. An analogue controller, known as the Saturn 3D controller, was designed alongside the game and was exclusively included with some retail copies sold.

Nights into Dreams... received positive reviews upon release; critics praised the graphics, gameplay, soundtrack, and atmosphere. It has been included on multiple lists as being the best Sega Saturn game of all time and among the best games ever made. An abbreviated version of the game with a Christmas theme, titled Christmas Nights, was released in December 1996. The game was ported to the PlayStation 2 in 2008 exclusively in Japan and a high-definition version was released worldwide for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows in 2012. A direct sequel, Nights: Journey of Dreams, was released for the Wii in 2007.


Nights flying through Elliot's first level, Splash Garden, in the Saturn version. From left to right, the interface displays the number of orbs required to proceed, time limit, and score.

The game is split into seven levels, referred to as "Dreams".[1] The levels are distributed equally between the two teenage characters; three are unique to Claris, three to Elliot, and each play through an identical final seventh level, "Twin Seeds". Initially, only Claris' Spring Valley and Elliot's Splash Garden are available, and successful completion of one of these unlocks the next level in that character's path.[2] Previously completed stages may be revisited to improve the player's high scores; a "C" grade in all the selected character's levels must be achieved to unlock the relevant Twin Seeds stage for that character.[3] Points are accumulated depending on how fast the player completes a level,[4] and extra points are awarded when the player flies through rings.[5]

Each level is split up into four "Mares" set in Nightopia and a boss fight which takes place in Nightmare. In each level, players initially control Claris or Elliot, who immediately have their Ideyas of hope, growth, intelligence and purity stolen from them by Wizeman's minions, leaving behind only their Ideya of courage.[6] The goal of each Mare is to recover one of the stolen Ideya by collecting 20 blue chips and delivering them to the cage holding the Ideyas, which will overload and release the orb it holds.[7] If the player walks around the landscape for too long, they will be pursued by a sentient alarm clock which will wake up the character and end the level if it comes in contact with the player.[8] The majority of the gameplay centres on Nights' flying sequences, which is triggered by walking into the Ideya Palace near the start of each level so that the character merges with the imprisoned Nights. Once the flying sequence is initiated, the lime limit will begin.[9][6]

In the flying sections, the player controls Nights' flight along a particular predetermined route through each Mare, resembling that of a 2D platformer.[10] The player has only a limited period available before Nights falls to the ground and transforms back into Claris or Elliot, and each collision with an enemy subtracts five seconds from the time remaining.[11] Whilst flying, Nights can use a boost to travel faster, as well as defeat certain reverie enemies littered across the field. Grabbing onto certain enemies causes Nights to spin around, which will launch both Nights and the enemy in the direction the boost is pressed. Various acrobatic manoeuvres can be performed, including the "Paraloop", whereby flying around in a complete circle and connecting the trail of stars left in Nights' wake will cause any items within the loop to be attracted towards Nights.[10] The game features a combo system known as "Linking", whereby actions such as collecting items and flying through rings are worth more points when performed in quick succession than they are individually.[5][11] Power-ups may be gained by flying through a number of predetermined rings, which will be indicated by a bonus barrel. The power-ups include a speed boost, point multiplier and an air pocket.[3]

At the end of each Mare, players are given a rank (between A and F) based on their score, and after all four Mares are cleared an overall rank for the level is displayed.[6] Nights is then transported to Nightmare for a boss fight against one of Wizeman's "Level Two" Nightmarens.[5] Each boss fight has a time limit, and the game will end if the player runs out of time during the battle. Upon winning the boss fight, the player is awarded a score multiplier based on how quickly the boss was defeated, which is then applied to the score earned in the Nightopia section to produce the player's final score for that Dream.[12] The game also features a multiplayer mode, which allows two players to battle each other by using a splitscreen. Once player controls Nights, whereas the other controls the secondary antagonist, Reala. The winner is determined by the first player to defeat the other, which is accomplished by hitting the other player three times.[5]


