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Featured Review

Introduction

From the team that brought you Wave Race 64 comes 1080░ Snowboarding, which is quite simply the best snowboarding game ever made (up until 2000). The nice variety of gameplay modes, the photographic nature of the graphics, the incredible soundtrack, the ultra-realistic physics, and the superb play control make this game an instant classic along the same lines as NCL's previous racing games.

It's not really accurate or fair to compare 1080░ Snowboarding to Wave Race 64, but it's inevitably something that happens as you play. Like Wave Race 64 before it, 1080░ Snowboarding is revolutionary in the sense that its gameplay is enhanced thanks to its graphics. Couple the graphical splendor with gameplay that is addictive, original, strategic, and simplistic all at the same time, and you have a masterful blend that only Shigeru Miyamoto and his EAD teams could provide.

Gameplay & Control

One of the best things about 1080░ Snowboarding is the multiple modes of play. There's Match Race, which is a one-on-one race to the bottom against the computer; Time Attack, which lets you race by yourself to get the best time possible; Trick Attack, which enables you to race on any course, including special Half-Pipe and Air Make stages, to pull off as many tricks as you can to get points; Contest, which consists of five events that have you alternating between slalom courses and trick courses to achieve the best total score possible; 2P VS, which lets you race one-on-one against a friend; and Training, which shows you how to perform the numerous moves in the game.

After choosing a mode, you'll head to a Ski Lodge to choose from one of five initially available riders who are outfitted in Tommy Hilfiger clothes. It's very cool how they're just chillin'. Then you'll pick from one of eight initially available Lamar snowboards. All of the riders and boards are rated in different categories, and it's your job to pick the best combination. I personally go with Rob Haywood and the Tahoe 151 board. These two are apparently the best combination for speed, and even though they're supposedly not the best combination for tricks, I still pick them, anyway, in the Trick Attack mode.

Next you pick the course on which you want to race. There are eight courses in the game, two of which are stunt courses. When you first start out, you can only play five of the eight (three regular plus two stunt) courses. And as you advance in the Match Race, which has difficulty levels set up like Wave Race 64, the other courses will open in the various modes.

Control in 1080░ Snowboarding is very, very good. In fact, it's kind of tricky and takes a little while to learn. Unlike some other racing games, though, it's actually rewarding and fun to get the hang of it. The analog Control Stick is put to great use here, too. Throughout the courses you'll be constantly challenged by the ever-changing terrain, so you need to compensate for this by applying different levels of pressure to the Control Stick. The A button is used to jump, the B button is combined with directions and motions of the Control Stick for tricks, the Z button is a tuck (increases your speed, helps with landings), the R button is for a 180░ rotation, and the C buttons change the camera angle. The game also supports the Rumble Pak very well. It's almost MRC-like in that the rumbling depends on the type of terrain you're on. It's good, but I don't think it's the best use of it on the system.

The best and worst part about the control is landing after a jump. I still can't consistently land every single jump. Depending on where you're going to land, you have to tilt the board properly. For example, if you're landing on a hill, you have to tilt your board to match the angle of the slope. In addition, you should probably hold down the Z button most of the time, especially if your board is tilted back. You'll also need more time to land if you do spins.

If you're familiar with my opinions, you know how much I love good computer competition coupled with two-player racing. Ever since I heard 1080░ Snowboarding only had one-on-one racing, even in the one-player mode, I was leery as to whether or not I would like it. Well, the game has exceeded my wildest expectations. Besides, I reasoned, you really couldn't have any more than two snowboarders flying down a mountain at once.

The Match Race mode in 1080░ Snowboarding is quite enjoyableŚthat is, until you complete all three difficulty levels, or passes. The way the mode (and the 2P VS mode, for that matter) works is that you race one-on-one against a computer opponent to the bottom of the hill. There aren't any laps here. It takes somewhere between one and three minutes to get to the bottom of a hill, and you have three chances combined to finish the entire circuit. You also have a "damage" meter to contend with. Whenever you fall or get hit, the meter starts to fill up with red. And once it's all the way filled, then you have to retire (and probably go to the hospital). What's cool is that when you're playing against another player, you can run into each other. Depending on how fast each snowboarder is going, you can get knocked slightly off balanced or completely knocked off, and you may even take some damage because of it. Also of note about the Match Race and 2P VS modes is that tricks don't do anything for you, just like Wave Race 64. In fact, they'll probably slow you down since you get more air and sometimes wreck. But, hey, it's fun to show off every now and then, especially if you like to watch the game's extremely cool replays.

The Time Attack mode in 1080░ Snowboarding is kind of useless. Although some people like to race on courses by themselves to beat their own times, keep in mind that the Match Race mode (but not the 2P VS mode) saves your best times, too. The Trick Attack mode, however, is very cool. In this mode, you are given points for performing tricks. You don't get any points for just snowboarding, but you do get points for crossing the finish line with time left. You can even play this mode on the regular courses. It pretty much works like Wave Race 64's Trick mode: You have to perform tricks in between each checkpoint. There are also two special courses for the Trick Attack mode: Half-Pipe and Air Make. Half-Pipe is exactly what you expect. You must perform as many cool tricks as you can while riding down the half-pipe. You need to cross the finish line before time runs out, too. Air Make is kind of like ski jumping, except the object here is to build up speed to jump off a platform to perform a combination of tricks before you land. If you land successfully, you get the points. If you mess up the landing, you get zero points.

