A reader creates a virtual video game advent calendar, where you’re encouraged to play a different retro game on every day.
Thanks to my education being spent entirely in Catholic schools, there is no better way to start the Christmas celebrations than with an advent calendar! And no, I don’t cheat! That is not in the spirit of the season!
As such, I’ve decided to compile this little calendar of video game or related suggestions to treat yourselves to at this special time of year. Ideally, you would fish these out of your collection and play them, but that won’t be possible in all of these cases so having a look on YouTube is just as good. So, here it is, Merry Christmas!
Day 1: Sonic The Hedgehog for the Master System is one of my earliest games and not much is reminiscent of the Winter Solstice here. But the strange bonus rounds where you’re surrounded by stars and vibrant colours, along with the adorable karaoke tune Sonic hums at the end do give me the warm and fuzzies.
Day 17: Final Fantasy X-2, PlayStation 2. Zanarkand Ruins. Thanks to all those nativity plays that I did during my childhood, there are few things that gets me more festive. Zanarkand Ruins is a holy site in the game’s lore, a place of pilgrimage. It strongly reminds me of Bethlehem. I can imagine Mary finding no place to bear her child, because not a single room was in sight.
Day 6: Dynamite Headdy, Mega Drive. All of it, really. It’s about toys coming to life to fight evil. Or something. The final battle that takes place high in the night sky in particular, makes me feel that Santa and his reindeer will fly past at any moment.
Day 20: Elite Beat Agents, Nintendo DS. A Christmas Gift. I think this one’s reputation precedes it. Just go watch it. It is all the feels.
Day 2: Sonic The Hedgehog, Mega Drive. The music to Spring Garden has a bit of jingle bells vibe to it, but it is called Spring Garden. Starlight Zone, though, is almost perfect. It’s like a nice walk on a quiet, Christmas night.
Day 13: Shenmue, Dreamcast. Meet Santa out on the streets of Dobuita!
Day 22: Fable 2, Xbox 360. Mostly the opening section and if you go around doing good deeds. Charlie Dickens would be proud of you.
Day 3: Sonic 2, Mega Drive. Casino Night Zone, despite the gambling connections, feels very much like going through your home town with all the Christmas lights turned on. And the entire finale, swelling with heroic triumph always makes me feel sentimental for the holidays.
Day 8: Fighters Megamix, Sega Saturn. The Arctic stage. I mean, come on! It’s in Sonic The Fighters as well, but if you’re going to play one of them, play Megamix. Megamix is a good game. Sonic The Fighters… is not.
Day 4: Sonic & Knuckles 3. The Death Egg Zone. Yes, I know it’s an evil space station. It just works okay!
Day 18: Dark Chronicle, PlayStation 2. Kazarov Stonehenge theme. Alas, this music does not play to anything wintry as it would be perfect for it. But it has church bells, choir singing, it’s just so lovely.
Day 5: Sonic 3D Blast, Mega Drive. The theme to Diamond Dust Zone Act 2 is just perfect.
Day 14: Skies Of Arcadia, Dreamcast. Welcome… to the Great Silver Shrine! It is breathtaking. Like being inside a Christmas tree bauble!
Day 7: James Pond 2: Codename RoboCod. That is still a funny title. I played it on the Mega Drive but it came out for the Amiga at first. I didn’t find it all that enjoyable, but you start off in Santa’s North Pole toy factory, so it’s worth looking at a bit of footage online at the very least.
Day 19: Champions: Return To Arms, PlayStation 2. Bastion Of Thunder. I can almost imagine Santa living here. If it weren’t for all the monsters.
Day 9: NiGHTS Into Dreams, Saturn. Elliot has a very Christmassy winter stage; the last stage of Twin Seeds also has that feel too. But the Claris and Elliot ending where she starts to sing and it looks like she’s in a lounge with all the Christmas decorations up… yeah. And it makes me choke up every time.
Day 10: Christmas NiGHTS, Saturn. This even has its own advent calendar! Good luck trying to get a hold of it, though…
Day 15: Rez, Dreamcast. Um… pretty lights? Just be grateful!
Day 11: Super Mario 64, Nintendo 64. The winter levels. Let’s all be honest with each other, here: has anybody done sensory Christmas better than this? Nintendo just nailed it.
Day 21: The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess, GameCube. The Snowpeak Ruins. Well, of course this frozen estate is Christmassy! It even has a Christmas message!
Day 23: Skyrim, Xbox 360. Especially Windhelm. Ulfric Stormcloak sure as hell ain’t no jolly, Saint Nick, though…
Day 12: Sonic Adventure, Dreamcast. Twinkle Park. If you live in a city, you might be fortunate enough to have some sort of fair stick around for a few weeks over the festive period. I live in sleepy, market town Hinckley and our fair packed up after just days! And I missed it again this year! Oh well, this level is that but in virtual form.
Day 16: Kingdom Hearts, PlayStation 2. Merlin’s Magical House. This is just like curling up with a mulled wine and settling in to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol for the millionth time…
Day 24: Dragon Age: Inquisition. The Dawn Will Come. No. I won’t do the joke. After the main villain has forcefully evicted you and your people from your home, the outlook couldn’t be worse. And then one of the nuns start singing this song. Before long, everyone joins in. Like The Blues Brothers, nuns will always have a strange power over me. If a sister of the cloth tells me to do something, then you can be damned sure I’m going to do it. It shouldn’t work. It should be cringe. But it is the very soul of Christmas. Finding hope and light on the very darkest day of the year.
Day 25: Yes, advent calendars should go up to Christmas Day! Sadly, no games today. You have to spend time with your friends and loved ones instead or they’ll start looking at you like you’re weird. Curse them! Joy to the world, everyone! You made it through another year!
By reader DMR
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