Remembering Christmas Games
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Remembering Christmas Games

Good: Some of these games are actually good.
Bad: Some of these games are really, really bad.
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For all of us who grew up in the age of video games, then and now, Christmas time has been synonymous with video games. Christmas was the time of year, that for a lot of us, made or broke the next six months or so of our year in gaming. Remember, these games were expensive, and seeing as how we as children did not work jobs, we fell at the mercy of our parents to make a good choice when dropping $59.99 on one of the two games we typically were bought each year. You could luck up and get something like Metroid, Zelda, Sonic or Mario…or you could get stuck with crap like To the Earth!, Yo! Noid, anything Superman related or even some tripe like Wall Street Kid. Yes, for some of us, Christmas could be equated with letdowns and disappointment when it came to video games. I, for the most part, lucked out every year, as my parents and grandparents usually listened to what I wanted. I had some great memories of unboxing the latest NES game to hit my house and playing into the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Day. Ah, to be that young again.

xmas morningDisclaimer: Not my actual childhood.

However, the Christmas of 1991 yielded the biggest Christmas disappointment of all time for myself. If you remember, this was the year of the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and that was exactly what I wanted. I remember putting this, and only this on my list so there was no room for error on Santa’s part. I would have sold my younger brother into white slavery if that meant playing with power…Super Power. Lo and behold, under the Christmas tree in the days leading up to the big day, there was a rather large box with my name on it. Snooping around and opening it would have resulted in a yuletide ass beating (I found this out earlier in life), so it was up to good old fashioned detective work in order to determine if indeed, I was to join the next generation in gaming. The box certainly weighed enough, it was solid on all sides, and just to be sure, I went to the closet and pulled out the box to the NES my brother and I got for Christmas a few years before. I laid them side by side and they were almost identical in length, width, and height. Holy shit. A Super Nintendo it was. Case closed. The days leading up to Christmas were met with more and more anticipation, as I went to bed with images of Yoshi and Pilotwings in my head. The big morning hit, and after all the Santa business was finished, which, for some reason I had scored an NES game, it was time to open the wrapped presents. Savoring the moment, I took my time getting to the big box. I pulled back the wrapping paper and found…

BattleshipWhat. The. Fuck? That’s right. Electronic Talking Battleship. This was not a Super Nintendo. I am sure my parents, who loved me, and still do, to this day, did not plan it to go down this way. Remember all those “Hitler Reacts” videos on YouTube? Yeah. That was me, but only on the inside. As furious and upset as I was, I didn’t show it, out of respect for Mom and Dad. But man, that was a tough break. I even opened it up to see if there was a SNES inside, because my Dad liked to play fucked up tricks like that, but not this time. So instead of ditching my buddies in the 8-bit world for greener pixelated pastures, I’d still be an NES-er, for another year or two, at least. But who am I to complain? Some kids spend Christmas getting burned with cigarettes and being whipped with extension cords by alcoholic stepdads. Such is life. For you, my friends, I have provided a few Christmas themed games for this week’s article. Some good, some bad, some that barely qualify as Christmas games since the movie took place at Christmas. So put your cigarettes out on that little brat, pour yourself a nice tall glass of whiskey and enjoy.

Home Alone (1992, Bethesda)

HomealoneBefore making killer games like Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls, Bethesda Softworks decided to take the hottest Christmas movie of all time and turn it into a video game. What could go wrong? A movie game and a Christmas one, at that, was a surefire way to bring joy to gamers everywhere and rake in the cash. To my knowledge, it did neither. In this multiplatform horror story you play as Kevin McCallister, who is left by his neglectful family at home while they fly to France for a vacation. To compound things, burglars target his home for a robbery, unaware that the kid is home alone. Rather than telephone the police, to turn in his shitty parents and alert them to the impending burglary, Kevin sets a series of hilarious traps aimed at maiming and possibly killing the bandits. This game was horrible. The graphics were subpar, the music repetitive, and gameplay was a joke. My cousin got this one for Christmas, and thank God it was him instead of me. You had to keep the burglars at bay for about 20 minutes, springing traps and resetting them while they chased you around. Not only was this game halfassed in execution, it was crazy hard. This marked the beginning of my realization that movie games, generally, were horrible.

Christmas Nights (1996, Sega)

Christmas NightsChristmas Nights was an add-on to the excellent Sega Saturn action game Nights: Into Dreams. The game was acquired as a pack-in game along with Daytona USA, was also available as a rental-exclusive at Blockbuster Video and found included in Sega Magazine. Not exactly a standalone title, as it was merely 2 levels in which you fly around in a Christmas Dream of your main character from the regular game. This had something to do with flying about in search of a Christmas star for your tree or something. The actual game ranks among the all time favorites of Sega gamers, and did offer some innovative gameplay and fancy camera work. What I found interesting is that the game took advantage of the Saturn’s internal clock, and in November and January the title screen read “Winter Nights” and in December only, it read “Christmas Nights.” This was pretty cool, and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise doomed console, which would be joined by its successor, the Dreamcast, in videogaming’s mass grave of failed systems.

