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North America

1080: Avalanche

by Steven Rodriguez - February 19, 2004, 11:40 pm PST

8

Nintendo has returned to the mountain, but is it better than the competition?

1080° Snowboarding on the N64 was Nintendo's first jump into the new-fangled extreme sports arena, and they did a mighty good job with it. Now they're back with 1080° Avalanche, the anticipated GameCube version of the N64 hit.

First and foremost, 1080° looks beautiful. Although the scenery isn't super-realistic, it has a style of its own, and looks very pretty. The trees that line the courses look wonderful, all covered with snow. The structures that you'll occasionally run into range from ski lodges to beat-up shacks, all sprinkled with the white stuff. The avalanche challenge levels are really high up in the peaks, and one good look at the scenery will let you know that immediately.

Naturally, everywhere you look, there's going to be snow. Every time your boarder falls down, snow gets all over him. As you slide down the hill at speed, it slowly blows away. If it's snowing a lot, the snowflakes will slowly collect on you. Even when it isn’t snowing, it looks great, since your clothes ripple in the wind when you're going at top speed. Little details like these really make the game a visual bag of goodies.

Another awesome aspect of Avalanche is the game's audio. The licensed music in the game makes a huge difference that no in-house soundtrack could match. All the songs from bands like Cauterize, Finger Eleven, BOYSETSFIRE, Seether, and others fit the game perfectly. The music fades in and out at appropriate times as well, such as when you've gone off of a cliff-side jump and all you hear is the sound of being airborne. It's really neat.

Yet another excellent area of the game is in the controls. It works exactly like it did on the N64: Use the stick to control your rider, hold down A to charge and execute a jump, hold R and spin the stick to spin around, use B, X, and Y with the stick to execute grabs in the air, and use the L button to tuck for speed or grind on rails. Slowing down and turning sharply requires you to pull back on the control stick, which is necessary for navigating tight sections or finding shortcuts.

Also like the N64 version, the trick system is difficult to learn at first, but once you have it down and learn the do's and don'ts, you can impress the ladies with your mad trick skills. For instance, you don’t want to over-rotate a spin and land sideways, killing all of your speed. There is also a combo system of sorts in the game, which has you time your grabs to stay in the air longer. These skills and more will be necessary if you want to get high scores in the game's trick attack modes.

So, 1080° Avalanche looks beautiful, sounds awesome, and has excellent controls. It's really a shame that the rest of the game isn't up to snuff with these three areas, because even though the game is great fun, there are a few things that could have made it a lot better.

The game is set up just like it was on the N64. You pick a character and a board, and then go on a series of one-on-one match races down a short run. If you beat the rider, you move on to the next race, if not, you lose a life and try again. If you run out of lives before you make it to the avalanche challenge, you fail. At first, this is fine, but as you get to the tougher difficulties, you'll realize that all you're really doing is a time trial with a ghost that you need to beat. The computer opponent really does the same thing every time and only deviates when you interfere with them.

This is made more obvious when you start to look at 1080°'s multiplayer options. You can race against three other human players in multiplayer, making for races that include four boarders, which shows just how much fun it is to have four people on the mountain at the same time. Why the single player game couldn't do this? In the hardest difficulties on single player, if you make just one mistake at the top of a run, there's no way you're going to win. It would have been nice to race for second place against someone else instead of just going down the course or pausing and choosing retry from the menu.

If you can manage to beat all the time trial gho... erm, computer opponents in a match race set, you can go to the avalanche challenge race. This is also a match race of sorts, but you're not racing against someone else. It's you versus the mountain, and you need to get to the bottom before the pile of snow and rocks barreling down the hill behind you buries you alive. This mode is simply insane. As the avalanche gets closer to you, a meter at the top will grow more red, the rumble will get louder and louder, and the screen will begin to shake violently. In fact, if the snowball is right on your tail, the screen will shake so badly that it's almost impossible to see where you're going. That can be really frustrating, because you'll run right into a tree or rock that you would have normally seen if the display wasn't shaking so badly. It hinders the mode a little bit, but it's something you can live with, given the fact that there's a giant avalanche behind you.

