Retro Monday: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogies Revenge

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Title: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge

Developer: CAPCOM

Publisher: Buena Vista Interactive

Released: September 2005 (EU)

October 2005 (NA)

Well this is the last “Retro Monday” before the Christmas break. So, as it’s the season, let us greet Christmas with a suitably Christmassy game. “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge.”  A name so long it just about fits on the spine of the box.

I have to admit, I don’t usually play the game when I do a retro review. I physically have the game and I have played it to completion, but the time between playing and writing can vary from a few weeks to a few years. Most of the time the game has stuck in my memory for either good or bad reasons, and so I can write a review on it. Except for this one. I decided to review this game because it’s the first game I could think of that had a Christmas theme. I remember playing it and finishing it, but I couldn’t remember anything else about it. So I dusted off my PS2 and spam played it in a day. At least I almost did. I’m near the end of the game but there is only so much arbitrary game lengthening I can take before my brain seizes.

The game is a hack ‘n’ slash which is ok. But it was a hack ‘n’ slash made by CAPCOM in 2005. To those not in the know, that’s the same people who did the original “Devil May Cry” series. They were working on “Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening” as it came out in the same year. All I can think of is the team that worked on “Oogie’s Revenge” was the team from “Devil May Cry 2,” and that is not good.

Taking place one year after the film, “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993), the game shows Jack getting melancholy about Halloween (again) and deciding to go venturing for more ides for next year’s Halloween. While he is gone, Lock, Shock and Barrel, who have been upgraded from mischievous trick-or-treaters to full-blown evil villains, decide to bring back Oogie Boogie. Oogie then takes over Halloween Town and vows to become ‘The Seven Holidays King’ by taking over the 6 other holiday towns via the holiday door Jack found in the film. Jack comes back and fights to save Halloween Town, Christmas Town (for one small level) and end Oogie once again.

The story is a similar re-tread of the film. That may sound bad, but with most of the film’s cast returning to reprise their roles, it makes the game feel like a true sequel. The lead characters return with Jack (Chris Sarandon) and Oogie (Ken Page) being among the returning voice actors, thankfully. Sally is the one lead that has been re-voiced by Kath Soucie. That may sound weird, but I had to look at the credits to tell the difference. It was an amazing impersonation. In comparison, with Dr. Finklestein’s voice you can tell it was a different voice actor, this time out voiced by Jess Harnell.

The reason why having returning voice actors was such a key point is that the songs make a return as well. Many of the songs have been re-written (same song/composition, just different words) just for the game. The songs were the biggest thing that attracted me to the film in the first place. It was the musical/opera style. Hearing Jack and Oogie belt out a new version of “I’m the Boogie Man” or hear the flow of Jack and Sally singing together again really was amazing. But sometimes it was hard to hear them sing or say anything. I had to turn down the FX/music level just to hear them. That was the first sign that the game was going to suffer.

During Boss battles, you can accumulate a song bar and sing a dance on your way to victory via a rhythm game mechanic. Only during special boss battles can you do this. The game is very specific where you dance your way to victory and where you just have to pummel them into the ground. But during the rhythm sequences, the cymbal crash to say when you’ve pressed the button at the right time is so loud is blocks out all of the music, making it feel like the button presses and the music are completely separate.

I was often begging for camera control. They used the fixed camera motif just like the DMC series, but the camera is placed so badly there were points where the camera was blocked by the person I was fighting, leading to many-a-death. Also there was a lot of key hunting and backtracking. As I said in the first paragraph, “there is only so much arbitrary game lengthening I can take.” Every gate is locked and you have to back-track whole levels looking for a key or someone to unlock a door. They put in Zero to help guide you to where the key is, but when Zero disappears over walls Jack can’t walk over, past the camera, I lost sight of him almost immediately, so it just don’t help at all. One time I got the camera in such a position I saw Zero floating 10 feet off the floor at where I need to go. The mechanic of having Zero lead me was fine, but because of the camera I could never see him.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge: Thank God for copy-paste,” is a game that suffers by implementation. The look is suitably expressionist and plays to the horror style very well. The songs are decent re-writes and are very well performed. The game, however, plays really badly. I said at the start that I couldn’t remember the game from the last time I played it. Now I know why. The good and the bad merge together and make the game really average. The great songs are nuled by the bad sound design. The good look of the levels are voided by the abysmal level progression. It’s a good game made average by CAPCOM trying to making it a lighter version of “Devil May Cry.

Retro Score: 3

Modern Score: 3

Well that’s it for me this year. Want to know what my games of the year are? Head to my blog and wait a few weeks.

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