It's that time of year again. Late last week, the full-on christmas celebration for NiGHTS into dreams began. From here on out, every day will get a bit more christmasy. This has become a yearly tradition for me - to play Christmas NiGHTS around this time for the atmosphere. This year is especially neat, because so many new players will get to experience Christmas NiGHTS for the first time ever. And even better - NiGHTS (and Christmas NiGHTS) has released on Stream today!
For those who have never experienced Christmas NiGHTS, officially it is nothing more than a NiGHTS into Dreams demo disc for the Sega Saturn. In fact, for 95% of the year, it's just a 1-stage demo (although you can play that stage backwards as Claris, which you can't do in the full version of the game, effectively giving you a new course that isn't present in the final game). However, beginning about 2 weeks before Christmas, the game takes advantage of the Sega Saturn's internal clock and transforms itself into a NiGHTS into Dreams sequel.
As Christmas draws near, the level slowly transitions into a christmas theme - snow starts to fall, then ornaments start appearing, the NiGHTopeans start singing christmas carols, then, a few days before Christmas, the game goes full blown into the Christmas theme. It's during this time, only accessable about 3 or 4 days before Christmas, that a new story mode opens up, taking place a few months after the end of the original NiGHTS.
The original NiGHTS ended with Claris and Elliot finding confidence through their encounter with NiGHTS to succeede, and seeing only glimpses of each other in their dreams, unaware of what they had experienced was real or not. It's the big Twin City anniversary, and Elliot sees a poster for the concert celebrating this occasion on the street, and has a quick vision of NiGHTS, which encourages him to go inside. Once inside, he sees Claris singing, and as he runs to her, they're taken back to Nightopea once again, implying it WAS real.
Christmas NiGHTS begins with the two apparently dating, going Christmas shopping together, and stopping at the giant Christmas tree in the center of Twin City. Only something is wrong - in the midst of all the commercialism which has taken over christmas, the city has forgotten to take the time out to adorn the tree with the ceremonial star. It seems that everybody is too busy to realize what christmas is all about. That night, the kids go home and have nightmare once again, and are reunited with NiGHTS, who reveals that Gigawing has infected people's minds in an effort to ruin christmas. So the kids, with NiGHTS, defeat him. They awaken the next day, wondering if what they went through actually changed anything, and find the star back on the tree.
This game was given away free, world-wide by Sega, and is probably one of the coolest pieces of free tech ever. What makes it so awesome, besides the price and Christmas theme, is that it is essentially free DLC before DLC existed. The original NiGHTS was actually rushed to market, and numerous features planned for the game got dropped. These features are back in Christmas NiGHTS, and the game works with your regular NiGHTS save file to interconnect the games. An example of how they interconnect is the A-life system. A-life is what the Chao mini game from Sonic Adventure is called (SA chao is called A-life 2.0, SA2 chao is A-life 3.0, NiGHTS has A-life 1.0, and Christmas NiGHTS is a-life 1.1). The NiGHTopeans in NiGHTS actually behave just like Chao in Sonic Adventure, and you can raise them and breed them, and feed them enemies to try and form a King NiGHTOpean. Doing so, in the original NiGHTS, is near impossible, as raising one requires very precise maintaince of your NiGHTopeans. Christmas NiGHTS includes several tools which lets you check the status of your NiGHTopeans, from their mood to their health to their age and sex.
Additionally, the game includes numerous christmas presents, which are earned from repeated playthroughs of the game. Every time you beat the game, you get to play a matching game, which lets you unlock 1 present. These presents range from the original E3 trailer, to a kareoke mode, to concept art, to the ability to play as Reala (which also unlocks on April Fools) to probably the coolest present there is: Sonic the Hedgehog into Dreams.
This mode lets you play as Sonic the Hedgehog in NiGHTS, and even replaces the boss with Dr. Robotnik (and the boss music with Final Fever from Sonic CD).
This is one of the very best products Sonic Team ever put out, and it was free. If you have the ability to play this game, do so. It's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.