If you beat the challenge, you'll unlock the next difficulty. However, there is one rather annoying aspect about this. If you want to do the challenge again, you have two options: either go through the match races again or use a password the game gives you to access it directly. Uh, hello? Passwords? We're in a point in game technology where that is absolutely unacceptable. If you want to show the avalanche to your friends you shouldn't need to put in a code to something you've already unlocked and beaten.

Aside from the match race, there are also time trial, gate challenge, and trick attack modes in 1080° Avalanche. The time trial is what you'd expect, but this mode also doubles as a collect-a-thon of sorts, where five pieces of a coin are scattered about, and you need to collect them all. Collecting coins from all the tracks will unlock better boards for the characters. The gate challenge has you running through gates and collecting time. Beating these will unlock secret boards, including the penguin and an NES controller. The trick attack has you tackle a half pipe, big air jump, and one (yes, just one) slope style course. It's disappointing that there's only one dedicated course to pulling off tricks, and that you can't go for high trick scores on race courses. All these modes do mix up the game plenty, but you'll still be spending most of your time in the multiplayer mode, which is much better than the single match race format.

Overall, it seems that developer NST kept just about everything that made the original 1080° Snowboarding on the N64 so great. Unfortunately, the gameplay mechanic that 1080° Avalanche uses, while still good, just doesn't hold up in today's times, especially considering the competition of EA's SSX3. If you want a good fun snowboarding title (and still need a code to register for the bonus Zelda disc), you won't regret picking this one up. It's just not the best snowboarding title out on the market today.

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Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8.5 9 8.5 7.5 7.5 8
Graphics
8.5

The backgrounds are awesome, the atmosphere is great, but the snow effects are what really make this game look pretty. When you fall down, the stuff gets all over your character and gradually blows off as you tear down the slope. The avalanche levels are insane, especially when you have tons and tons of snow behind you, and you can see (and feel) it getting closer and closer.

Sound
9

The licensed music in the game does wonders for the ears. All of it fits very well, though because every race is relatively short, you'll never really get to hear the whole of any one song. Because a particular song is default for a given race, you might find it pretty repetitive too (since you'll be restarting the harder races many times), but you can always pick something else beforehand.

Control
8.5

The trick system takes a bit to get used to, but once that's down, everything is smooth. If you tell the game to do something with the controller, the game does it. There's a big difference between how your board handles at cruising speed and how it works at top speed, and the control is good enough for you to feel that difference in your hands.

Gameplay
7.5

Surprisingly, this is the weakest part of the game. The one-on-one match race format worked perfectly for the N64, but considering the competition, the lack of multi-boarder racing on the GameCube is a letdown. The severe lack of trick arenas is also a bit frustrating. Add in the fact that a lot of the game's content can be beaten without much effort, and you've got a more than a few shortcomings in an otherwise great game.

Lastability
7.5

Multiplayer is four players at a time, yet the single player is only two. This makes multiplayer, as you might have guessed, twice as fun as the single player. The reason why you'll be playing the game months from now is because of the multiplayer options, which include LAN. You can always complete the game with all the characters (all five of them), and do all the gate and coin challenges, but considering how relatively short the game is, you'll find that you're multiplaying more than just fooling around with the single player.

Final
8

It's a beautiful game that still plays like it did on the N64. It's really a shame that the gameplay wasn't redesigned for the GameCube, since in the end that's what hurts the overall experience. Two-boarder match racing was the best the N64 could do, but the GC could do so much more. Don't get the wrong impression, the game is still a blast to play, for sure. However, considering that 1080° is stacked up against SSX3 and the ungodly amount of stuff it has to play with, it's really hard to say that this game is better. If you get it, you'll probably love it, but if you can only afford to get one snowboarding game, this isn't the one.

Summary

Pros
  • Excellent licensed soundtrack
  • Great graphics and control
  • Holy crap there's an avalanche behind you!
  • Really fun multiplayer
Cons
  • Avalanche passwords inexcusable
  • Lack of trick attack courses
  • Match race format is dated
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Racing
Developer Nintendo Software Technology
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: 1080: Avalanche
Release Dec 01, 2003
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: 1080: Silver Storm
Release Jan 22, 2004
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: 1080: Avalanche
Release Nov 28, 2003
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: 1080: Avalanche
Release Year 2004
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral

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