Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge Import Hands-On

We try out the import version of Capcom's upcoming platformer based on the stop-motion classic.

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Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge
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We recently got our hands on the retail version of Capcom's Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge for the PlayStation 2. The third-person action game is based on the Tim Burton stop-motion classic, and it recently hit the streets in Japan. We popped it in and did some adventuring in Halloweentown to see how the game has turned out.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge is set after the events of the classic film, and it lets you play through an adventure that revolves around the return of Oogie Boogie, the film's villain. You'll take on the role of Jack Skellington, the thoughtful hero from the film, who returns to Halloweentown after taking a break from life as a local hero. Unfortunately, he doesn't find things the way he left them, because the town is overrun with skeletons. Yes, we know Jack is a skeleton and that Halloweentown is home to all sorts of spooky things, but these are bad skeletons (Trust us!) who aren't too happy to see Jack at all. To make matters worse, Oogie Boogie is back, and he's not in a great mood after getting stomped by Jack. What's a nattily dressed returning hero to do? Kick ass and take names, of course...which is where you come in.

You'll assume control of Jack following a lengthy cinema that fills you in on the events leading up to Oogie's resurrection. Lock, Shock, and Barrel, the pint-sized, bathtub-riding trio of mischief, capitalize on Jack's absence by going off to restore their master. While this means town has gotten extremely unfriendly for Jack, it's not like he's a newbie when it comes to fighting evil. Besides our boy's athletic leaps, Jack is packing his rubber soul, a green whiplike weapon that serves a variety of uses. After having seen the game a number of times over the past year, we've gotten a good idea of what to expect from it. However, we did still receive a few pleasant surprises.

The game is structured into chapters and seems to be pretty linear. The first chapter showed off a change of pace from the standard third-person action that makes up much of the game when we encountered our first boss, though. After exploring the town square at the start of the game, you'll enter a building and meet up with Oogie, who's gone all shadowy since we last saw him. Your battle with him, which is accompanied by dialogue and song between the two of you, consists of smacking him with your rubber soul while collecting musical notes that fill an onscreen bar. After you max the bar out, the game shifts to a minigame-style sequence that requires you to press the buttons in time with onscreen prompts. Once you complete the sequence, Oogie takes damage, so you'll have to repeat the process until he's down. Of course, once you've bested Oogie, it's hardly the end of the game, because he slinks away while taunting you to find him.

Another couple of aspects of the game that differ from what we'd expected involve the shop and inventory systems. As you defeat enemies, you'll earn coins that you can use in the shops to buy items or to continue your game when Jack's health, conveniently displayed in pumpkin form, is depleted. The inventory system lets you collect items you'll need to either progress to new areas in the game or power Jack up. In some ways, the setup is a lot like Devil May Cry...but with a much lighter tone.

In terms of presentation, the game stays true to its source material. The graphics look good and definitely capture the charm of the film. Jack moves fluidly, and the rubber soul has an eerie flow that's nice. The rest of the residents of Halloweentown look good too, although they're closer to the more stylized and economical movements seen in the film. The enemies Jack faces, which include skeletons and ghosts so far, stand out a bit from the designs of the main cast. The skeletons bear a passing resemblance to some of the baddies in Maximo, while some ghosts have a Grim Fandango quality thanks to their eerie neon designs. While your foes are an odd mix, they all look suitably menacing, so we can't complain. In terms of environments, the game is leaning heavily on the movie for its landmarks, so it renders them all in solid detail. The only nagging issues we've noticed are the occasional bits of slowdown and the odd camera angles. Neither has been a huge problem so far, but we could see where the camera might be a problem. Audio is on par with the visuals, with a solid foundation drawn from the film. You'll hear familiar tunes tied with original music pieces, as well as some musical segments, like the fight with Oogie, for example. The voice work is handled in English, but subtitles are included as well.

Based on our initial impressions, the game seems like a solid enough action title, although we're hoping things pick up soon. We've only just scratched the surface of the game today, though. We've yet to earn ourselves Jack's additional costumes and abilities, and we've also yet to run into the rest of the game's cast. If you're looking to import the game, be forewarned that you'll want to know some Japanese--if only to read information on items you've collected and to be clear on what to do in certain segments of the game. If you're hankering to play it this year, though, importing is your only option, because the game isn't due to hit the States until sometime next year. Look for more this Friday, when, just in time for Halloween, we'll bring you more on the game. Until then, check out our media page, which includes footage from the import game in motion.

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