(GameCube)

1080° Avalanche (GameCube)

Game Review

1080° Avalanche Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jamie O'Neill

Dude, where's my snowboard?

With its December 2003 GCN release, 1080° Avalanche faced a quandary which mirrored the mixed up personality of the board sport it represented. Development had to decide between following the previous 'extreme to the max' approach of SSX 3, or to continue in the vein of its N64 predecessor 1080° Snowboarding, which strived for greater realism. Just as surfers, skaters and snowboarders today will debate about the purpose of their passion, dismissing extreme brashness and even sports connotations in favour of music, culture and lifestyle affiliations, 1080°Avalanche would only succeed by aspiring for its own individuality.

The challenge was twofold. A mere month before its release saw huge competition for gamer's savings in the form of GCN SSX 3 and Tony Hawk's Underground, both quality titles. A problematic development cycle, which involved a changing of hands from Left Field to Nintendo Software Technology Corporation (NSTC), and a muted response to showings at E3 and ECTS meant that the pressure was on for the game to perform.

NSTC responded brilliantly, releasing a title which was its own game and perfectly pitched: neither as realistic as N64 1080° Snowboarding or as extreme as SSX3. It was traditional in design: options of Match Race (Vs 1 on 1), gate slalom challenge, trick attack and time trial were the exact same game types lifted from the N64 title. It did not have the vast open mountain, career mode, detailed upgrades (including clothing) and wacky commentary of SSX 3. Instead NSTC decided to keep the menu choices traditional, focus the individual course design and tighten the content to Nintendo's high standards.

At its heart 1080° Avalanche is a one-on-one versus racer. However, this time it incorporates two new additions which are beneficial to the gameplay. First of all it has a blue power bar, which is boosted by extravagant trickery and clean, well-timed L shoulder button presses, allowing the rider to tuck and absorb the landing from a huge drop. A fully charged bar creates a glow around the player, focuses their speed and makes them less vulnerable when charging through reckless skiers and competitive snowboarders. Secondly, it incorporates Tony Hawk-style lock-on balanced grinds, which also build power, but most importantly work hand in hand with L tucking and analogue leaning forward to escalate the speed.

Tricks are more consequential than N64 1080°, they are integral to success and NSTC has wisely opened up the controls to make tricks more accessible for the player. Spinning out a 720° rotation and styling it with an indy nosebone grab is a much more realistic proposition this time around. It provides gamers with the option to max out a risky, low kicker ramp tail grab backflip, with the justice that if you slam on your face it is your own fault. Mixing this with tight stand up carving into sharp corners, particularly on solid ice and avoiding speed-hindering deep powder, reveals a game with excellent implementation of physics. The trick attack's perfectly formed big air ramp and half pipe are a great place to practise inputs for tricks.

Player selection also follows the N64 game closely with all characters being roughly equal, yet each standing out in one particular area. Ricky Winterborn (high jumps), Akari Hayami (great turning), Kemen Vazquez (top speed), Rob Haywood (strong balance) all return to the slopes. It is Kensuke Kimachi and Dion Blaster who are missing from N64, replaced by Tara Hunter (great acceleration).

However, through a steadfast following of the N64 title's structure, 1080° Avalanche also needed to address issues of that game's relative lack of content. It does this most successfully by the incorporation of a coin search for time trials. Five segments of a coin are tucked away in hard to reach course areas and NSTC has been ingenious at opening up time-saving shortcut placements, for those willing to invest practice in the time trials. Comparisons to the Mario Kart games, in which a controlled number of risk and reward shortcuts differentiate experienced players, are completely valid, and chaining grind rails and gaps to grinds is an awesome way to encourage skilled players. Coins can also be spent on better boards and you will be motivated to invest in a high speed '8-Bit Soul' complete with Luigi deck graphics, especially as the increase in performance helps tackle the ramp in difficulty on the seven match race, extreme challenge. Further unlockables occur through natural game progression, with basic alternative costumes and NES retro controller boards amongst other incentives.

Graphically 1080° Avalanche has aged beautifully; what is most striking is the way in which the courses are fine-tuned and distinguishable from each other. Any 1080° Avalanche players would be able to accurately describe Sid's Night Midi's purple tinged night time glow, cabin room lights, road leaping jump ramps, restaurant crashing and grind blocks/rails down huge wide steps. That is without even mentioning the grand Mario ice sculpture, spot lights and a multi-storey car park tight carve section, which harks back to Powell Peralta’s Bones Brigade skating in Police Academy 4.

