"1080į Snowboarding is a racer and an extreme sports game, but it is never both of those things at the same time, and it doesnít fare too well with either. "
1080į Snowboarding is a racer and an extreme sports game, but it is never both of those things at the same time, and it doesnít fare too well with either.
It was touted at the time of its release as the most realistic snowboarding game ever, and I suppose thatís a moot point now. Two generations later, developers are still struggling with the whole realism factor, and itís certainly unfair to go back to an N64 game and expect it to at least look at all lifelike. But as a guy whoís snowboarded on a couple of occasions in his life (albeit certainly not to this extent), itís easy for me to recognize the sort of pinpoint accuracy that 1080į frequently nails Ė from the distinct swooshing sound the board makes as it cuts through the snow to the gentle bobbing of the boarderís body in tune with the texture of the landscape, something about the experience just feels genuine. Then again, I donít recall bouncing around my environments like a pinball every time I lost control.
Thatís the problem with 1080į: Itís inconsistent. You canít rely on your character to move the way you want him to, nothing will guarantee a smooth landing when youíre airborne, and good lord, donít even get me started on the trick system. I mean, hereís how this works, Nintendo: If I tilt the analog stick left, thatís because I want to turn left. This may seem like common sense to us gamers, but 1080į seems confused with my controller inputs, as if taking them as suggestions rather than orders. I suppose 1080į is actually a rather exciting racing game when itís working properly (and that is most of the time), but itís a demoralizing feeling to know that youíre not always in complete control of whatís unfolding on the screen.
The stunt system is pretty shallow by the standards of all but the pre-Tony Hawk era (when people started taking extreme sports titles seriously). Players can pull off only a limited set of grabs and spins, but you canít combine the two, and youíve got to be airborne to pull them off, which introduces one of 1080įís biggest issues: The odds of landing any sort of jump are completely out of your hands. Again, itís an instance of 1080į being wildly inconsistent: Iíve seen my character stick some of the most ludicrous landings you could imagine, only to grab a face full of ice soon afterward when an indiscernible pebble sent him airborne.
But while youíll be hurling through the air quite frequently in 1080į (often against your will, since the tracks themselves feel like a collection of bumps, ridges and crevices in practice), the game rarely gave me a good reason for actually putting the trick system to good use. Players will likely spend most of their time in the gameís racing modes, where pulling off stunts simply puts you at an unnecessary risk. Thereís a trick attack mode that I never really bothered with, and a contest mode that is Nintendoís messy and unsuccessful attempt to merge the racing and extreme sports aspects of 1080į into one coherent package, where you travel through the gameís courses weaving through flags and executing tricks as a means of beating the timer, all the while making a few trips to an air make and half pipe. It sound fun, but the trick systemís shallow nature (added with its awkward position as the most unpredictable element in a game that is altogether unpredictable) makes this area of the game negligible.
It got me thinking though: Can I really pan one aspect of the game if it can be ignored altogether? If I can manage to enjoy 1080į as a racing game, does that mean itís forgiven of its failure as an extreme sports title?
As a racer, 1080į packs an undeniable sense of speed, and when play control is as tight as itís meant to be, maneuvering through the gameís twisty, uncompromising (and surprisingly good-looking) environments poses a legitimate challenge. Iíve seen a lot of complaints that 1080į doesnít have enough tracks, but yearning for more variety strikes me as an interesting gripe to have with a snowboarding game, since one way or another, youíre always going to be racing downhill through the snow. Some of the later tracks have you boarding over grass and bare macadam, and Iím thinking: Do we really need this? Furthermore, my patience runs thin for the instances in which Iím asked to maneuver through miniature forests and mountainside villages, because any scenario in which Iíve got to rely on precise control in 1080į is a slippery slope, indeed. The unusual controls and tricky terrain give me enough to worry about as is, which is why I preferred the more straightforward opening tracks.
(Though the first two are rather hilariously called Crystal Lake and Crystal Peak, which had me anticipating a surprise showdown between Jason Voorhees and the Terminator. Thatís the kind of thing that would have added at least two points to the final score.)
The GameCube sequel, 1080į Avalanche, was met with a lot of critical panning since it essentially just took the framework of this N64 release, updated the graphics, and attempted to sell it to a crowd far more accustomed to the extreme sports genre. And they tried to compete with SSX 3. Can you imagine?
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