Announced at Nintendo’s very own SpaceWorld trade show way back in November 1997, it took nearly a year before the Nintendo 64 snowboard racer eventually arrived at retailers in Europe – the company in part hoping to boost sales with a winter release.
Heaving with praise from critics, 1080° Snowboarding remains a historic technical achievement of its time. Programmers Giles Goddard and Colin Reed introduced a technique called “skinning” that removed joints between the polygons used to compose a character, importance placed on the model responding to impact and in whichever direction the collision was made.
It seems trivial in comparison to today’s game engines, but at the time Nintendo was out to prove that their console could compete with SEGA and, more specifically, Sony. That concerted effort can be seen across each of their systems, Nintendo looking to demonstrate what’s possible to encourage other developers and publishers.
The Wii U may not have struck such chord, but the Virtual Console continues to present a treasure trove of past glories to tuck into – with 1080° Snowboarding being among the most recent.
Several modes compete for your attention, although Match Race is where most will sink their time. Choosing between Normal, Hard or Expert difficulty levels, players will then select their rider and board before heading to the slope. Once there, you will race down the mountain against a randomised opponent and must win to advance to the next course.
Even with three chances, success can prove to be elusive. The AI difficulty can be particularly unkind to newcomers, but a separate Training mode will hopefully help most learn from their mistakes. That can then be put into practice, and so this is a great game for those that like to invest time to hone their skills.
Other modes come as expected, whether that be Time Attack, Trick Attack or 2P VS. But, it is Contest that otherwise steals the show. Within this, the game blends together with players required to perform tricks while snowboarding between designated points. Pulling everything in quick succession is incredibly satisfying, which lends itself well again to those that sink time into the game.
That there are only eight courses can perhaps be seen as a weakness, but it is more indicative of how much was crammed into the Nintendo 64 cartridge.
The control scheme, which received mixed criticism at the time, transfers over to the Wii U GamePad comfortably. As with any game, it will still take some time to get used to, but soon you will be jumping, tucking and performing tricks to your heart’s content.
Mario Kart 64 composer Kenta Nagata penned the game’s soundtrack, an eclectic mix that swings between heavier anthems and music that now reminds me of the Wii Shop Channel. Graphically, everything holds up well – particularly with Off-TV Play, which suits the game really well.
Another reminder of an IP that Nintendo has left dormant, 1080° Snowboarding remains just as thrilling as it has always been. Grab a board, and try to keep up!