The rest of the game is visually sophisticated through attention to detail: snowflakes drip down the screen and blizzards disperse into crystal clear viewpoints, deeper powder will incrementally build on riders' clothing and the game is subtle in presenting nature's wilderness and its juxtaposition with the intrusion of man. The course Treble Tussle begins with galloping deer and the calm of the fresh top mountain snow, eagles glide and nature is at peace until the raucous rattling of a smoke-bellowing train rudely disturbs the quiet. Examples like this are prevalent throughout and you will encounter as many scurrying squirrels as you will dodge car crashes, reckless snowmobiles, goofy skiers and fellow snowboarders. The visuals have scale too, with the final Frozen Melee level Wit’s Thicket being multi-tiered, with a number of different height levels to navigate. An advanced player will teeter on the very highest level route and be rewarded as the camera pulls back to display a tiny snowboarder and jaw-dropping landscape.

Special mention must also go to the music track by Squibb titled 'Don’t Stop Now'. This mellow sung beauty is perfectly fitting for the massively atmospheric Treble Tussle. However, the Squibb song is merely the best of the unlicensed tracks, the actual established rockers provided quality sounds too. Pop punkers Cauterize blitz through the game's demo opener and theme tune in 'Choke' and Seether’s 'Fine Again' is a choice selection of alternative rock for the final credits. The highlight of it all is the two songs provided by Boysetsfire, the Newark melodic hardcore band whose easily distinguished chugging riffs and powerful vocals are the dominant song craftsmen in this game. The game has a mere eight licensed tracks, but they have been well selected and standout from the game's unlicensed tunes.

Final mention must go to the tagline: the 'Avalanche' sub-heading is not a gimmick, it is a truly fun addition to the genre. The game often has environmental triggers, including cave-ins, collapsing architecture and rock slides. However, the final challenge after completing each match race is a one-on-one between the rider and nature. This involves dropping out of a helicopter and charging down a mountain to escape the rushing avalanche before it envelops the player. The visuals dramatically respond to this: the entire screen shakes and a danger meter teeters on the edge of failure. Fortunately, the three lives credit system is replaced by unlimited continues for these sections, allowing the player to simply enjoy the chaos. It is in these setpieces that 1080° Avalanche firmly establishes its main sense of identity within the snowboarding genre.

Conclusion

NSTC gripped tightly to 1080° Avalanche's wayward development and created a title that surpassed expectations. They forged a game with its own approach to the genre, sitting between the realism of 1080° Snowboarding on N64 and the extravagance of SSX 3. It stuck to the N64 foundations, still focusing on speed and one-on-one versus racing, yet the tight, creative course design, gameplay-changing shortcuts and coin-collecting time trials combined to present a polished GCN game. Intuitive controls made tricks accessible and encouraged gamers to take risks to build the empowering boost bar. Visually gorgeous, the attention to detail glistens in progressive scan (no 16:9 widescreen in this game) and Wii owners will be pleasantly surprised upon loading up this title.

As long as you are happy without SSX Blur-type motion controls, this is a title which encapsulates the wonders of a backwards compatible Wii. A short, but quality selection of licensed bands combines with similar attention spent on sound effects, which provide an aural treat. The chaotic avalanche escape dynamics make 1080° Avalanche its very own individual. Snowboard game fans will be sure to exclaim "dope, dude!" and "sick, man!" just like an excitable Ricky Winterborn once they experience the fun contained within this disc.

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User Comments (41)

DamoAdmin

#1

Damo said:

Awesome review, James. I have to admit I never checked this out back in the day, so I might have to give it a spin. :)

Terra

#2

Terra said:

I bought this last year for £5 and it's a great game, definitely worth buying

DAaaMan64

#3

DAaaMan64 said:

Dude this is my favorite snowboarding game ever, it absolutely rules. Seriously amazing. So much of an amazing sense of speed.

MattL

#4

MattL said:

Still my favourite snowboarding game by far. The ultimate snowboarding experience.

grenworthshero

#5

grenworthshero said:

Wow, coincidentally, I had just bought this game two days ago, and it really deserves the rating.