The game features an artificial life system known as "A-Life",[13] which involves entities called Nightopians and keeps track of their moods.[14] It is possible to have them mate with other Nightopians, which will result in creating hybrids known as "Superpians".[10][15] The more the game is played, the more inhabitants appear and will consequently change environmental features and cultures.[2] The A-Life system features an evolving music engine, allowing tempo, pitch, and melody to alter depending on the state of Nightopians within the level.[16] The feature also runs from the Sega Saturn's internal clock, which will also alter features in the A-Life system depending on the time.[10]



Every night, all human dreams are played out in Nightopia and Nightmare, the two parts of the dream world. In Nightopia, distinct aspects of dreamers' personalities are represented by luminous coloured spheres known as "Ideya". However, the evil ruler of Nightmare, Wizeman the Wicked, is stealing this dream energy from sleeping visitors in order to gather power and take control of Nightopia and eventually the real world. To achieve this, he creates five beings called "Nightmaren"; jester-like, flight-capable beings, which include Jackle, Clawz, Gulpo, Gillwing and Puffy, as well as many minor maren. In addition, he creates two "Level One" Nightmaren; Nights and Reala. However, Nights rebels against Wizeman's plans, and is punished by being imprisoned inside an Ideya palace, a gazebo-like container for dreamers' Ideya.[17]


One day, Elliot Edwards and Claris Sinclair, two teenagers from the city of Twin Seeds, go through failures. Elliot is a basketball player who enjoys a game with his friends one day. However, he is challenged by a group older secondary school students and suffers a humiliating defeat on the court. Claris is a talented singer and her ambition is to perform on stage. She auditions for a part in the events commemorating the centenary of the city of Twin Seeds. However, upon standing in front of the judges, she is overcome by stage fright and does not perform well, which causes her to lose all hopes of getting the role. On the night they go to sleep, both Elliot and Claris suffer nightmares that replay the events. They escape into Nightopia and find that they both possess the rare Red Ideya of Courage, the only type that Wizeman cannot steal.

Once in Nightopia, they discover and release Nights, who tells them about dreams, Wizeman and his plans, and the three begin a journey to stop Wizeman and restore peace to Nightopia. Upon defeating Wizeman and Reala, peace is returned to Nightopia and the world of Nightmare is suppressed. The next day, a ceremony of the centenary of Twin Seeds commences. Elliot is seen walking through the parade until he sees a vision of Nights looking at him through a hoarding. Realising that Claris is performing in a stage hall, Elliot runs through the crowd and sees Claris singing well in front of a large audience. The two look at each other, and are transitioned to a spring valley in Nightopia, which leaves ambiguity if what they achieved was real or just a dream.


I headed back to Japan so that I could work with Mr Oshima and while I was waiting for the plane to take off, I thought, 'Let's make a game where we can fly!' So I guess that's where it all started.

Yuji Naka in an interview with Sega Saturn Magazine[18]

The game was developed by Sonic Team in the United States, in contrast to their previous titles being developed in Japan.[8] The concept for the game originated during the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, however actual development did not begin until after the release of Sonic & Knuckles in late 1994.[19] The programming of the game began in April 1995 and total development spanned over a period of six months.[19] The development team consisted of staff who worked on previous Sonic the Hedgehog titles; Yuji Naka acted as lead programmer and producer.[19] According to Naka, the initial development team consisted of seven people at the start of production, and gradually grew to 20 people once more programmers started to arrive. The game was developed using Silicon Graphics for graphical designs and Hewlett-Packard emulators for programming.[19]

Sonic creator and project leader Naoto Oshima created the character of Nights based on his impressions of travelling around Europe and western Asia. He eventually came to the conclusion that the main character of the game should resemble an angel and fly like a bird. Naka originally settled on making Nights into Dreams... a slow paced game, however as development progressed the gameplay pace gradually increased, in similar vein to Sonic the Hedgehog titles.[19] Due to the Sonic Team offices not accommodating any sound-proof studios, anonymous team members were forced to record vocal sound effects for the game at night. Naka stated that every phrase in the game has a meaning, for example "abayo" is Japanese slang for "goodbye".[20]

The optional 3D controller that was packaged with Nights into Dreams....

