Time to hit the slopes with Rick and SSX Tricky!
The original SSX for Playstation 2 was generally considered a system-seller, and one of the few games that Nintendo fans had to admit bested 1080° Snowboarding at it’s own game. Until now, there hasn’t been anything better on a Nintendo system, so even so, 1080° stood alone.
It was hard to believe that EA BIG was going to try to make the game better, in addition to porting it to multiple systems. But surprisingly enough, they did. SSX Tricky for GameCube is an amazing sophomore effort, adding outrageous new boarders, a thumpin’ soundtrack, new courses with better layouts for the older ones, and incorporating Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” as the title theme to great effect.
SSX always had a great feel for the snowboarding culture, and the initial selection of snowboarders were caricatures of that culture, just a little outrageous while still believable. The taunts and catchphrases for each character were spot-on, and every character was enjoyable. Tricky ups the ante by including old favorites such as JP, Kaori, Elise, Moby, Zoe, and Mac, and adding new ones that go WAY over the top. EA Sports has pulled out the stops and called in a few favors, going as far as to have movie and television star Oliver Platt voice the new Luther character, Macy Gray as “Seeiah”, Lucy Lui, David Arquette … it’s overwhelming.
The game is as colorful and authentic feeling as ever, while still being what real snowboarding only wishes. All of the tracks from last “season” have been updated and improved, while the new ones such as Garibaldi and Alaska are true works of art. The character and track selection process has a futuristic feel … a “hangar” of sorts, each character having a couple different selection quips and animations. They all have a very unique style, with different outfits and boards to complete the look.
The soundtrack of the game is a stand-out feature, with some terrific old songs and new tracks just for the sequel. Of course, “It’s Tricky” makes a repeat appearance any time you fill your boost meter, an audible clue that you can now perform an “Uber-Trick”. The sounds of the snow crunching under your board, the other racer’s taunts, and the ever-present announcer alternatively congratulating or chiding you for your tricks all heighten the sense of urgency and competition that the game needs.
Speaking of the “Uber-Tricks”, the gameplay in this edition is simply superb. Any complaints as to the control system being compromised for the GameCube release are unfounded … the game controls fluidly and every bit as well as on the PS2. Despite the lack of an extra shoulder button on the GameCube controller, the game reacts to your input promptly and once you learn the tricks, chaining combos and rails together becomes effortless. Well, almost effortless, as the Showoff mode will truly challenge you to grind and grab everything you can find. Any combination of one, two, or all three shoulder buttons will do a different grab. Combine those with spins, flips, or tweaks, and you’ll be pulling off impressive tricks in no time. Once you’ve tricked enough to fill the Boost meter to “Tricky” level, you can now tweak a grab into an “Uber-Trick”. These tricks vary with each boarder, but are always over-the-top and impressive. A real snowboarder would never be able to get out of their bindings fast enough to breakdance on a board, or swing it around their neck, or the dozens of other tricks.
The computer AI is tough, but fair. In fact, each computer player has an "aggression" rating that is calculated from how you treat them on the slopes. Some characters will start off friendly or angry with you, but you can certainly make more enemies than friends if you shove them around. While they may be hard to beat at first, practice and dedication to finding the right lines or shortcuts will have you earning medals in droves. Getting the Gold medals, however, is still challenging.
The game’s method of unlocking the outfits and boards has been slightly revamped. Earning boards is as simple as increasing your ranking, but outfits require “chapters” of the trickbook to be completed. Each chapter becomes more and more challenging, eventually leaving you to take an entire course to get a trick working properly. You still unlock tracks be earning a medal in each, but this is easier said than done, as Pipedream can only be unlocked after earning a medal in Showoff mode in the Alaska track … effectively requiring a medal in all previous tracks as well. And once you’ve done this all with one character, you can do it again with all of the others. You’ve only mastered the game when you’ve reached Master level with each and every character!
The FMV intro is noticeably compressed compared to its PS2 counterpart, as are the “Making of …” bonus video, and the rank-up animations. But just the fact that the videos were included at all is a testament to the dedication to making the GameCube version as close to the PS2 version as possible. It’s likely that more games will be using real-time animations rather than FMV in the future so that these compromises needn’t be made at all.
The “Making of …” video, much like the documentary on the Rogue Leader disc are also proof that DVD-style special features are likely to become commonplace in games … a welcome addition that can make you appreciate the work put into your favorite games all the more. (These features are becoming so prevalent that we’re considering adding a “Bonus” category to our reviews in order to discuss these features without affecting a game’s review negatively.)
There is some minor slowdown in the game, mostly in multi-player and on tracks like Alaska or Aloha Ice Jam where there is a lot going on. However, it’s usually very quick and not terribly distracting. In fact, over the course of four full days of gameplay, it only reared its ugly head twice.
SSX Tricky is a complete experience, and while not the breakout game that a Smash Bros. may be, it is certainly entertaining, fun, and worth every penny.