1080 Avalanche, a great GameCube exclusive
1080 Avalanche is the lesser known sequel to the critically acclaimed N64 game 1080 Snowboarding.
1080 Avalanche manages to maintain the lightning speed of the first game and contains some cutting edge graphics for the GameCube. To top it off, it has a unique trick system and a wide variety of modes to play and creative tracks to ride on.
Why would a sequel with this much polish be overshadowed? SSX 3 was released the same year for all three consoles at the time, the PlayStation 2, original Xbox and, of course, the GameCube. 1080 Avalanche’s comparisons to SSX 3 were inevitable, but odd, since both games are completely different.
SSX 3 may have a slightly easier control scheme and more of a broad appeal. 1080 Avalanche just happens to be more of a difficult game, but when the player sticks to it, 1080 Avalanche is incredibly rewarding and a blast to play.
1080 Snowboarding’s impact
The first time gamers played 1080 Snowboarding, there was no other action sports game like it. A snowboarding game that had a focus on tricks and racing. Somehow, Left Field Productions, the second party developer at Nintendo, emulated the speed of F-Zero. 1080 Snowboarding was a massive hit for Nintendo and is fondly remembered as being one of the best titles on the N64.
A sequel was unavoidable and in 2003, Nintendo Software Technology (NST) developed 1080 Avalanche after Left Field Productions dropped out. The game was previously going to be titled 1080: White Storm in reference to Wave Race: Blue Storm, another underappreciated GameCube exclusive.
Blistering speed makes up most of 1080 Avalanche
If there is one phrase to describe 1080 Avalanche, it’s from the classic 80s masterpiece, Top Gun.
Shredding down the mountains of 1080 Avalanche will urge the player to keep going and marvel at the speed and snow effects. The snow crashing towards the player camera and the wind affecting the character’s clothing on the mountain certainly give the player rushing adrenaline, as if they are on the mountain themselves. With a focus on racing as opposed to tricks, this is a good feature of 1080 Avalanche which brings the player into it’s crazy, snowboarding world.
The control set up does not hinder the great gameplay of 1080 Avalanche
The original 1080 Snowboarding is a game that perfected controls on the bizarre looking, and rather unintuitive, N64 controller. 1080 Avalanche is able to replicate the success its predecessor had. However, there is a rather steep control curve for first time players.
1080 Avalanche’s controls have a strange layout. The main face buttons on the GameCube controller, A, B, etc. will do the jumping and speed boosts. To do tricks and to grind properly, the player will have to incorporate the shoulder buttons and Z button. The player will have to hold down the A button to get the jump they want, which is similar to how professional snowboarders will have to find the right momentum to get the air they want. In addition to this scheme, players will be incorporating the control stick, if the player wants to perform spin and flip tricks along with their grabs.
The player’s hands will be all over the controller to perform a trick, making strange claw like hand formations. Whereas SSX 3 had a far easier control set up. This may come as daunting to first time players, but spending more time in the freestyle trick parks of the game will be great practice.
Once a player can master the controls, they will find 1080 Avalanche to be a fulfilling experience as the game is consistently challenging.
1080 Avalanche features a good amount of single players modes, as well as split screen multiplayer. The main mode, Match Race, will have the player select a circuit, with the difficulty of each circuit represented the three levels of difficulty skiiers are used to. Green, Blue and Black Diamond. Completing these will also unlock the Expert level. Other modes are trick attack, which can take place in a park or a slope, time attack, which is great for building stats and gate challenge. They are all fun in their own way and can manage to keep the player busy enough.
Each part of the mountain the snowboarders will populating has a unique feel to it and no track feels the same as the other. There are some basic ones, but 1080 Avalanche has tracks that take place in abandoned saw mills, a posh resort area with a gigantic Mario ice sculpture and shiny ice caves. Of course, all this pales in comparison to the nail biting final level, where you are trying to outrun the growing threat of an avalanche. It’s a truly gripping finale, and one of the few games to capture the dangerous nature of snowboarding in an avalanche.
The GameCube’s graphics present the tracks with enough life in them and manages to capture the snow and ice perfectly. The rest of 1080 Avalanche has a great stylized look to it, as each of the snowboarders have their own unique look.
Similar to the first game, 1080 Avalanche only has five characters to choose from. Returning is Ricky Winterborn, Akari Hayami and Rob Haywood. The two new characters are the Brazilian Kemen Vazquez and “hip-hop diva” Tara Strong (who is not played by the famous voice actress of the same name). The five characters have alternate costumes which exemplify their personality and have their own boards.
The game also has a ton of unlockable snowboards that are unusual, but reflect the nature of the game. There is an NES controller and a live penguin the player can have Ricky Winterborn and the rest of the crew to ride on.
1080 Avalanche had a special edition, which included a DVD titled “Snow Sessions.” It is stock footage from various Warren Miller movies set to the soundtrack of the game. It’s not much, but for fans of Miller’s ski/snowboard movies, it’s worth checking out. Strangely enough, the DVD is the same size as a GameCube disc.
One of Gaming’s Undervalued Treasures
Peel away the incredibly dated mid-2000s radio rock (Finger Eleven? Yay.) and steep learning curve of the controls and 1080 Avalanche is a worthy sequel to an immensely popular game. 1080 Avalanche’s gameplay is immensely entertaining and the races are sure to rip through a player’s cornea with its breakneck speed. It’s a fantastic snowboarding game that remains satisfying throughout the time spent on the mountain.