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Gamer Tuesday

October 25, 2011

Editor's Note: In honor of From Screen To Theme's Spooky Spectacular Week, all articles from October 25-October 31 will feature something spooky! We hope you enjoy!

Gamer Tuesday Halloween Special: The Nightmare Before Christmas in Gaming Retrospective

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERY BOOOOODY! This week is the perfect time to scare up some good, wholesome Disney fun, either by dressing up as your favorite Disney character or watching your favorite spooky Disney story. One of the most beloved of all is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Released in 1993 under Disney's Touchstone Pictures banner, the film tells a morbidly wicked story of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town. He has successfully completed yet another Halloween, but while all the ghouls and creatures celebrate this momentous occasion, Jack begins to feel empty. Even if Halloween is what he does best, in true Disney character fashion, he yearns for more. While walking through the forest, he stumbles upon various doors, one of them a door shaped in the form of a Christmas Tree. He opens it and is sent to Christmas town, where he is delighted by all the color and joy of this peculiar season. He loves it so much, he wants to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, and the end results are quite dreary.

The stunning stop motion animation combined with the haunting music and chilling sense of humor turned the film into a fantastic cult classic. As the years went on, however, the fans grew larger in size. Slowly, but surely, they embraced the macabre fun of Burton's imagination, and what was once considered to be one of Disney's 'B' movies became a beloved classic. Disney even re-released it several times as a 3D film and under the Walt Disney Pictures banner. Disneyland is the host of the Haunted Mansion Holiday, which turns the classic Haunted Mansion ride into a Nightmare Before Christmas attraction from October till December. There are even meet and greets with Jack Skellington and Sally!

With the blooming success of the film and its presence in nearly all aspects of the Disney fandom, The Nightmare Before Christmas eventually yielded a couple of video game adaptations. One of the earliest attempts at creating a digital version of The Nightmare Before Christmas was actually a small element in a rather epic Disney video game. In 2002, Japanese developer Square Enix teamed up with Disney Interactive and released Kingdom Hearts, a massive crossover role playing game where Disney's classic worlds and characters collide with the epic storytelling and gameplay of Square's Final Fantasy series. The game starred a young boy named Sora as he ventures alongside Donald Duck and Goofy in search of his friends throughout various worlds. One of these happened to be the most surprising of them all: Halloween Town.

Based upon the movie and featuring an original story, Halloween Town features the appearance of Jack, Sally, Dr. Finkelstein, The Mayor of Halloween Town, Shock, Lock and Barrel and, of course, Oogie Boogie as the main antagonist. Oogie is one of the many Disney villains that are trying to destroy the Disney worlds by drowning them in darkness. When Sora, Donald, and Goofy visit this world, they are transformed into denizens of Halloween Town. Sora becomes a vampire, Donald into a mummy, and Goofy into Frankenstein's monster. Kingdom Hearts' grandiose visual fidelity allowed the world to look and feel like the original film, making it one of the most memorable worlds in the whole game. You could travel down the same curvy hill Jack frequents to, ride on Shock, Lock and Barrel's walking tub, and escape Oogie Boogie's gambling death machine. Even the Keyblade Sora receives after completing this world is based on the movie!

     

Despite being just one world in one game, Halloween Town re-introduced The Nightmare Before Christmas to many players who had grown up with the film, or helped them discover it for the first time in some cases. By 2002, the film was already gaining the great popularity it is experiencing today, and it is likely that the success of both Kingdom Hearts and the film inspired another famous Japanese company to create their own take on The Nightmare Before Christmas. That company happened to be none other than Capcom.

If you are a regular Gamer Tuesday reader then you know how important Capcom was in the history of Disney gaming. Their partnership with Disney gave us some of the most creative and wonderful games ever created. By the beginning of the year 2000, however, that partnership had slowed down, seeing only a few Disney games for the systems of that era. In 2005, Capcom would once again take what they have learned from developing their own titles and place it upon a famous Disney franchise. The game would be The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge.

Released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, Oogie's Revenge acts as a direct sequel to the feature film as Jack is once again butting heads with the bug monster. Jack has just completed yet another Halloween, but is still hoping to find better, more frightful treats. In the process, he acquires a Soul Rubber, a piece of cloth that allows Jack to transform into any form, including the Pumpkin King form. Lock, Shock and Barrel bring back Oogie Boogie to life and takes over Halloween Town. Gameplay wise, Oogie's Revnge is reminiscent of Capcom's own Devil May Cry series. But while that series is known for its brutal difficulty, Oogie's Revenge has been created with a young audience in mind. There are several levels based on the other Holiday doors seen in the original film.

That same year, another The Nightmare Before Christmas video game was released, this time for the Game Boy Advance and titled The Pumpkin King, developed by TOSE. While Oogie's Revenge served as a direct sequel to the film, The Pumpkin King acts as a prequel. The story details how Jack first met Oogie Boogie and soon became the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Oogie Boogie has created a new holiday called 'Bug Day,' but the citizens of Halloween Town are focused on Halloween. Oogie is so mad that he sends his henchmen to kidnap Jack, but instead bring back Sally! Now, Jack must try and get Sally back and be home in time for the Halloween festivities! The Pumpkin King is a 2D adventure/platforming title where Jack uses several guns as his main method of defense.

By the end of 2005, Kingdom Hearts had become a very popular video game franchise. In 2004, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was released for the Game Boy Advance. The game stars Sora once again as he enters a mysterious castle called Castle Oblivion and relives the best moments of his previous adventure. Problem is, the further he explores the castle, the more memories he loses. One of Sora's (and the fans') most vivid memories lies in Halloween Town, which has been recreated in Chain of Memories. Jack and the gang return once more, but due to Sora's memories being manipulated, his vision of Halloween Town is one that is very different from the first adventure. Chain of Memories was re-made was a 3D game for the PlayStation 2. It also included Halloween Town.

Chain of Memories was announced alongside the franchise's true direct sequel, Kingdom Hearts 2, also for the PlayStation 2. When the game was released, The Nightmare Before Christmas was already popular in the Disney fandom, so a return to Halloween Town was not only anticipated but expected. Sora and the gang do return to Halloween Town, but this time, get also get to visit Christmas Town! They get to meet Santa Claus and experience a brand new storyline different from the feature film. In the extended edition of Kingdom Hearts 2, called Final Mix and only released in Japan, Sora, Donald and Goofy don creepy Christmas costumes when visiting Christmas Town.

In all of the video game adaptations of The Nightmare Before Christmas, lots of importance was placed upon how the game looked and sounded. After all, the feature film has been praised for its unique attention to detail and haunting music. The Kingdom Hearts games remained the most loyal to the movie's aesthetics, but the Capcom and TOSE games didn't stray that far behind. Great effort has been put in preserving the vocal performances of the original film. While not all of the original voice actors returned to voice their original characters, the sound-alikes heard throughout the various video games do a really good job of keeping the charm and wit these characters present.

Such is the film's legacy that its few video game appearances have been solid to great representations of its twisted imagination. Whether as a full-fludged video game or just a small segment of an even bigger Disney video game, The Nightmare Before Christmas would captivate gamers in the same way it captured movie goers in 1993 and beyond. Halloween isn't complete without paying Jack and his friends a visit, and these games allow you to do just that.

 

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