He'll be coming down the mountain when he comes...
I find it amazing how many snowboarding games there are, considering how so few gamers have any idea how to ride. Okay, okay, so maybe a couple of you can make it down the bunny slope without breaking a bone (or three). But most video game geeks (myself included) are far too uncoordinated to handle the delicate task of careening down a mountain on a piece of fiberglass. And yet we have a bizarre fascination with the sport (which it now officially is, after the Olympics).
The reason? It makes for some fine gaming. Combine the speed of a racing game with the over-the-top air-hang-time of NBA Jam and you get the idea. The only really BIG snowboard game, however, is Cool Boarders 2. So far, most snowboard games have lacked the 'oomph' and real beauty they deserve. Until now.
Enter 1080 Snowboarding, the latest romp in the powder for the N64. Where other snowboard games have failed, 1080 succeeds, with superb graphics, great gameplay, and some, uh, bitchen air, dude.
Nowadays, everyone has fianlly gotten the hang of programming for the N64, which is why so many of the newer games (see Goldeneye) are graphically superior to older games (see Cruis'n USA. 1080 uses just about every inch of power the system offers. Gorgeous lighting, fully polygonal racers and boards, and super smooth textures give the game it's edge. There are 3 different camera angles, and while the first person cam is incredibly difficult, it looks great. They also threw in cool little effects to add realism - the harder you turn, the more snow flies out from under the board. They even added a trail in the snow when your hand touches the ground to help keep balance. This is just one pretty game.
There's a ton of ways to play, including Time/Trick attack modes, Contest, Match play, and 2 Player Vs. Mode. Of course, don't even think about trying to pull off any tricks without checking out the Training mode. With over 25 tricks (or are there more?), there's a lot to learn. But don't waste too much time trying to pull off a 900 - nothing counts if you don't land right.
And this is no easy task. Landing in 1080 is easily the most difficult aspect of the gameplay. You have to make sure you're not leaning too far back or forward, and the slope of the ground even comes into play. It takes a while before you'll be consistently landing tricks, and at times this steep learning curve gets frustrating and annoying. But in the end, the added difficulty is a welcome addition.
Although not as intuitive as the mediocre Steep Slope Sliders, the analog control in 1080 is good and gives the game a nice feel. Racers buck and turn based on a pretty decent physics model. My only issue with the control is the incredible difficulty in pulling off the burliest tricks (but I guess that's why we play...and play...and play...).
The course design is good, with multiple paths down the mountain and a good variety of things to jump on/off/over. To spice things up, the designers added slight changes to the courses depending on your mode of play. On one run you might be in clear weather, while on another run you're engulfed in a near white-out. This makes it an imperative to familiarize yourself with every nook and cranny of the course. And like many N64 games, in order to find new courses, you must meet certain objectives. With 4 initial courses and the potential for 2 more (not including Training mode or the Half-Pipe), there's a lot to keep you busy.
Many of you will be knocked out by the graphics and the number of cool tricks, but beware. While the number of tricks is impressive, several of these are simply opposites. A 360 to the left is one trick, while a 360 to the right is considered another. This is true for about 1/3 of the moves....
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the limited 2 player mode. You can race a friend via a split screen, which looks good and maintains the framerate. But tricks are of no consequence; it's only a matter of speed. I would like to have seen a 2 player race that involved tricks, maybe one where your final score is a combination of speed and trick points.
Overall, 1080 Snowboarding is a worthy title. A few bugs aside, this is the best snowboard game out and a must for sports fans, period.