In a 2007 interview, Iizuka stated that Christmas Nights was conceptualised in order to increase the sales of the Saturn consoles,[13] and that the game was inspired by various titles and characters from Japanese anime, including Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère.[21] The development team performed various research into dream sequences and REM sleep; which included the works of the Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Holtz.[20] Iizuka analysed Jung's theories of dream archetypes, and spent a considerable amount of time studying dreams and theories associated with them. Naka stated that the main protagonist, Nights, is reflective of Jung's analytical "shadow" theory, whereas the two central characters, Claris and Elliot were inspired from Jung's Animus and Anima.[20]

Nights into Dreams... was introduced alongside an optional game controller, the Saturn 3D controller, which was included with most copies of the game. The gamepad features an analogue stick and analogue triggers which was designed specifically for the game,[6][20] in order to make movement easier.[2] During development, director Steven Spielberg visited the Sonic Team studio and became the first person outside the development team to play the game. Naka asked him to play with an experimental version of the Saturn 3D controller, and was jokingly referred to as the "Spielberg controller" throughout development.[20]



Sega released a remake of Nights into Dreams... for the PlayStation 2 exclusively in Japan on 21 February 2008. It includes 16:9 wide screen support, an illustration gallery and features the ability to play the game in classic Saturn graphics.[22] The game was also featured in a bundle named the Nightopia Dream Pack, which includes a reprint of a picture book that was released in Japan alongside the original Saturn game.[22][23][24] The Christmas Nights levels are included as an unlockable bonus once the main game has been completed.[23] A Nights into Dreams... handheld electronic game was released by Tiger Electronics in 1997,[25] and a port of it was later released for Tiger's unsuccessful R-Zone console.[26]

HD version[edit]

A high definition remaster of the PlayStation 2 version was released for PlayStation Network on 2 October 2012 and for Xbox Live Arcade on 5 October 2012.[27][28] A Microsoft Windows version was released via Steam on 17 December 2012.[29] This version of the game introduces online high score leaderboards and includes the option to play either with enhanced graphics or with the original Saturn version's graphics.[29] The HD version also includes Christmas Nights and the original game's two player versus mode. However, Christmas Nights' Sonic the Hedgehog level was removed.[28][30]

Related games[edit]

Christmas Nights[edit]

A still image of gameplay from Christmas Nights, showing the altered aesthetics of the first level.

Christmas Nights (クリスマスナイツ Kurisumasu Naitsu?) or Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams... is a Christmas-themed two-level game of Nights into Dreams... that was released in December 1996.[14] It was introduced in Japan as part of a Christmas Sega Saturn bundle, whereas elsewhere it was given away with the purchase of certain Saturn games such as Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition, and was also bundled in with issues of Sega Saturn Magazine and Next Generation Magazine.[13][31] In the United Kingdom, Christmas Nights was not included with the Sega Saturn Magazine until December 1997.[14]

The story of Christmas Nights follows Elliot and Claris during the holiday season following their adventures with Nights. Though they both enjoy the Christmas season, they feel as if something is missing. Realising that the Christmas Star that usually sits at the top of the Twin Seeds Christmas tree is absent, the pair head off to Nightopia to find it. There, they meet up with Nights again and re-explore Spring Valley, which has now been decorated due to the their dreams of the holiday season. The trio of heroes must now take down a revived Gillwing and retrieve the Christmas Star from his lair.[14]

