Sega hit the ground running with its PAX Prime showcase this week, bringing a number of upcoming hits to the show floor.  Both Aliens: Colonial Marines and Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed got a vast amount of attention from show-goers, as did smaller games like The Cave and Jet Set Radio HD, which drops later this month.  But two games that got our attention were, in fact, older favorites that got a high definition touch-up – the Saturn classic NiGHTS Into Dreams and the previous Dreamcast release Sonic Adventure 2 HD.  We got a chance to go hands-on with both games to see how they were shaping up.

First up was NiGHTS Into Dreams.  If you haven’t played this game before, here’s a brief description.  The game, conceived by Sonic Team, has you teaming up a pair of kids with a “dream warrior”, one that can fly around through hoops while collecting items and defeating enemies by circling around them, creating a temporal vortex that sucks them in.  It’s a side-scrolling style flight game, where you can really only go left, right, up or down, but it’s presented in a 3D world that’s really quite eye-popping.

The game’s visuals have been majestically touched up, so that they come across far better than they did on their native Saturn version.  (You can play the “classic” way with those graphics, if you prefer.)  The 3D environments look way better than before, with a better use of colors and details that really bring the world more to life.  The animations are good too, though the kids still appear a bit awkward when it comes to walking.  At least NiGHTS looks awesome when he’s floating around, sometimes even leaving a trail.

As for control, NiGHTS’ basic mechanics become second nature within just a few seconds of play.  Being able to coast around and earn rankings on each stage is cool, and the boss battles are innovative, using your flying and vortex abilities ideally to bring them down.  We only got to play the one in the demo, with a huge creature that required some knocking around, but the final game will bring all of them back.  We’re looking forward to it.

Another game that’s getting the re-release treatment is Sonic Adventure 2 HD.  This game once again brings back Sonic and his buddies – as well as the evil Shadow the Hedgehog and his minions – as they run through 3D stages.  The demo we got to try out takes place in a large city, with hills that resemble San Francisco – ideal for running down and gaining some speed.  There were segments that broke up the action, like a multi-tier stage where you had to run around and bop enemies with your jumping attacks, but for the most part this level kept up a fast pace – especially near the end, where the tremendous GUN truck wrecks everything in its path as it chases you down hills.

Though the camera still had some problems from the original game (sometimes it changes perspective so quickly, you’re not prepared for what’s happening), the high-definition treatment has been good to Sonic.  The 60 frame per second speed remains intact, and the level of detail is a bit improved over the Dreamcast game.  The music is fun to listen to as well, with “Follow Me” playing in the background as you run through the city.

Both of these games have been favorites to fans for a long time, and they’re sure to draw some new ones as they get their re-release at a budgetable price (we’re guessing $10).  There might be some issues to address – like Knuckles’ tiresome digging stages in Sonic Adventure 2 HD – but overall they’re sure to add to Sega’s retro repertoire.

Look for both games on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.