This is a rather odd little game that came out in 1994. One of the oddest things about it is the simple fact that it’s a holiday game. How many commercially released holiday games (for ANY holiday) do you ever encounter? Another very odd thing about it is that it’s good. I mean seriously, when you do actually encounter a holiday based video game, how often do you find one that isn’t complete crap on a stick? This was released for both the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and the SNES. If you have a choice, get the Sega version, the SNES is much lower quality. I know, that’s completely backwards, isn’t it? Apparently the game was originally published for the Genesis, then adapted (poorly) for the SNES. While gameplay and level layout are just about identical between the two versions, but the graphics and sound in the SNES version are just plain sad by comparison. It feels more like you’re playing a Gamegear version than a SNES one. The title cards at the beginning of each level are slightly better looking in the SNES version, but only by a tiny margin. The “extras” (text, life/health icons, etc) are larger in scale and much simpler in design in the SNES version, the sprites and platforms are larger, the backgrounds are less detailed. Comparing the SNES version of this game against the Sega one is like comparing Duplo to Lego. The sound suffers at a similar level. It’s only marginally better than what you might expect from the old NES.
You play as Santa Claus (big surprise) and spend most levels running around on platforms, collecting presents and destroying enemies. The scenery varies quite a bit throughout the game. The first level has you playing in Santa’s workshop, but then there are ice cave levels, factory levels, outdoor iceberg levels, and others. You use your magic to open presents and to defeat enemies. There are three different colored presents in any given stage; The red ones must be opened with magic and may contain nearly anything. Some will contain imprisoned elves, some will contain enemies, some will contain bombs. Yellow presents contain power ups or bells (which allow you to continue from that point if you die, instead of from the beginning of the level). Blue presents appear when you hit an enemy with magic. These cannot be opened, but must instead be collected. Your main goal in each level is to reach the large star at the end.
You don’t -have- to open nor collect any presents at all throughout the level. HOWEVER, you should make sure to collect at least a few presents. You’ll note that I stated “most” levels are platformers. Every so often you get more of a horizontal shooter type level. In these levels you must fly through a town and drop a present down each chimney with smoke coming out of it. Getting the alignment right is tricky, but don’t be afraid to throw several presents at the same chimney. There’s no penalty for missing, and you should have collected far more presents than you’ll need. To add to the challenge, your speed is fixed, you have to watch out for tall buildings, and you have to watch out for airborne craft (hot air balloons, extremely low flying satellites, etc).
Every so often you’ll find a cup of coffee laying around. If you grab this, you will turn into Anti-Claus for a short time. Anti-Claus is invulnerable and can trash enemies by whomping them with his sack. He also moves a little faster, and has cool music. He cannot use magic however, nor can he collect presents.
You’ll recall I mentioned at the beginning that the SNES version pales in comparison to the Genesis one, well here you can see for yourselves. The SNES version is on the left in each case, click the pics for a full sized comparison;
The most glaring difference here is in the text/icons, but you can also see how the sprites & platforms consume more of the screen, without granting more detail. (This is the Anti-Claus btw.)
The colors of the background pic & the snow look better in the SNESversion, but the rest looks cheap.
The SNES one looks slightly smoother, but it also seems to have a slight green tint to it (odd, since it was the Genesis version which had the green tint on the score screen).
If you want a great game to play this holiday, or even just a quality game to play any time of year, make sure to give Daze Before Christmas a try.