Normally when I do these, I’m recommending some sort of buried treasure. Something that’s been unjustly lost in time that deserves to be played by future generations. Today is something different. Today, I’m putting the spotlight on something that doesn’t deserve to be played so much as it deserves to be studied. What we have here is a game so bizarre on so many levels that it simply must be talked about. Today we talk about Daze Before Christmas.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of this game before. It was never released here in America. It was planned, but for reasons unknown, it never made it out the door, which is especially bizarre considering that it was developed right here in the good ‘ol US of A. So, just what is this game, you ask? Well…
You play as Santa Claus. He’s got a sack full of toys, and the ability to jump like Mario. A snowman has cursed all the presents, kidnapped all the elves, and generally attempted to ruin the holidays. I guess in this universe, snowmen are colossal jerks. You run and jump through some fairly bland platforming stages, and attempt to save the day. You fight clouds, rats, and barrels with faces on them, and If you drink hot coffee, you turn into Anti Claus, grow devil horns, and beat things with your sack o toys. Because that’s an image little kids should have of Santa, right?
Don’t let the Sunsoft logo fool you, this is not a good game. It was one of the last projects Sunsoft’s USA division was involved in, and if this was the kind of quality they were outputting, their closure shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. I mean, it runs on the engine from We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (which was an absolutely awful game), so it had one foot in the grave before it even made it to the chimney. No, this wasn’t made by the people who brought you Blaster Master and Mr. Gimmick. This has more in common with the sub-par Aero the Acrobat series. In fact, when you fire up the game, after you see the Sunsoft logo (complete with Santa-hat-wearing Aero himself poking out of the top) you’re treated to the Funcom logo, which just screams quality right out of the gate. If that wasn’t a bad enough feeling for you, once you hit the title screen, a rather menacing voice says “Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!” I’m sure this was supposed to sound like Santa, but it actually sounds like Satan. Or maybe it’s Anti Claus. Who can be sure? Now, I said earlier that the stages are fairly generic, but there’s something to be said for the game’s overall aesthetic. It’s well animated, very colorful, and the music is kind of okay. Mostly Christmas tunes, but the arrangement isn’t half bad. And you know what? This is leagues ahead of the utterly unplayable Santa Claus Saves the Earth for Game boy Advance. Now that’s a crappy Santa game!
My only experience was with the Super NES version, but this was a multiplatform release. Yes, there’s a Sega Mega Drive version out there, too. You can get your 16 bits of Santa action from a multitude of sources! Of course, like I mentioned earlier, the game was never released in America, so if you want to track this down without emulation, you’ll need something that plays European or Australian games.
As you probably guessed, this hasn’t been rereleased in any form, and I would say the chances of it happening are about as good as a snowball’s chance in hell. Still, this is a fascinating game. Christmas themed games aren’t exactly unheard of, but this thing is straight up bizarre. I would love to hear more stories of its development, and how far it actually got before its US release was cancelled. Of course, I would like to hear more stories about Sunsoft in general. It’s just one of those things, I suppose.
If you’re itching to play a holiday themed video game, you’d be better off tracking down Christmas NiGHTS or Xmas Lemmings. But if you do happen upon this weirdo, give it a shot, if only to experience just how weird Christmas games can be.