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Christmas Nights Into Dreams

I remember the first time I played Nights. It was long after the Saturn had been abandoned and it was actually sent to me by an eBay seller who made a mistake. He coudln’t track my actual purchase down and I happily accepted the much more expensive game. It’s actually what prompted me to purchase a Saturn. I remember being flat out amazed at the game. The developers’ intention was to make the sensation of flight the central gameplay element, and it worked.

At the time of its release, Nights into Dreams was the top-selling game for the Saturn, and was the 21st highest selling game in Japan for the year 1996. Since then it’s often a staple when people or publications come up with their all time favorite game lists.

Christmas Nights however, is a Christmas-themed two-level game of Nights into Dreams that was released in December 1996. In Japan, it was part of a Christmas Saturn bundle. Elsewhere it was given away with the purchase of select Saturn games such as Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition, and was bundled in with issues of Sega Saturn Magazine, Game Players and Next Generation Magazine. The CD-ROMs given away on the front cover of Sega Saturn Magazine were missing the card slip case in which to keep the disc, and were instead supplied with a transparent plastic one. The game was also available for rent at Blockbuster Video locations in America. In the UK, Christmas Nights was not included with the official Sega Saturn Magazine until December 1997.

The Christmas Nights disc contains the full version of Claris’ Spring Valley dream level from Nights into Dreams, which allows both Claris and Elliot to play through the area, something Elliot could not do previously as it was not his dream. Elliot’s version of the level contains a different item layout than Claris’.

The story of Christmas Nights follows Elliot and Claris during the holiday season following their adventures with Nights. Though they both enjoy the Christmas season, they feel as if something is missing. Finding that the Christmas Star that usually sits at the top of the Twin Seeds Christmas tree is missing, the pair head off to Nightopia to find it. There, they meet up with Nights again and re-explore Spring Valley, which has now been Christmas-ified due to the kids’ dreams of the holiday season. The trio of heroes must now take down a revived Gillwing and retrieve the Christmas Star from his lair.

The game uses the Saturn’s internal clock to change elements of the game according to the date and time. In November and January, the title screen label “Nights: Limited Edition” is changed to “Winter Nights”, with the lush greenery of the environment being replaced by white snow. During December, “Christmas Nights” mode is activated, resulting in further Christmas-themed alterations, such as item boxes becoming Christmas presents, Nightopians dressing in elf costumes, and Christmas trees replacing Ideya captures. The background music is replaced by an instrumental version of “Jingle Bells”, as well as there being a “Christmas-like” rendition of the boss theme. During the “Winter Nights” period, the weather in Spring Valley will change according to what hour it is. Other cosmetic changes are visible on New Year’s Day, and loading the game on April Fool’s Day results in Reala replacing Nights as the playable character.

The disc features a number of unlockable bonuses such as character artwork. Further extra modes allow players to observe the status of the A-life system, experiment with the game’s music mixer, time attack one Mare, or play the demo stage as Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog. In the “Sonic the Hedgehog: Into Dreams” minigame, Sonic is only able to traverse the Spring Valley stage on foot, and the original game’s Puffy boss is re-skinned as a “bouncy ball” version of Doctor Robotnik. The music is a slightly remixed version of “Final Fever”, the final boss battle music from the Japanese and European version of Sonic CD.

It’s a cool game with an epic soundtrack, and one I like to pull out around Christmas time. I actually just had my four year old playing it and he’s now a big fan too.
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Check eBay for copies

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  1. It’s a testament to timeless gameplay designs that allow Nights/Christmas Nights to hold up even better than Nights on the Wii.

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