People talk frequently about Nintendo franchises they want to see come back. Mario, Zelda and Metroid are the evergreen trinity of Nintendo properties that will probably live on forever (you can add Pokémon to that list although it occupies a different place in gamers’ minds as many, myself included don’t play it any more). AWOL franchises like Star Fox and F-Zero get a lot of attention from fans hoping to see them return but one other lesser Nintendo franchise I’d like to see revisited is 1080˚. I never played this original game until now but I’ve known and liked the Gamecube version, 1080˚ Avalanche for years. Snowboarding will never get the same attention as those other series I’ve mentioned which is a shame because it’s so much fun.
In 1080˚ Snowboarding you can choose from five adrenaline-junkies and a range of boards to compete in a number of events including match races, time trials and trick attacks, all of which are self-explanatory. Races are all one-on-one but that doesn’t mean it’s easy; you’ll have to master some nuanced and sometimes harsh controls to get ahead. The programming does a very good job of mixing heart-pounding speed with fairly realistic boarding physics that manages to produce a pleasingly believable simulation of the sport that still works as an arcade-style game.
The key to success is judging the risk of speed and carefully picking your route through the terrain. Speed downhill to fast and you’ll find it harder to turn away from obstacles and if you don’t line up your jumps carefully you risk wiping out upon landing. The L button handles both tucking your boarder for extra speed and executing a soft landing and there’s a subtle art to both. Carving is also essential; you can turn in big arcs to veer round obstacles but you must find a rhythm to keep yourself on course and moving fast.
It’s difficult at first; the game can be quite unforgiving to newcomers who will find themselves crashing and falling quite a lot but once you’ve got a feel for the delicate, precise gameplay it becomes fluid and exciting. Knowing how easy it is to take a tumble while you bomb downhill and manage to stay upright is a high-adrenaline experience that fits perfectly with the concept and while the game can be harsh (there’s one jump in the first course I never figured out how to land with any consistency), it’s enormous fun.
Executing tricks is a fiddly and complicated business. Grabs can be performed with a flick of the stick combined with the B button but flips and spins require much tougher inputs especially for the bigger moves. But tricks are only really relevant in the trick attack mode and offer no advantage in downhill modes in which catching big air actually slows you down. It would be mental to have a snowboarding game without a trick system but here the execution is a little off-putting and the integration lacking.
The game looks good by N64 standards with good use of lighting and a level of graphical fidelity that conveys the mountain setting very well while the courses are nicely-designed with plenty of challenging obstacles and features. The soundtrack is not so great, the music setting a slightly odd tone but at least the sound of your board carving in the snow is good. The only real problem with the game is its lack of content. With only six courses and a handful of modes there’s not really enough to do. Maybe in 1998 the game would have been fun enough to make you want to keep playing past completing everything it has to offer but that doesn’t ring true today. But while it lasts it’s a really enjoyable snowboarding experience.
Design – 7
Gameplay – 8
Graphics – 8
Sound – 5
Content – 4
With its polished, refined controls that pose a challenge to newbies, 1080˚ Snowboarding is a very satisfying game to master and a lot of fun to play. A few more things to do wouldn’t have gone amiss though.