PUBLISHER: EA Sports BIG
DEVELOPER: EA Canada
RELEASE DATE: 10/26/00 – (JP, US), 11/24/00 (US)
SSX is a snowboarding game where you race downhill against other opponents and, theoretically, pull off fly tricks at the same time. In my brief stint on the slopes, I was able to execute some very simple tricks or focus on racing downhill, but not both. When I kept my attention on navigating the course, I appreciated the tight controls on my racer and the inspired track layouts. Trying to “trick” up proceedings, however, was absolute toil.
Clearly, I am the “illest.”
In order to get points for a trick, you must fly off a ramp into the air, input a button combination, and land on your feet successfully. If you biff the slightest bit – and you will – you’ll lose your points and, usually, your placement in the race. The button combos – usually some form of D-pad and L1/L2 or R1/R2 – you’re asked to pull off aren’t that challenging, but it’s the combo input plus landing correctly that’s the real sticky wicket. If that sounds like Tony Hawk and every other xtreme sports title, you’re right. The only difference between the Hawk and SSX is you’re actively trying to stay ahead of the other opponents. Your opponents don’t necessarily land on their feet after a nasty drop either, but they always seem to come back faster than you.
Help yourself to some tricks, guv’nor!
So let’s say you’re like me and you can pull off a trick here or there, but otherwise, it’s all about racing. Well, you’re in a moderate amount of luck. The courses here are gorgeous and varied, huge and absolutely insane. Elysium Alps, the second course, is a true beast. It will take you nearly six minutes to race down this monstrous mountain. All the while, you’ll be sliding across a frozen river, grinding on trees, and avoiding large, dangerous glass panes in the middle of the course. Who thought those were a good idea?!
Please, I can’t find my knees!
Elysium Alps is only the second course and there are… seven in total? That’s what the manual says and I’m sticking to it. No, I did not unlock all the courses. And why? I’ll tell you why. Each course must be played a total of three times – quarter, semi, and final – to unlock the next one. In Elysium Alps’ case, this totals nearly eighteen minutes for one single course, which is a lot of minutes. Ranking third or higher in the final race unlocks the next course. Lord bless the board and my cocky racer, Moby, I could never ever beat Elysium Alps in third place or higher. And I should have, because I was focused almost 100% entirely on the racing, not tricks! SSX must have sensed my snark and shut me down before I could progress. It’s the only logical (and xtremely scientific) explanation.
Look Ma! I’m winning, somehow!
For those that are committed to the SSX cause, there’s certainly plenty to do here. Eight characters in all, each with their own stats and trick books to fill out, welcome you onto the snow. The World Circuit Mode is the meat of the game. Here, you race down each of the seven courses, boost stats for your characters, unlock extra boards and costumes. Given the game’s difficulty, this will take you awhile. If you just want to dabble, there are single events that allow you to race or mess about with tricks to your heart’s content.
Moby questions his clothing decisions.
I’d love to share more, I really would. SSX and I just don’t get along, I’m afraid. I respect the ambition behind these massive courses, and racing down them at top speeds while staying firmly on my board, is quite a rush. Trying to pull off tricks while racing and staying ahead of my snow-eating buddies, however, just never felt right. I am absolutely in the minority, by the way. This game has a stunning 93 Metacritic score, if you can believe it. I remember critics singing this game’s praises around the PS2’s launch, much more than just about any other launch game. At the time, my fifteen-year-old self wondered, “Huh, I wonder if SSX really is as good as they say.” Now, my considerably older self reflects, “Maybe, but it’ll never be for me.”
Listen to our SSX podcast here.