NiGHTS into Sonic (Team): A Brief History of NiGHTS Cameos

Before NiGHTS into Dreams… became widely available with its HD release in 2012, many people (including myself) first encountered the series through its copious amount of cameos, largely in Sonic Team games.

I don’t think any celebration of NiGHTS would be complete without an overview of the character’s many, many cameos in other SEGA properties. This is hardly a complete list, of course, but we’re at least touching on many of the character’s more notable appearances!

Sonic Adventure

Released in 1998, Sonic Adventure’s NiGHTS pinball game in Casinopolis is the franchise’s earliest cameo, and how many of us were first introduced to it. Players knock the pinball around the table, trying to collect cards which feature numerous NiGHTS characters. Collecting more then one of the same card nets a load of rings, and opens up a portal to a second, Nightmare themed pinball table. 

Between the tables, cards, and two neat looking animations that showcase the NiGHTS world, this remains one of the coolest NiGHTS cameos SEGA has done.

It was also possible to create NiGHTS chao by giving them flying animals. 

Shenmue

When Ryo couldn’t find sailors, he could at least find capsule toys

NiGHTS made a brief appearance as two of a multitude of capsule toys that could be collected in SEGA’s 1999 open world game, Shenmue. 

Sonic Shuffle

Image from Sonic the Hedgeblog

NiGHTS popped up again in SEGA’s Sonic party game, Sonic Shuffle, released in 2000. When the Dreamcast’s clock was set to December 24, NiGHTS would replace Lumina as the game’s guide in multiplayer matches. Sonic Shuffle also takes place in a dream world, and Lumina herself bears some visual similarities to NiGHTS, which is probably why Hudson Soft included the easter egg.

Sonic Adventure 2

The NiGHTS cameos are way less noticeable in Sonic Adventure 2, but they are there. NiGHTS decorated a few levels, such as Radical Highway and City Escape. The game also features NiGHTS-inspired Chao like the first game.

Sonic Pinball Party

When Sonic returned to pinball in 2003 with Sonic Pinball Party for the Game Boy Advance, it was only fitting NiGHTS was brought along for the ride. Featured as one of the game’s three pinball tables, this one drew significantly more inspiration from NiGHTS into Dreams… then the table from Sonic Adventure.

This table aims to replicate NiGHTS in pinball form. The pinball needs to be hit into an ideya palace three times to dualize with NiGHTS. From there, it needs to be knocked into the ideya to get it. After all four ideya are collected, the player can then face the boss, which appears in the upper right corner of the table.

With a total of 12 table designs based on the game’s first six levels and bosses, this is one of the most extensive NiGHTS appearances outside of the franchise’s games.

Billy Hatcher & the Giant Egg

NiGHTS was one of several Sonic Team characters to appear as an “egg animal”  in the developer’s 2003 platformer Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. Like all those characters, NiGHTS is both difficult to obtain and severely overpowered. Unlocking NiGHTS requires collecting 180 “chick coins.” Once that’s done, NiGHTS can be hatched from a Sonic egg found in Giant Palace’s fourth mission.

Billy Hatcher also had an unlockable downloadable mini-game for the GBA, NiGHTS Score Attack. This game could also be downloaded from Phantasy Star Online Episodes I&II.

Sonic Riders

NiGHTS appeared in 2006’s Sonic Riders and its sequel, Zero Gravity, as a flight-type character. Unlocking NiGHTS in the first game required the completion of all missions, while getting them in the sequel only required beating all story missions. In addition to NiGHTS, Sonic Riders also had a track with an area based on NiGHTS.

SEGA Superstars/Sonic & All-Stars

SEGA Superstars, a 2004 PS2 mini game collection made for Sony’s Eyetoy camera, had a NiGHTS mini game. In this, you waved your arms around to control NiGHTS as they flew through rings. This is arguably NiGHTS’s first playable cameo.

Years later, in 2008, NiGHTS and Reala would both appear as playable characters in SEGA Superstars Tennis, along with a court based on Journey of Dreams’ Aqua Garden. In 2010, NiGHTS would appear as a flagman in Sumo Digital’s second SEGA crossover game, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. In 2012’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, NiGHTS and Reala appeared as playable vehicles, driven by a Nightopian and Nightmaren respectively.

Sonic Lost World

The Wii U version of Sonic Lost World came with free NiGHTS DLC in its early physical copies, labeled “The Deadly Six Edition,” and would later be included in all PC versions of the game. This DLC was essentially a boss rush, featuring all of the bosses from the first NiGHTS game (aside from Reala) teaming up with the Deadly Six to fight Sonic. There were also brief auto-running sections where Sonic could home in on blue chips and go through rings from NiGHTS.

