Retrospective64 – 1080 Snowboarding

The Nintendo 64 was my first console. It’s many cartridges, trident-like controller, and countless classics were the foundation for my video game experience. As quarantines and isolations continue to keep many, including me, at home, I’ve decided to look through my catalogue of N64 games and explore how they’ve stood, or fallen to, the test of time.

1080 Snowboarding is, if nothing else, a blizzard of nostalgia. The 1998 release was one of many sports games released for the N64 throughout its run, but few had the sense of personality 1080 brought. For those utterly unfamiliar, 1080 Snowboarding is a snowboard racing game, in which you try to complete a snowboarding course. Different game options pit you against a fellow snowboarder a timer, but the core of the gameplay experience is the trick system.

1080 Snowboarding’s North American cover. Courtesy of Nintendo.

Tricks, essential for earning points in the game which are useful for certain game modes and otherwise just fun to attempt, are done through a variety of button and joystick maneuvers. All tricks require you to be in the air, through the jump function or otherwise, and require a pretty well timed execution. I frequently found my tricks not being registered in time to even start their animation before I hit the ground. This, I suspect, is also in part due to the age of my controller and its joystick.

To give you an idea, here’s a series of trick commands, all following a jump via the A button:

Shifty – hold joystick to left, B

Tail Grab – hold joystick down, B

360° Open Air – press right bumper, swing joystick around in complete circle starting from the top, can turn joystick right or left to turn in the respective direction

The most fun, and brutally dated part of this game is the music. Nagata is a legendary composer for countless Nintendo projects, but 1080 is one of his few works that feel pretty stuck to its time. Tunes like “Vacant Lives” and “Work Your Body” aren’t just memorable, they feel like they must’ve been songs outside of the game. They do, however, sound intensely 90’s, in a way that real 90’s music doesn’t even sound, and sort of don’t match the expectations I’d normally have for an in-house Nintendo soundtrack. It’s fun to hear, but it never even courts the iconic nature of many other franchises’ soundscapes.

There are five man character options for this game. You pick your character before starting a series of races or a one off race depending on the mode you choose. You will also then choose your board and footing style. Those five characters are Kensuke Kimachi, Dion Blaster, Rob Haywood, Akari Hayami, and Ricky Winterborn. Three additional characters (Ice Man, Gold Boarder, and The Panda) are unlockable through a series of challenges or controller manipulation.

Different characters have different stats that suit certain challenges more. You do get the sense when playing each character that they are capable of different things, though planning that out for each course can sometimes be more work than a kid trying to play a snowboarding game is interested in. I typically choose Kensuke Kimachi or Rob Haywood, who are both just quite balanced.

The game is pretty enjoyable visually. The characters are all clearly different from one another and look pretty good for the time, as do the range of environments. While all are in the end essentially a trail of snow, they still feel individual and play around with different scenery and time of day quite well. The subtle effects your board or hand has on the snow is also a nice touch that adds a little more realism to a video game that can otherwise feel very very video gamey.

1080 Snowboarding was never going to challenge the more essential Nintendo 64 classics for my time. I’ll always rather play a more story driven and detailed game. That being said, replaying a few courses and exploring the trick menu again has provided a needed reminder that this game is one of the most straight forward fun options you can get for the N64.

If you’re just starting a 64 collection, there’s games you should get before this one, but it still deserves a spot on the list. While racing game fans will likely pick Mario Kart, or F-Zero X, over it (and they should), those looking for a game where they can mix time trials and races with a complex range of tricks and interesting courses will find a comforting home. 7/10