By: Jac Bakley, Staff Writer
Developed and published by Nintendo Composed by Kenta Nagata Designed by Shigeru Miyamoto Directed by Masamichi Abe and Mitsuhiro Takano
It’s winter. It’s freezing. I’m playing 1080˚ Snowboarding.
1080˚ Snowboarding was released for the N64 in 1998. I actually have very fond memories of this game; this was one of the first games that my mom bought for me years ago. And, as usual, I was blessed with a good game, too.
There are several different modes in this game: Match Race, Time Attack, Trick Attack, Contest, and 2P Versus. There are a total of five playable characters: Ricky from Canada, Akari from Japan, Rob from the United States, Dion from the United Kingdom, and my favorite, Kensuke from Japan. Each character has their own rates of speed, handling and jumping, and they even have different personalities to differentiate them from each other.
The graphics are really good for the N64. The character models have a high amount of polygons, making them look like real humans instead of blocky characters. Nintendo also did a good job with the snow physics- they look very accurate, from the tracks your snowboard leaves behind to the snow it brushes behind it while you’re racing down.
The music is okay, not great. Some of the tracks, like Crystal Lake and Dragon Cave, hurt my ears a bit. Probably the best song in the game is Golden Forest. It’s actually one of my favorite video game songs.
Let’s talk about Match Race. The gameplay consists of racing downhill to the finish on (of course) a snowboard. You only have one opponent, with each one being different for each course. There are three different levels in Match race- normal, hard, and expert- each one consisting of one more course than the last. When the race starts, you automatically begin moving down the hill. To get a head-start, you can move the control stick upwards at the beginning of the race to pump your racer ahead a few feet. While racing, you can hold the Z button to crouch and accelerate, as well as press A to jump to avoid an obstacle. If you beat your opponent to the finish line, you progress to the next round.
It sounds simple, but it can get difficult at times. The courses can actually be your worst enemies in this game, because they’re often either too narrow, or too wide and filled with obstacles. On some courses, if you don’t snowboard down the mountain the right way, you might nudge against the wall and be slowed down. In a wider area of the course, you have a little bit more room to maneuver, but many of the obstacles can cause you to wipe out and lose energy.
Yes, that’s right: you have an energy bar in this game. You start with full energy in the beginning, but can lose some if you land incorrectly, hit a rock or log, or run into your opponent on the way down. If you do any of those things, you can either lose a very small portion of your life bar, or over half of it. If you lose all of your energy, you will be forced to give up. If you lose the race or run out of energy three times, the match is over.
Your opponents are pretty quick, too. You may be able to stay ahead of them for a while, but for some reason, they can quickly catch up to you as you approach the finish line. It also doesn’t help that there are more difficult-to-avoid obstacles near the finish line to give the opponent a better advantage. Even though they can also strike several obstacles and nudge the rocks as if a second player were controlling them, they seem to always be able to catch up to you as you come up to the finish line. It shouldn’t be too hard to beat them if you don’t hit too many obstacles on the way down, though.
In Trick Attack, you’re tasked to race to the bottom and perform as many tricks as you can to earn as many points as possible. You can perform tricks with the L, R, and B buttons, as well as the control stick. The more tricks you perform in one jump, the more points you’ll receive. Performing tricks is risky, because there’s sometimes not enough time for you to pull a good one off before you land. If you don’t straighten out your board to land the proper way, you can either lose your balance and be slowed down, or wipe out and lose energy and be slowed down. It’s not that big of a deal in Trick Attack, since you’re not racing anyone, but trying to perform tricks in Match Race puts you at risk of getting behind your opponent and losing the race.
In Contest, the object is to race to the bottom and pass through flags on the way down, much like passing the buoys in Wave Race 64. You have to pass the blue flags on the left and the red flags on the right. This mode is meant to help you improve the handling of your snowboard, and it’s quite fun.
That’s all I can say about 1080˚ Snowboarding. While not as good as Wave Race 64, it’s still very enjoyable to play and is another overlooked classic in the N64 library. This game did have a sequel on the GameCube called 1080˚ Avalanche, but it sadly didn’t fare as well. It’s unfortunate this series never made it past two games.