The battles were easy, and mostly just variations of the Deadly Six’s original boss battles, but it did give us Wii U-quality HD models of all of NiGHTS into Dreams’ Nightmaren bosses for the first time, which is neat.

Sonic Forces

NiGHTS became the basis for an unlockable costume set in what is currently Sonic Team’s latest Sonic game, Sonic Forces. This set included headgear, body gear, and footwear.

And so…

A few Nightmaren enemies briefly popping up at the start of IDW’s Sonic 30th Anniversary comic

NiGHTS has a pretty long history of appearing in Sonic Team’s games, as well as the occasional title from SEGA’s other developers. With NiGHTS tied so closely to SEGA’s blue mascot, that could continue to keep the character around even if they never get another game. Here’s hoping they pop up in Sonic 2022!

25 Years of NiGHTS (Part 2)

For Part 1 of this article, go here.

The Cameos

Though no new NiGHTS game was on the horizon by the late 90s, Sonic Team and SEGA still had plenty of love for the purple dream jester, and they demonstrated that a lot. Sonic Adventure featured an entire NiGHTS themed pinball table, which likely served as many Sonic fan’s first exposure to the character. When Dreamcast party game Sonic Shuffle’s multiplayer was played on December 24, NiGHTS replaced Lumina. Sonic Adventure 2 featured NiGHTS on numerous level assets and featured a chao based on them. The cameos continued even after the Dreamcast.

Sonic Pinball Party gave NiGHTS a second pinball table, and the character was playable in both the Sonic Riders games and SEGA Superstars, a mini game collection for the PS2’s Eyetoy. NIGHTS popped up in Billy Hatcher as a special unlockable character, and also starred in NiGHTS Score Attack, a special mini game that could be downloaded to the GBA over a link cable from both Billy Hatcher and Phantasy Star Online.

For over a decade, this was essentially how NiGHTS stuck around. It wouldn’t be until 2007, eleven years after the original game’s release, that this finally changed.

The Sequel

Takashi Iizuka had often talked about wanting to do a NiGHTS sequel, and finally got his chance in late 2005, after the completion of Shadow the Hedgehog. My mid-2006, NiGHTS Journey of Dreams was in full production for the Wii. Though some have speculated JoD may have been originally planned for HD consoles, Iizuka later confirmed it was built from the ground up for Nintendo’s system.

After a small delay, JoD launched in December of 2007. It would not be as well received as its predecessor, receiving mixed-to-positive reviews. The game also likely didn’t sell especially well, though sales numbers appear to be hard to confirm.

JoD kept several aspects from the original, including its 2.5 perspective, its focus on flight, the timer for NiGHTS, and the ability to link rings and blue chips together for higher scores. Unlike the previous game, players needed to chase down nightmarens riding large birds in order to collect keys to free NiGHTS, and there is no incentive to run the timer down. Instead, JoD encourages players to simply complete its stages as quickly as possible. 

JoD also introduced a lot of brand new features, such as multiple missions per level, a significantly more fleshed out plot, an online multiplayer mode, and most infamously, platforming levels starring the children. It also has an area where Nightopians can be interacted with called “My Dream,” which is essentially a barebones chao garden. This open space can be filled with random objects from the game’s levels, as well as Nightopians and Nightmarens, which are sent here via paralooping. 

JoD does a lot to try to modernize NiGHTS. While it has the same number of levels as its predecessor, it stretches those levels out by giving each five missions that reuse assets, including the aforementioned platforming sections. It also features loads of cutscenes and voice acting for all the characters.

JoD’s plot is essentially a reboot of the previous game, but with new kids: Helen and Will. The game features a new helper character, “Owl” who essentially serves the same purpose as Tikal and Omochao. Aside from NiGHTS, Wizeman and Reala also make a return. Everyone is sporting new, more complex designs.

There is a lot I could say about JoD, but that’s best left for another article. To this day, it continues to serve as the only other full game in the NiGHTS franchise. It would not be the last NiGHTS game released, however. The original would soon be getting a remake.

The Remake

Just a few months after the launch of JoD, SEGA launched a full remake of the original NiGHTS for the PS2, exclusively in Japan in February of 2008. It featured completely remade visuals, Christmas NiGHTS, and a complete port of the Saturn original. Each copy of the game also came with a second printing of the rare NiGHTS story book. The PS2 version featured additional timed events in Christmas NiGHTS, including special summer and Halloween outfits for Claris and Elliot, and a special Halloween skin for NiGHTS. Unfortunately, the game didn’t sell particularly well, charting just over 6,000 units. The remake version of the game is also infamous for featuring somewhat slower speeds, as well as inferior (potentially 8-way directional) control instead of full analog.

