Nights into Dreams (Japanese: ナイツ Hepburn: 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 Nights, an exiled “Nightmaren”, they begin a journey to stop the evil ruler Wizeman from destroying Nightopia and consequently the real world. Gameplay is centred around Nights flying through Claris and Elliot’s dreams to gather enough energy to defeat Wizeman and save Nightopia. The game is presented in 3D and imposes time limits on every level, in which the player must accumulate enough points to proceed.
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Development began soon after the release of Sonic & Knuckles in 1994, although the concept originated during the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992). Development was led by Sonic Team veterans Yuji Naka, Naoto Ohshima, and Takashi Iizuka. Naka began the project with the main idea revolving around flight, and Ohshima designed the character Nights to resemble an angel that could fly like a bird. Ohshima 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 psychoanalysts Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. An analogue controller, known as the Saturn 3D controller, was designed alongside the game and was included with some retail copies sold.
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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, as well as 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.