A new, regular feature from our in-house games master, Gale Van Rye, who talks about memorable skiing and winter sports games. This week: 1080 Snowboarding (N64, 1998).
In 1998, the PlayStation and N64 were just hitting their stride. Games weren't just developed by a nerd alone in a bedroom anymore, instead they were made by big groups of nerds — in actual offices. And it wasn't just nerds playing the games either, but also normal human beings.
The PlayStation already boasted Cool Boarders by this point, the first half-playable, full-3D snowboarding game. However, a rushed development cycle to release before the winter meant although an impressive start, it suffered from a lot of gameplay frustrations. Enter Nintendo, struggling to bring in third party developers and needing to fill the winter sports gap for the N64, they decided to make 1080 themselves.
Nintendo were known for cutesy classics, not beautifully-rendered, realistic, extreme sports games with heavy soundtracks. Yet, 1080 stood over its peers for the entire remainder of its generation.
You remember the details — your baggy hoodie rippling in the wind, stretching out your hand to balance on the ice patch whilst the orange sun sets behind the looming peak in the distance. Nintendo paid attention to the feel and it paid off.
1080 was tough — there's no question about that — landing a trick took practice, whilst falls and crashes were punishing. Yet, the game was rewarding after you mounted the steep learning curve. As you got better, the carving felt better. Finding the best shortcut downhill, then pulling off a stalefish 1080 on the final jump and landing with perfection was well worth the blistered thumbs.
Backed by Tommy Hilfiger and Lamar in-game gear, Nintendo released 1080 Snowboarding in 1998 to consistently high critical acclaim. It became the benchmark for snowboarding games thereafter and whilst snowboarding games went on to become much prettier and much more successful, the right balance of controls and skill hasn't quite ever been matched.