Sports-games are not my cup of tea to be honest. While I am a fan of more abstract takes on this genre like Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 or SSX 3, I tend to ignore the more realistic ones simply because I am no athlete (besides Golf-games, but that is really a guilty pleasure of mine). Though snowboarding is one of the coolest things I know of and as a Scandinavian who crashed into a tree every time he stood on one of these things, videogame adaptations of this hobby were a safer bet. While SSX was what kept me inside for the winter, I stumbled upon a title I had forgotten when I was browsing Wii’s Virtual Console one day. A realistic snowboarding-title made by the people behind Wave Race 64, which you probably already guessed from the title of this article.
Tricked you right at the title
After booting up the game, you are presented with a lot of options from the get-go. To go over all quickly: match race is the main event with an actual campaign featuring one on one races with three-difficulties, each having one more track than the lower difficulty. Here speed is of the essence, with even a health-bar forcing you to be careful with jumps and obstacles. You do get three tries so failing is forgiving, which is a good thing since the AI can be brutal and demand you play at your best. They will take shortcuts and know their way around the board, but never to the point of being cheap since they only replicate what a player can accomplish and nothing beyond.
Time attack is similar to match-race with the difference being that you choose one stage instead of racing multiple ones and try to get the best time without an opponent hindering you. Trick attack will put you in either a half-pipe course with multiple small jumps or a high-jump where you get one huge leap similar to ski jumping, and must do multiple tricks to get the highest amount of points. Contest is the most interesting though, as it mixes time attack with trick attack. You must do both tricks to gain points as well as pass through flags to get enough points and time for finishing races. If the time goes down to zero before you meet the finish-line, you are out.
I start by getting the modes out of the way first, as there are plenty of options to choose from and each complements different styles of play. While match mode presents a clear campaign, all are fun additions that can unlock more extras, so I believe all are somewhat equally important. The game is very hard, but not just because the opponents are more than just competent. Even the controls themselves showcase how hard snowboarding can be. Firstly, steering is simple enough with the analog being able to steer you left and right, but by holding Z you will go faster and become sturdier against obstacles, while you will also have a harder time swinging to either side. Holding A for jumping must also be done at the right time, as holding it too long will make your boarder neglect jumping. Lastly, landing is not as easy as just having the board touch the ground. You must straighten it and press Z right before to make the board both alone and the border bending his or her knee for better balance. Not doing this, will make you wipe out.
This makes 1080 tricky, but never unfair. It demands that you learn the controls and be careful with your obstacles and shortcuts to take. This is even shown when choosing between the characters and the boards. Riders have stats within technique, max speed, balance, power, and jump, while the boards have edge control, acceleration, response, stability, and flex. You might think higher stats equals better board, but this can make it uneven instead. It is important to find your comfort zone and it can easily be done through the training option. 1080 demands that you spend some time practicing, but it only takes a minute or so and then you are good to go.
The race-portion is fast and furious, with varied stages to traverse on. Some have harsher weather effects depending on the difficulty, while others will have piles of snow and trees to avoid. Shortcuts are present, the courses can provide multiple ways, and different terrains to snowboard on, making them exciting and varied. Some will also feature clear jumps should points be important to acquire in other modes than racing. If not, don’t bother as they will slow you down. Speaking of points, tricking in 1080 is incredibly chaotic. Simple grabs are easily done with B, but spins require rotation of the analog-stick and more button and analog-combinations if you want to do better spins. It was possibly done to make them difficult to pull off for more authenticity, but anybody doing a single 1080 will feel a huge sense of accomplishment. This is far from beginner-friendly and you might quickly tire out, despite how satisfying a simple 360 can feel.
It is quite interesting how 1080 is entertaining thanks to the controls trying to replicate the difficulty of actual snowboarding, and due to the varied stages and modes, it makes for an entertaining ride. It is severely difficult at times and with only 6 courses and 2 for tricks, it is short on content. Not to mention, while the courses are well made with a lot of variation, more creativity with layouts could have been provided to make them more different and unique from one another, However, with what 1080 provides, you will be entertained and at the edge of your seat in whichever mode you choose.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
Sends chills down my spine
The sense of speed here is great with a steady framerate I am still surprised by to this day! Throughout the races, characters have their jackets blown in the wind, snow falls quickly, reflections in the ice are well made and you leave trails behind you from the board. Small details like these go a long way to make the game immersive and with how the racers bend and stretch out arms according to how they would in real life, shows that the developers had at least a fascination for the real deal.
Each course feels different, as you will be traveling through forests during sunset and occasionally ride on frozen rivers, another has houses and caves to vary up the course and so on. They do reuse minor assets, but it is not too obvious to break the immersion. Though it is not just the speed and the locations that are well made, the draw distance is also very impressive as you will be able to see a lot in front of you from the get-go. A nice touch is whenever there are weather conditions, fog is utilized to mask the system’s shortcomings and only makes the draw distance shorter without making it obvious. Though the 2D-backgrounds won’t fool anyone it at least works decently by being further away.
While it looks great and quite realistic for its time, things drop in quality when playing multiplayer. No weather-effects, terrible draw distance, lower framerate, and overall worse textures and details, make it hard to appreciate it. It only occurs in this mode, but it is surprising so much had to be removed just for adding one more player. Again with the speed, the sound effects also use this to its full potential. Hearing your board make tracks in the crummy snow, wind flowing by as you speed downwards, and the announcer makes these races more exciting than what they already are. Accompanying this, is a soundtrack mixed of trash rock, hip hop, pop, and more that reminds me both how nostalgic and embarrassing the 90s were. It is hard to call it outright good due to how short and repetitive the tracks are, but it fits perfectly the “cool” vibe of snowboarding down the mountains. It is corny and not great, but adds to the mood and is endearing.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Gotta go fast with style
There is a multiplayer option as stated above, but for a console supporting up to 4 controllers, it is strange it only features one mode for only 2 players, with it being racing. It is an okay distraction, but due to the bad draw distance, no weather effects, and few stages, it is not something to come back to. What is actually entertaining is trying to beat high-scores and beat everyone in matchmaking. Not just because of the satisfaction and that this is a better way to play with your friends and compete, but also because you will be able to unlock obscure features to this game. It could have used more courses and better multiplayer, but the different mods help a lot as they are diverse and entertaining. I won’t spoil what the unlockables are, but they are a lovely contrast to the more realistic tone of the game.
Extra Score: 7.5/10
1080 is one of the more realistic sports games that is also perfect for those wanting something a bit over the top. It lacks courses and a decent multiplayer option, but it provides satisfying challenges to overcome with hard tricks, opponents that can be devastating and engaging modes. The realistic aspect is intact, but has enough to be engaging and exciting with over the top and “extreme” 90s without going overboard. A definite choice if you want something else than SSX for a change.