A Gamer’s Holiday – Christmas NiGHTS
There are three ways to do every holiday.
There’s the right way: buy a ham, cook it with the family, sing some Christmas carols.
There’s the wrong way: bring a Christmas tree to your Jewish girlfriend’s holiday party. Perhaps, drop your White Russian and your anticipatory, “I’m going to propose to your daughter now” cigar on the tree at the same time, somehow igniting it. Try to, unawares, put out the flames with the family cat.
Then there’s the gamer’s way: pay homage to the holidays with a play through of the game that embodies that holiday for you. Or, perhaps, a game that you’ve never played that will get you into the holiday spirit.
Of course, don’t do this play through on the day of the celebration—with or without that cat, your sister’s new boyfriend isn’t going to put that fire out by himself.
But when the time is right, we thought the best way to pay tribute to the holidays would be with a play through of the incredibly obscure Christmas NiGHTS.
Christmas NiGHTS was a sequel to the original NiGHTS into Dreams, the franchise that casually attempted to replace Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Saturn. If you don’t remember or if you’ve never played, the original came with an analog controller that was essential for controlling the titular… flying, dream jester. Okay, look, in short, it was a really weird game. Perhaps because you started off choosing one of two kids (Elliot or Claris) with the mission of getting to NiGHTS so you can take control of him for the rest of the stage (just kind of a weird approach for a video game). Or maybe it’s the way the gameplay was all about speed and style (making it, essentially… Air Sonic)? Maybe it was just the weird menu music that featured a loop of laughing playing kids or the graphics that were the most colorful assault my eyes have ever experienced.
But despite how weird it was, the game was really fun and extremely different. Even today, I’d be hard pressed to point to another game that played and felt exactly the same as NiGHTS… excepts for the reportedly lackluster follow-up, NiGHTS: Journey Into Dreams for the Wii, but that, my friends, is another article (that I’m probably not going to write).
Now, Christmas NiGHTS came before Journey Into Dreams, and, like I said, it is a sequel… but it’s the weirdest sequel of all time. It takes place during the holiday season after into Dreams and involves Elliot and Claris going into their dreams to find the missing star from their town’s Christmas tree… Yeah. Christmas NiGHTS was also only two stages long.
But it had a few awesome features. Christmas NiGHTS worked with the Saturn’s built in clock and changed depending on the date and time you played it; on certain holidays, the game’s title, items, music, and scenery would change. Apparently (although I haven’t experienced this), playing it on April Fool’s Day resulted in your playing as Reala, NiGHTS’ evil rival.
To boot—and I shit you not—Christmas NiGHTS was also the debut of Sonic the Hedgehog in the third dimension.
But is any of that why you should play Christmas NiGHTS to celebrate the holidays? No. Sure, the game is actually Christmas NiGHTS during all of December, and it is the most festive way to celebrate with a video game (if Christmas is your thing). And it is blatantly “Christmas,” which I honestly think will never, ever happen again in another video game (making it kind of ridiculously special in that way), but that’s not it either.
No, I’d say you should play Christmas NiGHTS to celebrate the season because it was free. Not completely; it was given away with other Sega games and was a free bonus that came with a few magazines. But the Blockbuster I used to go to was just giving them away. Now, there’s a difference, yeah, but the point still remains that you just won’t see a holiday bonus edition of a modern game given away for even remotely free; in this age of DLC, I’m sure a Santa hat for M. Bison would be a solid $5 in XBL bucks or PSN doubloons. Candy cane claws for Vega? You don’t even want to know. In contrast, modern free give-aways are just demos you can usually download for free on the network of your choice without even having to deal with the sun.
So instead of being the weird kind of rip-off you’d come to expect in this day and age, Christmas NiGHTS is actually… a gift. And if you’re as old as I am, it was a gift you got when you were a kid that was kind of… awesome.
A gift from SEGA.
It’s kind of heartbreaking if you think about it. There was a time when you were young. A time when SEGA still made their own systems. And a time when they still tried really new, fresh ideas and attempted innovation. And back then, for Christmas one of those years, well before they went into the red and became a suffering third party developer, SEGA went so far to give all of us a gift for probably as close to nothing as a video game company could.
Maybe it’s a little too sad, but if remembering what you were given as a kid is part of the magic of Christmas, I think every gamer should spend at least one Christmas Eve with Christmas NiGHTS.