Although at times it may become frustrating, SSX is probably one of the best snowboarding games ever released on a console.
SSX (also known as Snowboard Super Cross) was originally released as one of the PlayStation 2 launch titles and it quickly became one of the platform’s greatest games as it was not only critically acclaimed, but also loved by fans of the genre. It should be noted, that SSX is still considered the best launch title on any system, mainly because the experience of playing it was pretty unique and the level of immersion that the game offered was (and still is) huge.
This is achieved by the implementation of an almost flawless gameplay as the game’s controls are both simple and slick and you can perform really complex combos in a really intuitive way. The D-pad is used to control all the basic movements of your snowboarder and the square button can be used for the adrenaline boost, which you can fill by performing various tricks. Finally, the shoulder buttons are used to grab the board while you’re in mid-air. Once you are familiar with the basic controls you are ready to pull off more complex tricks.
There are different types of tricks and combining them in innovating ways is really rewarding. The first type is called “grabbed air tricks” and can only be done when you jump high in the air. The second kind is known as “rotation tricks” and these allow you to perform different kinds of flips and spin moves. Then, we have the advanced tricks, these are much more complicated than all the other ones, but their main advantage is that they can be combined seamlessly with those. The advanced tricks are subdivided into different categories which represent different variations of some basic moves: switch, late, fakie and tweak. Finally, we have a well-known trick in the genre: rail riding. This, as in other snowboarding/skateboarding game (Read: any title from the Tony Hawk series), allows you to jump and ride rails or other obstacles like logs or fences in order to get more points.
Furthermore, the game includes many modes in which you can use different moves and tricks. The main game is divided into two: single event and world circuit. The first one lets you choose a character to play a single race against AI characters or against a friend. The second mode, on the other hand, lets you compete with a newbie character until you reach the master title. When you first start playing the game you can choose a character out of 8 different ones, though only four are available right off the bat. Each one of them has its advantages and disadvantages, and all of them have a set of attributes and basic stats that you can later on modify to suit your needs. The inclusion of some basic RPG-like elements is really good and the game allows you to alter stats like edging, speed, stability and tricks as you get more experience points. What’s also really interesting is that each character has its own distinctive style and this affects the way they’ll behave while they race. You can also change boards and the outfit of your racer and eventually you’ll be able to get newer and more impressive tricks.
SSX includes 7 different venues which are masterfully designed, and it’s simply amazing that these large places were able to fit in only one CD-ROM. Each course is full of little details, but the realistic movements of the various characters are also quite surprising, and when they jump or perform an action they do it very naturally and lifelike. Overall most movements and performances are more than convincing. Moreover, each course offers different events like warm-up, race and showoff. Warm-up events let you familiarize with a given course without worrying about results or points, here is just you and the mountain. The race lets you participate in an event against other AI controlled characters, here you’ll need to finish at least third in order to get a medal, but before that, you are required to qualify in the quarter finals and semifinal respectively. Finally, the last event is called showoff, here you’ll need to get x number of points in order to get a medal.
The game has some problems and in some regards it hasn’t passed the test of time. The loading times are really long and it represents an issue even considering that it only happens before and after each race, but this probably occurs because most environments are really rich, detailed and quite long. At times, racing feels more like a chore rather than an effortless pastime, making the game a little an archaic and repetitive experience, this occurs because before you can get a medal you have to participate in the same event 3 times: first quarter finals, then semifinals and lastly the final event itself. If you lose on the finals you’ll have to re-race everything once again. It should be taken into account that the game was released more than a decade ago and even though some decisions may seem a little old fashioned nowadays some inconsistencies may be overlooked, especially if we consider that this was one of the first PS2 games.
Graphically, the game is good. Of course, at the time of its release it had stunning visuals that were simply breathtaking, but it hasn’t aged very well in this regard either. In any way, it’s really nice to see colorful venues and long courses full of little details like fireworks. Additionally, all the characters were given specific animations providing them with more personality, as a result of this, some of them became so popular that eventually they were included in SSX’s sequels and are now considered a trademark of the series.
Sound is really good and some features really stand out. Probably one of the best ones is the presence of aural feedback, so for example, if you’re racing and you repeat a trick more than once the DJ will start pointing it out by saying that you’ll only get “half the boost” or that you need to “try something new” in a really monotone voice. This is amazing because you can adjust your performance according to what he says. In addition, the game includes music from popular artists like Rasmus, Hybrid and some interesting exclusive compositions. Each character also has unique dialogue lines which they’ll utter as they race. Also, the different environments are full of noises that add realism to them.
In conclusion, for many people SSX may seem like a really hard game to review after so many years of its original release, but still, some of the game’s qualities are undeniable, even after that long. Most of the game’s features should be praised, like the sound, flawless gameplay, rewarding combo system and its multiple challenging modes. Though at times it may become frustrating, this is probably one of the best snowboarding games ever released on a console. If you’re a fan of the genre you owe it to yourself to at least try this game. You won’t be disappointed.