Along with the Trick Attack and its Half-Pipe, the Contest mode is probably what will be giving you the most replay value after you play out the Match Race. The Contest consists of five events that alternate between slalom courses and trick courses. Round 1 is Crystal Lake (slalom), round 2 is Air Make (trick), round 3 is Crystal Peak (slalom), round 4 is Half-Pipe (trick), and round 5 is Golden Forest (slalom). Each score from each round is added to a grand total.

On the slalom courses, you must pass between flags, much like you passed between buoys in Wave Race 64. You must pass the blue flag on the right and the red flag on the left. You get 100 points (and 100 more for each consecutive flag until you reach 500 points per flag) and 2 extra seconds for passing each flag on the correct side in a consecutive order. If you miss a flag, it drops the number of points you receive for the next flag you pass down to 100 and you don't get the extra two seconds. So you must cross the finish line before time runs out. Along the way, you're also supposed to get points for doing tricks off of small moguls, snow piles, and jumps.

On the trick courses, there are not any check flags to pass. On Air Make, the object is to perform as many tricks as you can (and hopefully get big combination points) and successfully land. So it's kind of like all or nothing. On the Half-Pipe, you need to get as many points as you can, but you have to cross the line before time's up.

1080░ Snowboarding's 2P VS mode is surprisingly fun. Even though there's absolutely nothing special about it, you and a friend will still have fun just because the game is addicting, fast, and entertaining. The multiple branching paths and shortcuts in each course help make it interesting, and just the fact that it's a one-lap race to the bottom of the hill makes it frantic. You will notice, however, that the two-player mode has a lot of reduced detail in order to keep the speed up, which is certainly OK. You'll see that although there are still snow effects, they're done to a lesser degree. And you'll also notice that a lot of trees are missing. Oh yeah, for your information, both players can pick the same rider and the same snowboard as well. Finally, there's the Training mode. Disappointingly, other than having the trick sequence on the screen, it really doesn't help all that much by explaining things.

Graphics & Sound

When it comes to presentation, 1080░ Snowboarding is certainly one of the best-looking and best-sounding games on the N64. Music in the game is what we thought the N64 would sound like back in 1996. And, yes, the music is in stereo. The music ranges from heavy metal to techno to rap, and it's all composed very well. Even if you're not a fan of any of these types of music, you must admit that they do fit the game very well. Moreover, there is quite a bit of voice in the game. There isn't any kind of announcer like Wave Race 64, but there are very cool voice samples for when you're going in between menus, and each of the riders has multiple sayings. In my humble opinion, 1080░ Snowboarding has the best music on the system so far.

Graphics in the game are amazing. Honestly, they didn't strike me as absolutely mind-blowing like the incredible wave effects in Wave Race 64, but as you play more and more, you begin to realize some of the amazing effects. First of all, you can see the small little path your snowboard makes in the snow. Second, you can sometimes see snow spray from your board. Third, there are cool lens flare and reflection effects. Fourth, the graphics are just smooth and seamless. If you've ever seen or played Cool Boarders 2 on the PlayStation, it's amazing how there aren't any seams in between sections of the track. Fifth, there is pretty much little to no pop-up in the game. Finally, and this is the most important thing, 1080░ Snowboarding moves at a very brisk pace. At times I wondered how I was going to keep my board under control moving at such a high rate of speed. Of course, then I crashed and that thought quickly disappeared.

One area of the graphics that makes 1080░ Snowboarding really shine over Wave Race 64 is when it comes to animation and the riders. I remember people complaining that the racers in Wave Race 64 looked "32-bit." Well, there's no doubt that these riders look "64-bit." There are something like 25 tricks in the game, plus all the other regular animation. The character models are just amazingly realistic. Smooth, detailed animation on the riders is evident throughout the game.

The graphics aren't perfect, though, and it's my duty as a reviewer to point out the problems. It seems as if the last course (Deadly Fall) was hastily thrown in at the last minute, as there are clipping problems all over the place. Also, even though the game is very smooth quite often, there are times when the frame rate mysteriously drops and then comes back up.

ConclusionAlthough it seems obvious, 1080░ Snowboarding really is to snow as Wave Race 64 is to water. In fact, 1080░ Snowboarding is noticeably better on certain fronts (game modes, tricks, realism), although it does hurt a little that there's only one-on-one competition. The game's biggest problem is a lack of courses, but it's not enough to take too many points off the game, because the courses that are there are awesome. Unlike Yoshi's Story, no one should be disappointed with this offering from NCL.


Rating: 9 of 10
Visuals: 9/10 | Sound: 10/10 | Controls: 9/10 | Gameplay: 9/10 | Lasting Appeal: 9/10


Author: Scott McCall
Reviewed on: 1998/05/05