Shreddin’ the gnar
This review originally went live in 2016, and we're updating and republishing it to celebrate the game's arrival in Switch's N64 library via the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack.
Originally released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998, 1080Â° Snowboarding was Nintendo's attempt to bring the snowboarding experience to its home console. And the company did a good job: six courses provide a variety of thrills as you hop on a board and tackle the snowy slopes. There are five riders of varying abilities, several boards are available to ride on, and there's the ability to perform some fancy-looking tricks, too. And it still holds up decently all these years later.
Visually this is a great looking N64 title with fast and smooth action. As you would expect, lots of snow means lots of white, but rocky surfaces, trees, advertising banners and buildings can be spotted throughout the courses to prevent things from looking too plain. The snowboarders manage to not look blocky, though the same cannot be said for their shadows. Other places the game shows its age are on the sharp edges in the courses, flat, cardboard-esque spectators and scenery pop-in. None of this is off-putting, however, and there are some good effects throughout the game: The snow blowing towards the camera is a simple but effective trick whilst elsewhere you will find reflections in ice and the sun causing lens flare whilst adding a warm glow to the environment.
There are some good character animations here too, with the boarders shifting their weight realistically, but what really sells the illusion are the controls. You use the control stick for movement and it works a charm whether you're making a small adjustment to get a better line or are performing a tight turn to avoid smashing into a wall. There's a button to crouch which increases your speed and can also be used to soften your landings â although it's also important to shift your centre of gravity whilst in mid-air to ensure as smooth a landing as possible. There's also a jump button that can be used to hop to an alternate path or over any obstacles someone has placed along the racing line in the hope of capturing footage for a hilarious "craziest snowboarding accidents" compilation.
Less straightforward to perform are the tricks. There are several "grab" and "spin" tricks in the game that can be performed mid-air should you input the correct button combination. Grab moves and a 180 spin need just a button press and directional input, but the bigger the spin the more complicated the required combination, with a 1080 spin requiring a whopping nine inputs to pull off. Learning the combinations is not necessarily the hard part, it's inputting them before gravity does its thing and you impact hard with the ground. In some of the game modes, performing tricks earns you points and luckily there's a training mode where you can practice away until you've got the hang of things.
Special mention goes to 1080Â° Snowboarding's sound effects with the various thuds, clanks and crashes helping to sell the impact of a misjudged move, whilst grunts and moans come from the boarders when they collide. Most effective are the sounds your board causes as it slides over or slices through the snow. Also helping to immerse you in the action is the rumble from your controller as you weave about the courses; the shaking gets quite fierce should you go over rough surfaces or crash. All the elements combine well to make you feel like you are hurtling down a snowy slope, and for extra immersion you can switch to a first-person view; although you may lose your stomach contents when things get very bumpy.
The main mode of play is "Match Race" which is initially only available on normal difficulty. This features four races; hard mode is unlocked after clearing the initial difficulty, with the same four courses plus a fifth whilst expert (available after completing hard) adds a sixth. In this mode you simply race against a computer-controlled opponent; get to the finish line first and you proceed to the next race. The game gives you three lives to complete the series of races and until you've learnt the courses this may prove insufficient.
Whilst six courses don't amount to a lot, they are excellently designed and each has multiple routes for you to consider. Numerous bumps, drops, ramps and turns are present and the degree to which the surface is uneven will affect how you tackle certain sections, whilst thought must be given as you weave through trees or jump over logs. Other things to take into account are the thick snow that slows you down and the ice which is tricky to maintain precise control on. The difficulty is well judged with turns steadily getting tighter and obstacles increasing in number, although there is a spike with the fourth course (Mountain Village) where suddenly it's very easy to pick up damage; should the damage meter fill you are forced to retire.
Despite the damage meter suddenly being something you need to pay attention to, the course is the highlight of the game. It begins with elements similar to the earlier courses before sending you through an icy cave to emerge at the village where you weave around (or go over the roofs of) parked vehicles and buildings and in some parts take your board over grass, pavement and roads.
With multiple routes and only one competitor, racing can be quite lonely. Your positions are shown on the map that appears down the side of the screen and whilst your rival will stay close, you often seem to be on your own. Even when on-screen, the wideness of many parts of the courses sees your rival positioned out of your way. Simply navigating your way down the slope in the quickest way possible provides a lot of fun, but the frantic battling thrills you'd get from other racing titles (or Boardercross) are absent.
Elsewhere in the game there's "Time Attack" mode, where you aim to set the fastest time possible on any of the courses. You can save ghost data to race yourself later, and trying to cut down your best time has obvious replay value and serves as a way to practice on the courses should you be struggling with them in Match Race. Once you've cleared the Match Race mode, however, there's not a great incentive to return to it.
You can also try out "Trick Attack", another mode where there's a timer that counts down, although passing through checkpoint gates adds a bonus. As the name suggests, the main aim here is to accrue as many points as possible from performing tricks as you travel down the courses. "Contest" takes place over three courses and also throws in a big jump and a half-pipe stage. Here you pass flag markers for a small time bonus and again perform tricks to increase your score, with a total score being awarded at the end of the final stage.
Finally, there's the game's two-player mode where you race a friend down any of the courses. Presumably to get things running OK there is heavy fog present and should you get close to the other player they appear to be generated by a Super FX chip. Despite this visual downgrade, gameplay is smooth and there is lots of enjoyment to be found.
1080Â° Snowboarding will provide plenty of entertainment, particularly in two-player mode. The controls do a good job of making you feel like you are weaving, sliding and jumping your way down snowy courses, whilst sound effects, rumble and decent animation help enhance this experience. The main problem is the low number of tracks and competing against a single opponent makes playing the courses in Match Race similar to just tackling them in Time Trial. The tracks are very enjoyable to play, whether alone or with a friend, and the other game modes add some variety. This is still one of the best snowboarding games around, but if you're flying solo then you might want to consider something with a bit more meat on the bone.