The Christmas Nights disc contains the full version of Claris' Spring Valley dream level from Nights into Dreams, which allows both Claris and Elliot to play through the area.[14] The game uses the Saturn's internal clock to change elements of the game according to the date and time.[32] During December, "Christmas Nights" mode is activated, resulting in further Christmas-themed alterations, such as item boxes becoming Christmas presents, greenery becoming snow,[33] Nightopians dressing in elf costumes, and Christmas trees replacing Ideya captures. During the "Winter Nights" period, the weather in Spring Valley will change according to what hour it is. Other cosmetic changes are visible on New Year's Day and Halloween, and loading the game on April Fool's Day results in Reala replacing Nights as the playable character.[13][14]

The disc features a number of unlockable bonuses such as being able to play the game's soundtrack.[32] Further extra modes allow players to observe the status of the A-life system, experiment with the game's music mixer, time attack one Mare, or play the demo stage as Sega's mascot Sonic the Hedgehog. In the minigame Sonic the Hedgehog: Into Dreams, Sonic may only go through the stage of Spring Valley on foot, and must defeat the boss - an inflatable Dr. Robotnik.[14] The music is a remixed version of "Final Fever", the final boss battle music from the Japanese and European version of Sonic CD.[34] The Christmas Nights content is playable in the HD version after the game has been cleared once.[35]


A game with the working title "Air Nights" was intended to use a tilt sensor in the Saturn analogue pad,[36] and development later planned for the Dreamcast.[37] In an August 1999 interview with the American Official Dreamcast Magazine, Yuji Naka confirmed that a sequel was in development,[38] however the project was eventually abandoned a year later.[39] Aside from a handheld electronic game released by Tiger Electronics[25] and small minigames featured in several Sega titles, no full Nights sequel was released for a Sega console. Yuji Naka expressed his enthusiasm to develop a sequel,[38] and also noted that he was interested in using Nights into Dreams... as a license "to reinforce Sega's identity".[40]

On 1 April 2007, a sequel called Nights: Journey of Dreams was officially announced for the Wii.[41][42] The official announcement followed items on the game published in several magazines and websites.[43] The sequel is a Wii exclusive, making use of Wii Remote,[41] resembling the concept of motion control from Air Nights.[37] The gameplay involves the use of various masks,[44] and features a multiplayer mode for two players[41] in addition to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection online functions.[45] The game was developed by Sega Studio USA,[41] with Takashi Iizuka, one of the designers of the original game, serving as producer.[46] It was released in Japan and the United States in December 2007, and in Europe and Australia on 18 January 2008.[47]

In 2010, Takashi Iizuka commented that he would be interested in making a third Nights into Dreams... game, should the management of Sega decide to commission one.[48]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 89% (9 reviews)[49]
Review scores
Publication Score
CVG 5/5 stars[16]
Edge 8 out of 10[50]
Eurogamer 9 out of 10 (XBLA)[7]
Game Revolution A[51]
IGN 8.7 out of 10[6]
Mean Machines Sega 96%[52]
Sega Saturn Magazine 96%[53]
Coming Soon Magazine 5/5 stars[54]

The game received positive reviews upon release. It holds an average score of 89% at GameRankings, based on an aggregate of nine reviews.[49] Nights into Dreams was the top-selling game for the Sega Saturn and the 21st highest-selling game in Japan during 1996.[55]

The graphics and flight mechanics were the most praised aspects of the game. Tom Guise of Computer and Video Games heralded the game's flight system and freedom as "captivating", whilst stating that Nights into Dreams... is the "perfect evolution" of a Sonic game.[16] A reviewer of Edge stated that the game was overall well designed and the graphics "unrivalled", however they noted that the game had a low number of levels and extras in comparison to Super Mario 64.[50] Martin Robinson of Eurogamer opinionated that the flight mechanics were a "giddy thrill", in contrast to Sonic games.[7] A reviewer of Game Revolution praised the graphics and speed of the game as "breathtaking" and "awe-inspiring", whilst summarising that it offered the "best qualities of the generation machines".[51]

