Christmas is about spending time with the people you live and have bonded with over the year, but nobody says those people have to be real. Plenty of games want to share in the holiday spirit, either by having something magical happen when Christmas rolls around or by giving people a festive gaming experience. It gets you thinking, maybe you shouldn’t just spend time with your real friends. Maybe you should set some time aside to interact with virtual friends too. I think we need a little gamer Christmas!
Let’s start with the games that you’re going to want to play on Christmas. Both of these titles have special effects that only happen on either Christmas Eve or Christmas day. Animal Crossing has Toy Day, an event that happens on December 23 in Animal Crossing and December 24 in Animal Crossing: City Folk. In Animal Crossing, Tortimer gives all players a toy by the Wishing Well and Jingle appears at night to give an extra present. In Animal Crossing: City Folk, Jingle will be in your neighbors’ houses at night and if you go in, he’ll give you an item from the Jingle Series of furniture. Jingle is also supposed to be in the 3DS game Animal Crossing: New Leaf, but Christmas hasn’t come yet in that game, so we won’t know exactly what happens for a few more weeks.
The other seasonal event is in Cave Story+. Every year on December 25, the game undergoes a cosmetic change. Quote transforms into a reindeer dressed as Santa. The characters wear festive outfits. Snow covers the environment and some areas are even decorated with lights. All of the treasure chests even transform into presents. My favorite touch is the mistletoe on Balrog.
Then, there are the games where Christmas can happen anytime. These are easily divided into two categories. One is the games that are Chistmas themed to begin with, the other are the games that have in-game timelines to follow. When I say Christmas-themed games, I mean the ones that are actually good and not the cash-in games like We Wish You a Merry Christmas for the Wii. I’m talking about games like Christmas NiGHTS, James Pond 2: Codename Robocod and DeathSmiles II. While it may be hard to find the Genesis James Pond 2 game, it’s easy enough to download DeathSmiles II X for your Xbox 360 or grab the recent digital release of NiGHTS Into Dreams… for your PS3 or Xbox 360 that includes Christmas NiGHTS. Both offer a unique helping of the Christmas spirit, with Christmas NiGHTS being more traditional and DeathSmiles II X offering a gothic take on the holiday.
Then there are the games where Christmas can come at any time. Anyone familiar with the Harvest Moon and Rune Factory series know the games follow an in-game timeline divided into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. In Winter in Harvest Moon, there is almost always a event either halfway or 3/4th through the month called Starry Night Festival, where you can spend time with people important to you and make a wish. It’s usually a romantic holiday, but then in Japan Christmas is usually spent with a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife so it makes sense. In Rune Factory, there’s the Sacred Night festival on Winter 24 where the player meets with an elligible bachelor or bachelorette for an event.
The whole Christmas-event happens in other series with life-sim elements. Both Persona 3 and Persona 4 have Christmas events. The player is able to get together with one of his/her girlfriends or boyfriends for a happy moment together. There’s even a Christmas cake for the couple to share. If you don’t have a significant other, you can also just go and hang out with friends, as in Persona 4. Christmas couple events are also commonplace in most dating sims and visual novels. The best examples I can think of are the Tokimeki Memorial series, where players friends, teachers and potential suitors send Christmas cards, there’s usually a Christmas party and players are able to exchange gifts with the suitor he or she likes the most.
Most people also forget that even Shenmue has a holiday slant. This iconic adventure game begins on November 29, 1986 and moves forward in real-time. While there isn’t really a big Christmas event, the game’s atmosphere changes as the holiday draws near. More decorations appear around town and it will snow. The real highlight, however, is that drunken Santa may make an appearance. Have Ryu walk around Dobuita at night and, if you’re good, drunk Santa may grace you with his presence.
Then, there are the MMOs. I suppose they count too, though you’re celebrating with real people rather than virtual friends. Pretty much every MMO has a holiday celebration with special events, quests and loot in December. Try to make a point to log into your favorite game to see what you can get for free.
So if you need to get in the gamer Christmas spirit as the holiday draws near, get out your games and visit with some of the best imaginary friends ever. After all, even a virtual character would appreciate your attention around the holidays.