Gamestyle Archive intro: there was a time when snowboarding was the happening genre in videogames following on from skating. So many entries slipped through the cracks never to be seen again until now, as this is one example. Published July 2001, Writer JJ.
Version: PAL PS2
Accessories: Memory Card
Release: Out Now
What do we know about Snowboarding? Even though I often get snow up here, very little. For all the coolness of the sport it still looks like they’re surfing on an ironing board, why not just go down the beach? I have never really understood the need to go up a hill only to come back down – repeat till sunset.
Here we have the latest instalment of the Konami ESPN series that is gaining popularity and respect from many. If the rate of progress and dedication continues this will eventually surpass the bulk that EA toss out on an annual basis. Along with the official ESPN tag you have several stars of the snowboarding world. Prepare yourself to be dazzled: big names from the sport such as Garrett Christy, Todd Richards and Kevin Jones. Also adding to the realism is the amount of sponsors that decorate the tracks and riders. I’ve never watched a snowboarding event but no doubt it looks very similar to what we have in this game.
The first thing that struck me about this game (apart from the slow saving) was the stack of options on offer, which are varied and impressive. Konami have researched the sport and it shows from the amount that they’ve managed to put into this game. Amongst all menus you can go for time attack, career mode, free ride, slope style, big air and an X games mode. These are great but there is one mode that raises this game above most of the other boring extreme sports games of late. The snowboard mode is where you can create your own snowboarder and in great detail as well. Within moments you will have created your own radical or bogus snowboarder to hit the slopes with. Then you enter the stickman cartoon style section of the game that is wonderful mad Jap shit. Anyone who played the most recent instalment of ISS on the N64 will remember the career mode, this is similar only much better. Here you can talk with other boarders, make money, enter events and move up the ratings or you can just take a helicopter ride and hit those remote slopes. All of this is wrapped up in a great unique visual style that you will come back to more often than any other section of the game.
One of the highlights is the graphics on show that do the PS2 justice, everything here is well presented from the animation to those little touches you don’t often see in games and the top notch replays. Not all is great graphically as on some levels fogging is very evident; glitches and rough edges are obvious throughout. The camera will at times limit you view as it tends to get stuck when you do as well and if not as responsive as I would expect. The game sounds good but has that generic sub punk music that other titles have done so much better. Don’t get me wrong I do like the odd bit of skate punk or whatever its called today but can games not offer some alternative? Please? Nice bit of country mate?
The main problem with the game is the controls, which are awkward to say the least, and this limits the enjoyment that the player has. Well-designed games have controls, which are easy to pick up and utilise during the game. ESPN Snowboarding often feels like you are fighting against the pad and at first you’ll even struggle to keep the boarder going in the direction that you wish. It can be so infuriating that you may just give up altogether which would be a shame as this one has a lot of hidden depth. While I found tricks easy to learn, actually putting them into practice is something else. I would recommend that anyone spend sometime in the free ride section learning how to pull these off. The learning curve will be a bit steep for most who decide to take this game on but please stick with it.
Adding to the control problems are that this game doesn’t feel like a game at times, more like a simulation of the sport. I respect realism but one of the joys of SSX or 1080 Snowboarding is that you didn’t spend half the time on your backside. The tracks or should I say slopes? On the whole are pretty bland, boring and lack some of the flair showed in SSX but perhaps that’s realism for you. Snow does only really come in one colour doesn’t it? So EPSN Winter Games X Snowboarding is a more realistic challenge but if you prefer your arcade thrills stick with SSX.