Levi Buchanan of IGN added scepticism over the Saturn's ability to portray graphics, stating that the console "was not built to handle Nights" due to the game occasionally clipping and warping, however he admitted that the graphics were "pretty darn good".[6] A reviewer of Mean Machines Sega praised the game's graphically vibrant colours and detailed textures, whilst comparing its smooth animation as "fluid as water". However, the reviewer noted occasional build up and glitching during the game.[52] Sam Hickman of the Sega Saturn Magazine praised the visuals and colour scheme as rich in both texture and detail, whilst suggesting that Nights into Dreams... is one of the most "captivating" games on the Saturn.[56] Frederick Claude of Coming Soon similarly praised the graphics as "breathtaking" and "splendid".[54]

Reviewers also praised the game's soundtrack and audio effects. Paul Davies of Computer and Video Games cited the game as having "the best music ever", whilst in the same review, Tom Guise attributed the music to creating a "hypnotically magical" atmosphere.[16] A reviewer of Game Revolution stated that the music and sound effects were that of a "dream world", and asserted that they were "fitting" for a game like Nights into Dreams....[51] Buchanan praised the game's soundtrack, stating that each stage's soundtrack is "quite good" and that the sound effects "fit in perfectly with the dream universe".[6] A reviewer of Mean Machines Sega similarly praised the music and sound effects as "awesome" and "impressive".[52] Claude stated that the game's soundtrack was in "perfect harmony" with the graphics, and that both add to the "enchanting" atmosphere.[54]


Since its release, Nights into Dreams... has appeared on several "best game of all time" lists. In a January 2000 poll by Computer and Video Games, readers placed the game 15th on their "100 Greatest Games" list, directly behind Super Mario 64.[57] IGN ranked the game as the 94th best game of all time in their "Top 100 Games" list in 2007,[58] and in 2008, IGN staff writer Levi Buchanan ranked it fourth in his list of the top 10 Sega Saturn games.[59] Next Generation Magazine ranked the game 25th in its list of the "100 Greatest Games of All-Time" in their September 1996 issue.[60] 1UP ranked the game third in its "Top Ten Cult Classics" list.[61] In 2014, GamesRadar listed Nights into Dreams... as the best Sega Saturn game of all time, stating that the game "tapped into a new kind of platform gameplay for its era".[62]


In other media[edit]

Claris and Eliot make a cameo appearance in Sonic Team's Burning Rangers, with both Claris and Eliot sending the Rangers emails thanking them for their help.[63][64] Nights into Dreams...-themed pinball areas feature in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Pinball Party, with soundtrack being featured in the latter game.[65] The PlayStation 2 titles EyeToy: Play and Sega SuperStars both feature minigames based on Nights into Dreams..., in which Nights is controlled using the player's body.[31][66] Nights is also an unlockable character in Sonic Riders and Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity.[67][68]

A minigame version of Nights into Dreams... is playable through utilising the Nintendo GameCube – Game Boy Advance link cable connectivity with Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II[69] and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg.[70] Following a successful fan campaign by a Nights into Dreams... fansite, the character Nights was integrated into Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing as a traffic guard,.[71] Nights and Reala also appear as playable characters in Sega Superstars Tennis and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed,[72] the latter of which also features a Nights into Dreams...-themed racetrack.[72][73] The limited Deadly Six edition of Sonic Lost World features a Nights into Dreams...-inspired stage, named "Nightmare Zone", as downloadable content.[74]


In February 1998, Archie Comics adapted Nights into Dreams... into a three-issue comic book miniseries[75] to test whether or not a Nights comic would sell well in North America.[76] The first mini-series was loosely based on the game, with Nights being specifically identified as a male despite the character's androgynous design. The company later released a second three-issue miniseries, continuing the story of the first, however the series did not gain enough sales to warrant an ongoing series. The series would later be added to a list of guest franchises featured in Archie Comics' Worlds Unite crossover between its Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man titles.[77]



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