JamieOStaff

#6

JamieO said:

Thanks for the cool comments everyone. For Nintendo Life music fans I have included further information on GCN 1080° Avalanche's 4 bands and 8 licenced music tracks (below):
*Boysetsfire 'Handful of Redemption' and 'Rookie' (Boysetsfire are a melodic hardcore band from Newark, Delaware with powerful chugging riffs, strong bass lines, clear distinctive vocals and sing-a-long choruses. 'Rookie' is my favourite song in 1080° Avalanche).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYDq4YfL1EQ
*Cauterize 'Killing Me' and 'Choke' (Cauterize are a pop punk band from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada blasting catchy hook guitar lines, bass drives and pop punk choruses, with a feel good factor to their medium/fast paced songs. 1080° Avalanche has a band video for the demo opening song 'Choke').
*Finger Eleven 'Good Times', 'Other Light' and 'Conversations' (Finger Eleven is a Canadian rock band from Burlington, Ontario, mixing metalish guitar, with alternative rock riffs and rhythms and catchy choruses ).
*Seether 'Fine Again' (Seether is a South-African rock band from Johannesburg and play this closing credits song with clear plucked guitar string opener and quality rock vocals. A catchy chorus picks up the pace for what is essentially a mellow verse led alternative rock song).

Rawk_Hawk

#7

Rawk_Hawk said:

"Boysetsfire 'Handful of Redemption' and 'Rookie' (Boysetsfire are a melodic hardcore band from Newark, Delaware"

Really! I never heard of them and I live in Newark, Delaware. Am I oblivious to everything or what. Anyway when it comes to snowboarding I really prefer the Amped series, but maybe I'll try this one some day. It seems pretty cool.

JamieOStaff

#8

JamieO said:

@Tony Boysetsfire stopped playing in 2007, so you may have missed them, mate. I'd be proud if that band came from my home town. Cool. :)

KnucklesSonic8

#10

KnucklesSonic8 said:

I love snowboarding games. I gotta get this game! It's clear that I'd enjoy it way more than 1080 Snowboarding (didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would). Thanks for the great review!

gameaddict247

#12

gameaddict247 said:

I Love this game n still play it now n again to this day, its the only snow boarding game I have (but may get SSX Blur in time) but that does not matter as it is THAT good :) .

JamieOStaff

#15

JamieO said:

Apologies @roro44 (comment 13) and good point.... 1080° Avalanche multi-player is not bad!

  • Menu has separate 4-Player split screen multi-player races, although the general smoothness/ frame rate drops (which happened in a number of GCN games).
  • Local Area Network (LAN) mode, enables you to connect four GameCubes! Get your mates around for a GameCube 1080° retro party. Sorry that the opportunity to test LAN connections did not present itself for this review.
WanderFan91

#16

WanderFan91 said:

Great review, JamieO. I remember playing 1080 o Avalanche so much years ago, and I thought it was really great. :) The graphics were really astounding, and I was amazed at how much detail your characters had when the snow got on them. And the avalanche portion was more than amazing. The soundtrack rocked too. :) I also loved to execute those tricks and combos.
Reminds me of the days when I played Coolboarders 3 and 4 for the PSX back when I lived in Italy. Far out!

Chunky_Droid

#18

Chunky_Droid said:

Finger Eleven is one of my favourite bands, they've done themes for WWE and also do anime soundtracks (most notable being a couple of Dragonball Z movies)

I own this game and I've only just completed it 100% a couple of months ago, a definite challenge!

Kid_A

#20

Kid_A said:

THANK YOU! This is such an under-rated game--one of my favorite of all time. Glad to read a review from someone else who appreciates this game.

Bring_Back_Pluto

#23

Bring_Back_Pluto said:

This game....is THAT GAME! Dude along with star fox assault, if you had the right friends this was one of the great party games!

Kafei2006

#24

Kafei2006 said:

This is one of the very few first party Nintendo titles for the GameCube, released in the west, that i didn't buy (The other two being Odama and Geist). I can't think of another one (except maybe for japanese only titles).

Now i HAVE to pick it up soon :).

JamieOStaff

#25

JamieO said:

Thanks everyone for sharing in the 1080° Avalanche appreciation. Cheers @StarBoy91 and @Kid_A for your kind comments.
Below are a few further tidbits about 1080° Avalanche:

  • It includes an analogue flick accelerated start, because NSTC knew that you can't have a racer (particularly 'Time Trials') without a well timed, early race boost!
  • GCN controller rumble is superbly implemented, particularly for avalanches, environmental triggers, cave-ins, collapsing structures and rock slides.
  • I completed the game in 2004, deleted my save game and finished it again for the review. Its incorporation of unlockables is fun, for example I earned a 'Mr Beaks' penguin board, 'Old School' NES controller deck and from the gate challenge trophies, I unlocked alternative riders (e.g. Titanium Vazquez, Frosty 'The Snowman' Winterball).
    However, hats off and fair play @chunky_droid (comment 18) for completing 100% of 1080° Avalanche, I can picture you carving up the slopes with Finger Eleven bursting out of your speakers. If you get a spare moment, perhaps you could post details of a few of your favourite game unlockables on this comments board.

