Christmas Nights into Dreams (Christmas Special)

Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher:  Sega

Released as a free demo with the purchase of Saturn exclusives back in '96, there was a time when Christmas Nights into Dreams' online pricing and demand surpassed that of many full fledged titles.
The demo opens up with a motion comic style intro. Interestingly enough, the narrator sounds bored and uninterested in her text. I'm guessing Sega noticed this too as the 2012 Steam release changed narrators. The story, or what little there is of it has our silent protagonists trying to find a Christmas star containing all of the spirit of the holidays. Yes, 'plot' (and I use this term loosely) is nonsensical but narrator issues aside, it establishes the mood required for this style of game.

The demo consists of two levels, the latter being a boss fight. However, Christmas Nights Into Dreams detects your Saturn's clock setting, and on December 25th, levels shift radically to a holiday setting. Once green mountains are now fully covered in snow, decorated with Christmas trees, stars and other decorations, even the soundtrack changes to a beautiful rendition of Jingle Bells. With that said, the boss fight seems disconnected from Night Into Dreams' overall theme. While the background graphics were changed and decorated with presents, the background music and boss design seems out of place.
Apart from the two short levels you'll find an assortment of unlockables. A lot of it is mere filler content like
poorly aged mid 90s CGI renditions of our main characters, or karaoke songs allowing you to change the pitch of the singers. The most interesting unlockable content is Sonic mode, in which players traverse through each level as the lovable hedgehog. Even the gameplay changes accordingly, but this was clearly an afterthought as the camera struggles to keep up with Sega's mascot.
Rating Christmas Nights into Dreams would be a disservice to the amazing work the developer put forth. It's easy to forget this is a short 10 minute demo with a few extras thrown in. Sonic Team's love and dedication shines through, it transforms what would have been a simple demo into an experience that not only promotes the full-fledged release but even adds a spin to the formula. I'll be the first to admit to prefer Christmas Nights into Dreams' art-style over the final game, as I find myself returning to this edition more often than I do the regular one.

Trivia: Did you know that despite its name, Christmas Nights into Dreams also changes themes on other occasions? During New Year, you get a 'Happy New Year' message, on Valentine's Day you get a Valentine's Hearts and on April 1st you play as the series' main antagonist.

Pros:
- A normal demo for most of the year, but on certain dates it throws you some nice curve balls
- Beautiful rendition of Jingle Bells
- I'd argue the demo has a better art style then the actual game
- The motion comic style intro and ending adds to the demo's whimsical nature

Cons:
- It's just a demo, so you'll be done with it in 10 minutes
- The unlockables are really not worth the time
- Why does the Narrator sound so bored?
- How many times have I said 'Christmas' in the review? Somebody make a drinking game out of that!

Final Grade: N/A

Christmas Nights into dreams comes in a humble cardboard sleeve. The cover is thematically appropriate, featuring our main characters decked in red winter gear with the newly decorated Spring Valley level behind them. The CD design isn't nearly as appealing, it relies on the imps' cuteness factor but I feel this decision didn't quite pan out as Sega hoped. 

Due to the game's small, unassuming package, chances are Christmas Nights into Dreams will blend in with the background. It's easy to lose or misplace the game, and it's unlikely it will ever serve as a conversation piece by itself. Much like the game itself, it would be a disservice to attribute a score to Christmas Nights into Dreams' packaging, considering this a demo, Sega already went above and beyond the call of duty.

Packaging Grade: N/A

Christmas cheer rating: 

Honestly, this is probably the most Christmas-y game I've played yet. The music is beautiful and the new backgrounds actually look more aesthetically pleasing than the original. I like that the objective isn't to recover presents, save Santa or any other materialist/commercial aspect of the Holiday. Instead, you're trying to find a magic star and restore everyone's Christmas cheer. Bad narrator aside, there's a lot of heart in this game. Five snowmen out of Five.





3 comments:

  1. What a fantastic present for players. I wish more developers would do this sort of thing nowadays. Could you imagine a free Christmas map for Halo or Christmas outfits for an RPG or fighting game released as free DLC?

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  2. Huh, I wonder who found out those easter eggs in the first place.

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  3. Hope the holiday season brought you many good things including many awesome games. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete