I’ve really, really been feeling for NiGHTS fans this year. They have it rough at the best of times. It isn’t their fault they simply want to see the return of one of the most visually inventive, exhilarating fly-em-ups of the 90s. Superman 64 may have thought it was ahead of the curve with its nail-biting ring navigation gameplay, but that lil’ purple jester/clown/boy/girl/thing on the Saturn had the Man of Steel beat.
Since then, though, it’s been one unending conga line of knees to the groin for NiGHTS devotees. The last gasp of life in the franchise they love was a middling effort on the Wii in the mid-2000s, and after that, zilch. Nada. Unless you count a few cosmetic references in mobile games, a handful of reps in the SEGA All-Stars Racing series, and a 10-minute DLC zone in Sonic Lost World. Which, of course, we don’t. Every time fans are drip-fed something that looks like the dramatic resurrection of the series, only to have it cruelly snatched away from them at the height of their emotional vulnerability. The internet likes to talk about the Sonic Cycle. Try being on the NiGHTS Cycle, amateurs.
So one can imagine fans’ excitement when this year’s Balan Wonderworld, helmed by NiGHTS originator Yuji Naka, looked to be reviving the formula, at least in aesthetic spirit. The title character looked suspiciously similar to – not to mention legally distinct from – our purple friend, and many of the franchise’s mainstay elements were present and correct. Sadly, in another direct hit to the nethers for the NiGHTS community, Balan… didn’t turn out so hot, and its similarities to its predecessor were revealed to be purely skin-deep. Perhaps that was for the best; no need to twist the knife any more, eh, lads?
The trauma has begun anew today, then, as yet another apparent lead hinting at a full-on NiGHTS revival has been shot dead. Back in 2019, SEGA filed a trademark for a project entitled ‘NiGHTS Dream Wheel‘. As evidence goes, that would seem pretty incontrovertible. Gingerly, trembling and licking their wounds, the fandom allowed hope to ignite where for so long only disappointment had festered. Could this be it? A new platformer, perhaps? Maybe even a spinoff of some sort? A NiGHTS kart racer? Oh, what we’d give for even a rudimentary tie-in YouTube Flash animation!
But has any of this come to pass? To that, I say ‘ha!’. The true nature of NiGHTS Dream Wheel has been unearthed, courtesy of Destructoid. What is it? If the title hasn’t given it away, which it should have done: it’s a slot machine. A ruddy, flippin’, honest-to-bejeezus slot machine. In a single casino. In California.
That’s it, folks. This franchise is clearly cursed. Pack it up and flee while you can.
All joking aside, this is a pretty unexpected turn of events. While SEGA are well-known for their arcade cabinets, gambling is something into which they haven’t really forayed in any meaningful capacity. That they’re using NiGHTS for this venture, rather than something more generally recognisable like Sonic or Monkey Ball, perhaps suggests they’re aware the audience for the series is mostly 30 to 40-odd-year-old nostalgia junkies. In other words, not commercially viable beyond exploiting adults’ gambling addiction. Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence, SEGA.
Should you wish to visit the NiGHTS arcade machine – make the proverbial pilgrimage, as it were – it can be found at the San Manuel Casino in California. It’s described as “one of those funky, modern, digital roulette affairs,” and allows players “to gamble tokens while experiencing a cutesy NiGHTS aesthetic.” Probably not what fans were hoping for from the 25th anniversary. Oh, did I forget to mention? That’s this year. Just to pile on the humiliation.
I jest, of course. NiGHTS remains a beloved blast from the past to many, and this is a fairly innocuous, and novel, way for longtime fans to engage with it. Better leave the kids at home, though.
Let’s be honest – you may as well make the trip, guys. Might be a while before we see anything else.
Are you a NiGHTS fan? Are you happy with the reveal of this slot machine? Will you be popping over to the Golden State to play it? Let us know!