I also played lots of N64 1080° Snowboarding (Virtual Console), the Twitpic link is a screenshot comparison between the two games:
http://twitpic.com/kykks

Machu

#26

Machu said:

I loved this game, one of the best on GC, I even played it online through warp-pipe, mmm great days. I pray for another 1080 sequel as it is easily the finest snowboarding franchise out there.

ipodgamer

#27

ipodgamer said:

Great review, Jim! I adored this game back in the day. Completely different genre but, almost on par with Zelda Ocarina of Time for me. I remember staying up nights and playing this right through till dawn. I fancy a trip down memory lane so have just purchased a copy of this from eBay! All I gotta do now is find my Gamecube to enjoy all the powdery delights that 1080 has to offer :)

Crunc

#29

Crunc said:

I really enjoyed this game when I played it. Definitely worth picking up if you haven't already and it's cheap last time I checked, so it should be a no-brainer if you like this type of game. I hope they make a new Wii entry in the series.

JamieOStaff

#30

JamieO said:

@Kafei2006 The magazines are both old GameCube mags from the UK. The top one, behind the N64 was called CUBE (Nov. 2003, No. 26) and the bottom one behind the Wii is called NGC (Jan. 2004, issue #89). I have been a big fan of gaming mags since C&VG in '89, so I collected every GameCube era issue of those two magazines.
@ipodgamer You were always loads better than me at N64 1080° Snowboarding, but I have put in more practise on GCN 1080° Avalanche. I'm ready to race you again when your eBay copy arrives, mate. lol :)

Kafei2006

#31

Kafei2006 said:

OK. It's just that the font used in the Game title (1080° Avalanche) in the mag is the same used in the French Official Nintendo Magazine from round the same time, which i bought every monthly issue till early 2006. i don't buy VG magazines anymore now.

ipodgamer

#32

ipodgamer said:

@JamieO It's healthy to have a dream, it can quite often make the more mundane aspects of life seem that little bit more worthwhile and pleasurable. I will leave your dream with you for now. But when my copy of 1080 arrives I will... well you know the drill by now! lol :)

Joking aside, I am really looking forward to playing this classic again! As you know I have become a bit of an snobbyass/elitist PC gamer over these last few years. But, I have managed to hunt down my Gamecube, I even found 3 N64's under my bed (seriously) 3 of em! and a ton of Nintendo classics I forgot about! Just gotta find my SNES now! lol. I know I have it here somewhere :)

Slapshot

#33

Slapshot said:

I loved this game. I still like the N64 a bit better but this game was great. The Avalanche was awesome especially if you have Seether blaring on the sountrack. Great game. My personal second favorite on the Gamecube right behind Wave Race.

JamieOStaff

#35

JamieO said:

@coire Ha, ha your comment made me laugh, but unfortunately I don't have one, I have never even stepped on a snowboard :(
As soon as I begin to earn a few bob I am planning to head with my mate over to the Chill Factore indoor snow centre, not far from me in Manchester, the North West of England.
I did skate (as in skateboarding) for about 10 off and on years, including travels to a few concrete parks in Australia though. That amount of time does not explain why I suck at skateboarding, but I still love it just like I love video games and punk rock music. I have a full skate set up here now, to test my creaky knees today and a sweet wooden park 40 mins from my flat.
One day I'll carve up those (albeit artificial) snow slopes.
@Coire , dude! Where is your snowboard? ;)

motang

#36

motang said:

I have always wanted to get this game but never did for some odd reason. I think Nintendo should remake this on the Wii with the balance board option!

OldBoy

#37

OldBoy said:

Best snowboarding game ever : Fact! Love this game and the graphics look better than most Wii games. We want a sequel!!

SKTTR

#38

SKTTR said:

Yeah, great score.

I always put the 1080° series in highest respect next to the other supreme Nintendo racers F-Zero, Mario Kart, Excite's and Wave Race.

A racing game needs just this: Perfect controls. High speed. Cool tracks. This one has it all.

THENAMESNORM

#39

THENAMESNORM said:

I managed to pick this game up for a mere £2.99 from Gamestation last week!! Also got Waverace:Blue Storm for the same price!! Bargains!!

DRLAdmin

#41

DRL said:

I finally picked this game up a few days ago and it's an insane amount of fun. It's definitely more of an arcade racer than the previous 1080 but that's okay. Great bargain purchase!

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