Batman Returns (1992, Konami)

Batman ReturnsI got to give credit where credit is due. One of my Facebook friends, Kirk Landrum, made a status update some time ago about Batman Returns being his favorite Christmas movie of all time. This update from over a year ago was the basis for my idea for this entire article. True, the film Batman Returns, and the video game adaption for the SNES took place in Gotham City at Christmas. Anyhow, you play as the Dark Knight in his crusade against the Penguin and Catwoman, who are terrorizing Gotham in this side-scrolling beat ’em up, which also saw release on the NES and Sega Genesis. The game was pretty much a Batman version of Final Fight or Streets of Rage, but it was very well executed with great graphics and sound. Best Christmas game ever. This was also the last decent Batman game of the entire console generation, sadly.

Daze Before Christmas (1994, Sunsoft)

Daze Before XmasThis oddity, released only in Australia and Germany for the Sega Genesis in 1994, is quite possibly the coolest Christmas game ever. You play as Santa, whose reindeer have been kidnapped along with his workshop taken over by an evil snowman. It’s your basic action/platformer, which plays alot like the Bubsy games. You have a few weapons with which to combat evil toys, deranged elves and smaller, but still evil, snowmen. You use Christmas magic to assault these bad guys and turn them into Christmas presents. Also in Santa’s bag of tricks is a quasi-flamethrower that he uses to melt ice, and his bag of toys, which he uses to bludgeon enemies. The neatest thing about this is how Santa transforms into what is called “Anti-Claus” a devilish version of himself that grants him invincibility that he uses to kill everything in his path. I can’t really imagine playing this outside of the holiday season, and it doesn’t really matter, because this title is among the more rare releases for the system.

Die Hard (1992, Activision)

Die HardAnother game that exhibits no Christmas content other than the fact that the movie took place during Christmas is 1992’s Die Hard for the NES. This game pits supercop John McClane against weird-talking terrorist Hans Gruber, who has taken McClane’s wife hostage among others on the 30th floor of a skyscraper during Christmas time. The game follows the plot of the film, in which it’s up to the player to kill every terrorist he comes across in the building. To achieve this, you have a pistol, grenades, submachine guns and flashbangs to get your holiday message across to the terrorists. This game was extremely difficult, and the most interesting feature was the ‘foot meter.’ This keeps the movie’s plot in mind that McClane injures his feet during his one man hostage recovery operation. Every time you step on something like broken glass, the meter loses points. Lose all your points, and you’re limping around, as a much easier target for Hans’ henchmen. The game features simple cutscenes to tell the overall story, but tragically, the scene where the dad from Family Matters tells McClane his sob story about shooting a kid, is notably absent.

James Pond 2: Codename RoboCod (1991, Millennium Interactive)

James Pond II - Codename Robocod (1993)(Millennium)(AGA) 2Released for the Sega Genesis in 1991, and known as Super James Pond for the SNES, the world’s top underwater superspy makes his return for his second outing in which his nemesis, Dr. Maybe, has taken over Santa’s workshop and held his elves hostage. To even the odds, James Pond has been issued a robotic suit, just like RoboCop’s. I swear to God, nothing says it’s time for the holidays like anything pertaining to RoboCop. To make matters worse, however, is that Dr. Maybe has turned many of Santa’s helpers against our hero. There are about 50 different levels to negotiate along your way, and contrary to the silenced pistol James is holding on the cover art, there are no weapons available to make your job any easier. Still, your robosuit gives you special abilities with which you will use to make your way through the end. This colorful, almost too-cheerful game plays very well, and has lots of non-weaponized power-ups and vehicles that you can make good use of. I was going to leave this game off the list in favor of Santa Claus Saves the Earth (2002, Telegames) for the Playstation 1, but couldn’t find any information whatsoever on this elusive title, so I’ll just leave you all a picture of it and you can draw your own conclusions of how shitty that one was.

Santa Saves EarthI’m pretty sure the typo on the title screen is a pretty good indication of how awful that one was. So, I hope you all enjoyed this special Christmas themed review, and myself and the rest of the 3rd-Strike crew wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Joyous Kwanzaa. Hmm…next year, maybe I should write about Kwanzaa games…

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fflando
fflando


I am a full time Firefighter/EMT living in the United States. In my spare time, I split my time between modern games on my Xbox and the rich universe of the systems we all grew up with.

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