Christmas NIGHTS – Weekly Recommendations 20/12 – 26/12
Every week I give three gaming recommendations (very) loosely tied to something topical. These recommendations span platform, generation and genre and are all games that I have played, enjoyed and highly recommend. As always, comments are very welcome so please do chime in with any recommendations of your own. Check back each Monday for a new set, and click here for past entries.
The roads are icy and treacherous, postal services are at a stand still, drunkards stagger through the streets pre-watershed and your local shopping centre resembles something out of Dead Rising, only minus the chainsaws and utterly devoid of joy. All this can only mean one thing: its Christmas time.
Since receiving a Master System as a Christmas present in the early nineties, I have come to equate the season with video games, as year after year they would sit atop my Christmas wish-list. This year will be no different.
Despite the millions of video games nestled under Christmas trees worldwide, there has always been a dirge of quality Xmas themed video games, unless you count Elf Bowling and Home Alone, which hopefully you don’t. So instead of regurgitating a list of crap cash-ins, I’m breaking my own set of rules and limiting this week’s recommendations to the one, solitary Christmas game that is deserving of your time.
Christmas NIGHTS – Sega Saturn (1996)
NIGHTS into Dreams was one of the finest games to grace the doomed Sega Saturn. Developed by the acclaimed Sonic Team, including Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima, it is an innovative journey through an impressive dream world. Featuring 3D graphics, with 3D and 2D gameplay elements, you soar through the air gathering collectibles in a similar fashion to Sonic the Hedgehog, only it's far more surreal and charming in its execution.
Nights also had its own custom, analogue controller, part precursor to the Dreamcast pad, part Frisbee but comfortable to hold nonetheless. To get the most out of Nights, you really should invest in this peripheral.
As the name suggest, Christmas NIGHTS simply took the winning formula of NIGHTS Into Dreams and gave it a festive twist in the guise of a one level, stand-alone demo. A Christmas gift from the Sonic Team given away with magazines, holiday Saturn bundles and other full purchases, it’s a must have for any discerning Saturn owner. Christmas NIGHTS takes the opening level from the original and adorns it with all things festive, managing to eclipse the original's charm without sacrificing any of its effortless and addictive gameplay.
So as not to limit its appeal to just one part of the year, Christmas NIGHTS uses the Saturn’s internal clock to adjust in-game elements. November and January is Winter Nights and New Years and April Fools boast their own unique features. But Christmas Nights is best played in December, when it transforms into a cornucopia of all things festive, featuring elves, presents, Christmas trees and a rendition of Jingle Bells. Play it on the 25th and you may even catch sight of old St Nick himself.
So dust off your Sega Saturn, quaff some sherry, grab the mince pies and get festive with Christmas Nights, the only Christmas game worth playing.
I will be taking a break from my weekly recommendations next week. In its place, I will be posting my Best & Worst of 2010 sometime before the New Year.
Have a Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays.