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SBK: Snowboard Kids (DS) artwork

SBK: Snowboard Kids (DS) review


"In our modern society today, life has become too urbanised: you get up in the morning in the inner city or suburb, ready yourself with a breakfast and a shower, and then commute for upwards of an hour or higher so you can continue your struggle in the rat race that is life. Sometimes you just need to kick back and find something to distract you, whether it be an internal process such as meditation or external entertainment like watching sports on TV. "



In our modern society today, life has become too urbanised: you get up in the morning in the inner city or suburb, ready yourself with a breakfast and a shower, and then commute for upwards of an hour or higher so you can continue your struggle in the rat race that is life. Sometimes you just need to kick back and find something to distract you, whether it be an internal process such as meditation or external entertainment like watching sports on TV.

Snowboarding, that classic adrenaline-pumping cross of skiing, skateboarding and surfing, is certainly an extreme way to cope. Little wonder, then, that the Snowboard Kids have returned to hit the slopes for the third time, this time around on the Nintendo DS, following two classic vacations in Snowboard Kids 64 and Snowboard Kids 2, both for the Nintendo 64.

Unlike Nintendo's own realistic but obscure 1080 series, but somewhat similar in several ways to Electronic Arts' SSX titles, the Snowboard Kids games can best be described as Mario Kart on snowboards: as each of the four participants in a race go down the side of the mountain, players can pick up an item from item blocks. As can be expected, there are items that affect oneself, such as the Nitro which gives the player-character a temporary speed boost, or the Snowflake symbol, which grants temporary invisibility and invulnerability to attacks from others; and then then there are the attacking items, such as the Parachute, which slows an opponent down by a third of his former speed for a few seconds, or Fog, which will actually fog up the bottom screen, requiring the affected player to blow into the mike to blow away the fog. Fan favorites such as the Mine, which lays a proximity mine down on the ground, or Wall, which acts as an obstacle in the middle of a track, also make their return.

Each individual snowboarder also has his or her special attack, which can be used a couple of times per run, as a special meter fills up on the side of the screen. Series star Slash Kamei's Lightning Bolt shoots a ball of lightning energy at a nearby opponent, paralyzing him or her, while the Japanese kunoichi Koyuki Tanaka can send out a homing shuriken that sends its victim sprawling to the ground.

However, SBK: Snowboard Kids cannot carry its weight alone by imitating the party-style of the Mario Kart games: as a result, (and much like its predecessors), the title offers a series of stunts that can be performed in each level, enticing one to best their previous score. During the duration of a ride down the mountain slope, a character can crouch and then jump, doing a flip or a spin. When leaping off of a high ramp, the opportunity for additional tricks is granted: the Rapid Press requires the player to tap the touch screen multiple times, while the Touch asks the player to tap certain sections on the screen. Each time a move is successfully pulled off, the in-game avatar will grab his or her snowboard in a satisfying maneuver.

Pulling off tricks also lets the player rack up points, which are at the end of each race added into an overall pool of points built up on each game card. With the points a player accumulates, one can buy new snowboards that lean to different stats (turning, speed, ability to pull of stunts), new snowboard decals, new clothes, a few new players, and even the ability to toggle on a couple of cheats during the Exhibition Mode.

It is a shame, then, that SBK: Snowboard Kids is brought down by a few issues that could easily have been fixed with even a small amount of quality assurance. The most annoying is the aforementioned items: certain items, such as the aforementioned Parachute or Fog, or the 1000-Ton or Sleep items that also hit an opponent, attack instantly. When facing a computer A.I., invariably its item use will target you and only you, and never the other two snowboarders, and the inability to dodge an instant attack can cause a player to drop from 1st place to 4th quite easily. While Special Attacks can be dodged, actually doing it is another thing: one must jump in mid-air right before being hit by the Special Attack to be invulnerable to it, with it being difficult to track a Special Attack's path. These only serve to artificially inflate the difficulty of the game, often to the frustration of the player thanks to the perfect accuracy of the opponent. Another manner in which a player can be screwed over is when going through certain narrow tunnels in the game: if you run into a wall, you will glitch through and get stuck inside the rock surface for a few seconds before falling out.

A third area of contention I have is with the boss battle levels. These are basically one-player races down certain tracks, in which the player must pull off multiple tricks to increase his special attack meter. Doing so will allow him to shoot a snowball at the 'boss' of the level, a snowman that skis downhill while putting up ice-walls behind to stop the snowboarder dead in his or her tracks. Multiple snowballs must be generated and then thrown accurately at the snowman: even a single missed snowball usually warrants a restart of the level, with little leeway to destroy the Snowman before it reaches the bottom of a course.

And of course, there is the game's art style: the Snowboard 'Kids' are all grown up to teenagers, with the anime style a far cry from the exaggerated 'chibi' style, big noses and heads and all, of the original two Snowboard Kids games. While the look of the kids does not affect gameplay itself, as a fan of the first two games, it is fairly upsetting to me to see the former kids in their mid teens.

