Straight off the back of the still wonderfully fun Wave Race 64, we delve right into another first party extreme sports title on the N64: 1080 Snowboarding.
Like Wave Race, 1080 has two focuses for the gameplay: Racing and Tricks. The racing portion is by far my favourite part of the game. At the beginning you are only allowed to select normal difficulty which contains 4 downhill courses in which you must compete against one other AI player. In order to progress to the next race you must be victorious, loosing will mean you have to start the race again and one of your three lives will be taken away. If all your lives are taken before you win the last course, it’s game over! By winning the normal mode you earn the right to challenge hard and then expert, each of which add an extra course to proceedings.
As stated, the races are a 1 v 1 affair. You and your competitor race downhill as fast as possible to the finish line below. The courses themselves are as big as an opponent as the other snowboarder and definitely present more of a challenge.
Each course has multiple pathways and, as far as alpine slopes go, rather nicely varied. Littered with sharp and sweeping turn, logs, forests and even the odd jump; each of the six courses feel very unique and have their own identity. It won’t be long before you know them like the back of your hand although that won’t stop them from being just as hazardous.
Until you’ve played each track a good few times you’ll probably struggle to make any real progress. It can be a pretty difficult game overall, especially the final stage of expert mode in which the opponent seems almost infallible, expect challenge this mode a while before you finally succeed.
The method for controlling your boarder couldn’t be simpler, in fact it’s very much possible to play the game one handed as long as you avoid routes that require a jump. The analogue stick controls your direction while the Z (ZL on the Wii U) controls your crouch. The crouch is the most important button in the whole game as it makes you more aerodynamic and therefore faster. You’ll have your finger firmly on this button throughout aside from when you need to take corner.
Its second important use is in keeping your balance after falling from any kind of height. Pressing and holding the crouch button just before landing will cushion you and stop you from wiping out. This is a technique you will need to learn quickly otherwise you will fall almost every few metres, looking a complete imbecile in the process. Not that it happened to me or anything. Once you get the hang of it, the feeling of seamlessly gliding your board down the mountainside is pretty glorious and every smooth landing is a satisfying experience.
The A button is your jump button which you may need to use to avoid the odd obstacle, get greater height from a ramp and reach a higher elevation. The right shoulder button and B button are used solely for landing tricks.
Talking of tricks, you can attempt to score attack on all the course, plus a couple extra small ones, by doing as many tricks as possible. Personally I’m allergic to this kind of button combos (hence why I’m terrible at fighting games), but many of them are simple enough. I know this mode would be a delight for many, but I prefer to stick to the racing.
You can even have best of both worlds in Contest mode which has you slaloming between flags and doing tricks to score as many points as possible. It’s actually a really nice mode as you need to do it over three courses with stunt courses in between.
So there are plenty of modes in 1080 Snowboarding, but is there enough content? There are some extra characters and boards to unlock and of course aim for the best time/points in all the modes. Even a fun 2 players split screen. But with only 6 real courses, it’s difficult not wish there was just a little more.
Graphically it’s probably one of the best games on the N64 and of that era, plus one the best representations the sport had at that time that still plays brilliantly today. The music is for the most part excellent, too: Rocky and funky, with the occasionally annoying and repetitive vocals although those are limited to menu sections.
Overall, 1080 Snowboarding plays just as good today as it did back then. Getting a hand on the controls and the use of the Z button is crucial though. I’m sad I missed out on playing back in the day because I know I would have loved it. It has plenty of modes and a rather high difficulty, but with only 6 courses you can’t help but wish for a little more.
– Great and simple control method
– Excellent gameplay
– Plenty of game modes
– Only 6 courses