The holidays are always an interesting time for people. You meet up with family, learn about different cultures and rituals, do an incredible amount of traveling, and of course, end up delayed in all your affairs (like writing a weekly review). But I’m abnormal from most of the people I know. I prefer Halloween to Christmas. While I love the feeling of goodwill and family that the latter brings, there’s just something more appealing about costumes, candies, and scares. That, and there are better movies on Halloween. So it’s no wonder my favorite holiday movie would be The Nightmare Before Christmas.
For those of you who never saw or heard of this film, it’s based on a poem written by Tim Burton. And while he created the story and characters, he actually didn’t direct it. That honor belongs to Henry Selick, who has also directed great films like James and The Giant Peach and Coraline. The story follows Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween town as he ends up trying to do his own Christmas, and learns a valuable lesson about how good he really has it. Great musical numbers and awesome designs are why this film is so beloved.
Created by Capcom (yes, THAT Capcom), The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge for PS2 and Xbox takes place after the events of the celebrated film. Jack, now truly getting into the spirit of his job, decides to go on a journey to find new ideas for Halloween. Armed with his new weapon, a slime whip created by Dr. Finklesten called the Soul Robber, Jack leaves. And while he’s gone, the trio of trick-or-treaters Lock, Shock and Barrel resurrect their master (and villain of the film) Oogie Boogie. When Jack returns, he finds that Oogie’s taken over Halloween Town, convinced the people that Jack left because they weren’t making Halloween dangerous enough, kidnapped Jack’s love interest, Sally the rag doll, and is attempting to conquer all holidays and become the Seven Holiday King. It’s up to Jack to save the day again.
If I had to sum this game up in one sentence, it’d be “Devil May Cry for kids.” I’m not kidding. Capcom used the same gameplay and control style as their insanely popular action franchise, resulting in the same kind of combo heavy action and level exploration, but slightly easier for the more open audience. At the end of each chapter you’ll be rated on things like completion time, combos and items used or not used. Jack handles pretty good, and combat is very satisfying. He also has the ability to switch between costumes: Regular Jack is all about fast combos and grabbing people with his whip-like Soul Robber, Pumpkin Jack is all explosive attacks and flame-throwing, and Santa Jack tosses gifts that stun opponents. During boss battles, you often will be stuck in a Danny Elfman inspired musical, as Jack and the others sing about what’s happening. Finishing the bosses off tends to involve a button pressing mini-game, allowing you to finish them off with musical style. That’s right, it’s a musical action adventure game. But only at those important battles.
Graphically, this game is perfect. I mean it. Like the other game series to feature Jack, Kingdom Hearts, the stop motion characters look exactly like they should on the previous generations’ consoles. If you had to make a CG sequel or spin-off (which I hope to God they never do), they better look as good as this game does. And it’s not just the characters. Every aspect from the film, like Christmas Town, or Finklestein’s lab, look EXACTLY like they should.
Sound-wise, this game is just as impressive. Chris Sarandon returns as Jack, and even gets to sing as him since Danny Elfman didn’t come back. Quite a few actors return, and while it’s not all of them, it does lend a level of legitimacy to the game. The music is also great, using the tunes that we associate with the film, and die-hard fans will probably enjoy the new iterations of their favorite songs. There is however one complaint: when you attack with Soul Robber, Jack yells out “Soul Robber!” Every. Single. TIME. It can drive you a bit insane.
The continuing impressive design spreads to all the little things, like the Two Witches running the shop where you can buy items and enhancements, and Hyde and his little people under his hat being the in-level save point. The boss battles are large and impressive, including a battle with Dr. Finklestein to try and replace his brain, and the show-stopping final battle with a giant Oogie Boogie.
Again, I’m impressed with how this game is just pure absolute fanservice. That may actually be one huge problem. If you somehow hate the film, you will hate this game. It’s fun to play, and really well designed, but the people who will get the most out of this are fans of Nightmare Before Christmas. Still, there is fun to be had if you like Devil May Cry. So Happy Holidays to all, and to all, LET’S PLAY!