That said, it is the presence of two little things that make SBK: Snowboard Kids enjoyable and prevent it from falling underneath the raging waves: level design and graphics and the music. While there are a couple of bland levels such as the straightforward Japan and France, most of the others are very interesting. New York sweeps through several narrow streets dominated by static train cars, while China represents the stereotypical urban night-life district. In San Fransisco, one must constantly navigate curves while dodging street cars. Germany starts through several strips of forests, before dropping into a grand old royal castle, the path taking the player along the ramparts of the mighty stone structure and eventually out the drawbridge. Each level is accompanied by appropriate medleys: a quick and excited frenzy in China, contrasted with a slow and sombre march in rural Germany.

All said and told, it is Canada, the 'final' level, that I truly enjoy the most. Staying in a completely rural mountain free of any human habitat, the initial scenery is that of a gorgeous northern lights at night. As the player's snowboarder skids down the mountain, he or she goes through caves riddled with crystal ice and more breathtaking falling snow, all the while with peaceful, idyllic music playing. Although the game is marred with several severe flaws, it ultimately concludes quite nicely with this beautiful course.

5/10

Rating: 5/10

darkstarripclaw's avatar
Community review by darkstarripclaw (April 18, 2010)

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randxian posted April 18, 2010:

Found a typo in paragraph three:

such as the Parachute, which slows an opopnent down by a third of his former speed for a few seconds

While this review is certainly informative and points out all the ways the CPU cheeses, there really isn't a conclusion per se. The review just suddenly cuts off. I felt like I was slammed into a wall of ice after the review was finished.

Anyway, nice job of providing plenty of intricate details. I particularly enjoyed the section about the "boss" races; those certainly sound like the pits.

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darkstarripclaw posted April 18, 2010:

Thanks, I fixed the typo.

Originally after I had finished that last paragraph, I was attempting to write a concluding paragraph, but could not figure a direction to write it in; hence, I went back and edited it a bit to make it the conclusion. I see what you mean now, so while I still have not added anything on, I rewrote the lines about the Canada course again to make it end more smoothly.
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aschultz posted April 21, 2010:

Oops...someone already made a topic. So I'm tacking stuff on. Looks like the Canada paragraph was redone after the initial submission, and it shows. So good job. Original shpeel below.

Hello fellow FAQ writer--your SBK: Snowboard Kids review is a good review. The technical mistakes made can be ironed out. You try some neat things, and many work. If I had a big criticism, it's that there's too much repetition that may feel in the flow when you write it, but it doesn't work out. I hope the comments are the clever and entertaining side of ironic. Let me know if you'd like me to back off for future reviews, or how much criticism you want to see. I don't know. I use RotW'ing as a way to ramp up criticizing my own stuff, and I like to be tough, but I don't want to be vicious.

In our modern society today ... urbanised: you get up in the morning in the inner city or suburb, ... the rat race that is life.

I highlighted these to note the repetition and slightly overused phrase. When you mentioned commuting I was half begging for you to link that up with the DS being great for helping enjoy a commute. You could tie that into the Snowboard Kids 64 and 2, e.g. "Snowboard Kids brings a fondly-remembered series from the Nintendo 64 to the DS, allowing players to enjoy an adrenaline pumping cross of skiing, etc during otherwise tedious commutes."

The comparison to other series is good, but again you throw in too many modifiers: "somewhat similar in several ways." Do you mean the mechanics are closer to Mario Kart than any more realistic snowboarding games like 1080 or SSX?

an item from item blocks. As can be expected, there are items

A lot of repetition there. Perhaps: As you race down the mountain, you pick up items that can affect you, such as the Nitro for a speed boost, or that affect others, such as the Wall, which blocks your opponent. There's even a Snowflake to repel others' attacks." The special attack segment is good, but maybe you could mention if there are new characters.

However, SBK: Snowboard Kids cannot carry its weight alone by imitating the party-style of the Mario Kart games: as a result, (and much like its predecessors),

This is a bit tangled. It's a recurring theme throughout the review and makes it feel a bit longer than it should. The review looks to be the right length, but the needless repetition drags it back. The way I look at it is this: we don't like games wavering and being unsure of what to do next, or even telegraphing what happens next a bit too much. Same for reviews.

aforementioned items: certain items, such as the aforementioned Parachute or Fog,

This paragraph about computer AI makes a good point, but again it could be more succinct. "If you play alone, the 3 computer AIs gang up on you, and dodging requires precise timing before you jump." It seems like they could coordinate attacks to wipe you out. Plus, I hate the word aforementioned. You used it twice.

Another manner in which a player can be screwed over is

Here, you could say "Narrow tunnels become unnecessarily vicious, because running into a wall catches you inside its rock surface for a few seconds before you fall out."

I also like the complaint about Snowboard Kids grown up. Perhaps you could put that at the start, with a question "Does this mean the series added maturity or lost its charm?" I also think that, from what you say, unrealistic depictions are appropriate since the game doesn't mind being unrealistic.

That said, it is the presence of two little things that make SBK: Snowboard Kids enjoyable and prevent it from falling underneath the raging waves: level design and graphics and the music.

I count three. Do you mean level design and aesthetics save the game? I like the next paragraph, because one would expect Germany to be all stodgy, based on stereotypes. And I think the ending is planned well, though I do have to point out one thing.

ultimately concludes quite nicely

For me, phrases like this make a review feel longer without adding any substance. It's like eating margarine--not particularly bad for you, but it leaves less room for the real food. Or maybe putting too much margarine on the food.

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