Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: Christmas Nights Into Dreams (Saturn)

with 3 comments

christmas_nightsConsole: Saturn
Released: December 1996
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: It did not have one – manual of the original game should suffice
Difficulty: Easy
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $24.25 (used), $56.00 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – A Japan only PS2 remake of Nights Into Dreams includes the Christmas content
Digital Release? Yes – included in the HD remake of Nights Into Dreams on XBLA and PSN, certain content removed (see below)

Christmas Nights Into Dreams is significant for several reasons, but most of all it’s one of the only Christmas themed games to ever come out.  No, seriously, look through the vaults of retro console history, this is a holiday that is rarely celebrated save for games that focus on certain days (Animal Crossing, for example).  In the winter of 1996 Sega was already in big trouble with the Saturn.  At only about a year and a half old, Sony’s Playstation was killing it in terms of sales and there were few exclusive titles that generated any kind of buzz.  Even Sonic, the faithful hedgehog that always seemed to sweep in and save Sega’s butt, hadn’t released a real game yet.  Not only that, but this was the Christmas release of the Nintendo 64 and Mario 64 was selling out consoles nationwide.  Nights Into Dreams was the only recent release on the Saturn that appealed to the typical gamer and with its colorful aesthetic, roots in platforming, and Sonic Team developer it was Sega’s best bet for the holidays.  Under these circumstances Christmas Nights invaded the market in several forms from being a free pack-in with Christmas console bundles (that already included Nights), inside several magazines, a mail away/in store offer with certain game purchases, and even for rent at Blockbuster Video.  This “sampler” title was everywhere, but only for about 45 days, and now it’s one of the more rare and sought after pieces of a retro gamer’s collection.

xmas_nights_1

When you first boot it up, the game isn’t really much.  You get to play as either of Nights protagonists Elliot and Claris in the Spring Valley level from the original game.  Claris was the only character who could play this dream in the original game, so to be able to play Elliot complete with different item layout was somewhat of a treat.  It’s a short run, only probably 10-20 minutes depending on your familiarity and exploration, which was as much a demo back then as it is now.  The devil is in the details with this game, though, because it has a ton of hidden content to explore.  Depending on the game clock you can get several special versions of Christmas Nights including a heavily adapted Christmas theme if your clock reads December, New Year’s and Halloween also receive special aesthetics, and playing on April Fools will let you play as Reala (Nights’ nemesis) instead of Nights when you change.  You can also unlock a speed mode, sound test, and a few other extras like artwork and visual options.  Probably my favorite unlockable is Sonic the Hedgehog: Into Dreams, which lets you play through the level as Sonic the Hedgehog without the ability to transform into Nights and the boss, Puffy, is instead Dr. Robotnik.

xmas_nights_2Sure, when you tell someone about this title, especially with online prices for this game starting around $35 and getting as high as a $100 asking price, it’s a tough sell.  For those of us who picked it up when it was nothing more than a throw away demo disc, forgotten in the “no case” bin of your local FuncoLand or GameStop that was liquidating Saturn inventory, it was a robust find.  I think I paid $10 for mine and I was surprised to find out about all the extra content years after picking it up.  It’s not like the content is hidden by any means,  I just had no interest back when I brought it home amidst a stack of games.  If you happen to own the HD remake on 360/PS3, the Christmas Nights content does unlock after completing the game, although I’m not sure about the non-Christmas holiday motifs, much of the extra content has been stripped, and Sonic the Hedgehog: Into Dreams is gone as well.  For fans of the original Nights that have about an hour to kill and get all festive in the holiday spirit, it’s a great Christmas Eve game.  Given its high price and frankly unjust amount of content, I’ve created a gameplay video to show you what all the fuss is about.  Merry Christmas!

Written by Fred Rojas

December 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. Really cool and very informative. The Christmas nights I have is the Japanese version.

    Chris Chandler

    December 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

    • I have an opportunity to pick up the Japanese version on the cheap (like $10). Is it different from the American version I have in the video (save for language)? Any feedback would be appreciated.

      spydersvenom

      December 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

  2. Really cool and very informative.

    Chris Chandler

    December 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm


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