This version would later become the basis for the HD remake, which as released on Xbox 360 and PS3 four years later in 2012. This remake presented NiGHTS in HD for the first time, and featured true 16:9 widescreen as opposed to the stretched 4:3 widescreen of the Saturn and PS2 games. It included all the special features of the PS2 version, as well as all the control issues. These issues would later be patched, though.

NiGHTS into Dreams… HD continues to be available for both Xbox and Steam users, and can also be played by anyone who has Game Pass or PS Now, making it far more accessible then it once was.

The Legacy

NiGHTS hasn’t had a single release of any sort in nine years, but as with before JoD, the character hasn’t disappeared.

NiGHTS was a playable racer in 2012’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, and inspired a whole DLC level in 2013’s Sonic Lost World. NiGHTS, Reala and Wizeman all returned to Archie as part of their World’s Unite crossover event. They appeared as “buddies” in 2015’s Sonic Runners, and inspired a costume in 2017’s Sonic Forces. Elements from the games even popped up in Sonic’s 30th Anniversary Comic and orchestra just last month!

Finally, NiGHTS as a brand has recently made a return…as a slot machine in certain casinos. I can’t say I’m exactly happy about that, but it does show that someone somewhere still sees value in NiGHTS as a franchise.

With Iizuka expressing an interest in returning to NiGHTS yet again, there is yet hope that we’ll be seeing the purple dream jester again in a proper game. Until then, we’ve still got 25 years of games and legacy to remember them by.

Sonic Advance and Pinball Party Combo Pack

SEGA confirmed earlier today the existence of yet another Sonic title headed for the GBA, which curiously enough has managed to slip under the radar for nearly a month. No, it isn’t another Advance outing, but a combo pack containing the now somewhat classic Sonic Advance and Sonic Pinball Party.

Further details about the actual contents of the package at this stage are at an absolute minimum; however we have managed to snatch a copy of the box art for this title. Continue reading Sonic Advance and Pinball Party Combo Pack

Japanese Sonic Adventure DX and Pinball Party Release Dates Confirmed

New Sonic the Hedgehog games are arriving (seemingly worldwide) in the Summer, but Japanese fans are the first to know when exactly those games will drop. Sonic Adventure DX on Gamecube will hit stores in June 2003, with the GBA’s Sonic Pinball Party arriving the month after.

Continue reading Japanese Sonic Adventure DX and Pinball Party Release Dates Confirmed

North America Release Dates for Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Pinball Party Revealed

Shortly after confirming a Spring release for Sonic Advance 2, SEGA of America has issued a new press release announcing that Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Pinball Party are set for a Summer 2003 launch in North America.

Continue reading North America Release Dates for Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Pinball Party Revealed

Special Chao Downloads and Exclusive Sonic Merch Available at World Hobby Fair 2003

Sonic X might be the headlining event at this week’s World Hobby Fair, but Sonic Team will also be showing off Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Pinball Party at the Japanese expo – along with some fantastic looking goodies and exclusive Chao downloads.

Continue reading Special Chao Downloads and Exclusive Sonic Merch Available at World Hobby Fair 2003

Sonic Pinball Party Preview: Mind My Balls

Pinball. Ah, that craze during 1980s/1990s. How fun it was slotting in some coins (oi, easy!), shooting that last ball into the table and frantically trying to flip that bastard up to get that high score. Of course, when video game developers caught onto the coolness of this, they decided the inevitable. And hence, pinball video games were never really… well, any good really.

Continue reading Sonic Pinball Party Preview: Mind My Balls

First Screenshots of Sonic Pinball Party and Sonic Adventure DX Emerge

The first Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Pinball Party screens have been released, courtesy of Sega Japan! Take a look at the selection of images in this post, as well as some detail on these recently-announced titles.

Continue reading First Screenshots of Sonic Pinball Party and Sonic Adventure DX Emerge

‘Sonic Adventure DX’ for Gamecube Officially Announced; Sonic Pinball Party for GBA

SEGA has officially revealed the name for its previously-announced Sonic Adventure remake for the Nintendo Gamecube. ‘Sonic Adventure DX’ will release on the console later this year. But the company also announced that a new Game Boy Advance spinoff, Sonic Pinball Party, will also release in 2003.

Continue reading ‘Sonic Adventure DX’ for Gamecube Officially Announced; Sonic Pinball Party for GBA