#492 SSX Tricky

Posted: 23rd February 2011 by Mulholland in Games
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32nd game played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Playstation 2, Gamcube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports BIG

Multitasking is considered by some to be the spice of life, this is especially so with this blog. At any one time we typically have 2-3 games on the the go and SSX Tricky is a perfect candidate for a game you can just pick up and play on multiplayer whenever you want. This in stark contrast to games like Uplink and the forthcoming Final Fantasy VII which are best to cover in either one or two long sittings.

If you have previously read my profile you will know that SSX Tricky ranks as my favourite sports game of all time. Since the only sports game we have covered to this previous is this blog’s namesake it would be fair to say this is the first sports game we have covered that feels even slightly true to life.

Our Thoughts

So here we go, a sports game, and not for one of the largest sports out there; one that says that I am “full of class”, unless I suddenly find myself careering headfirst into a mailbox. It is a very revealing game and quite on the ball too as well as being the only sports game that I will defend to the hilt.

This playthrough has been greatly helped by me finding my old memory card on which is a file where I had unlocked all the tracks as well as master rankings for two snowboarders. Yeah, it’s been a great hep in seeing the game, although the fact that you almost completely ignore the male characters means that there was still plenty of early gameplay for me to pick up on. What do you mean? I had the rankings for both a male and a female. Well, okay, you did something for one male. The others were completely ignored. Even if he did seem to be the cutest one anyway, so that would explain that…

I mean when you view her level-up video it’s no wonder that my favourite is Kaori. Who wouldn’t love a panda backpack that break-dances? Yeah, breakdancing pandas sound… cute. Not that I had a chance to see that now. Just click the link a few lines ago. Ah yes. How did that get there? Well, in any case, it’s worth checking out.

One thing that I think needs to be noted is that this one of two snowboarding games on the list (the other being 1080° Snowboarding). It was during this time that there were quite a few snowboarding games out there and I was a bit of a fan despite no inclination to take to the slopes. The only main franchise absent here is Coolboarders… and if you have played them it’s pretty easy to see why when compared to the sublime madness of SSX Tricky.

It is insane, in a good way Mind you, you can tell this game is from the early noughties, as the characters would have been hip then, while now several seem, well, dated. The characters (and the voice actors behind them) are one of the main reasons that SSX Tricky is so fantastic. So much time was taken to flesh each of them out and make them as distinct from each other as possible. With voice actors as varied as David Arquette, Bif Naked, Lucy Liu and Macy Grey lending their talents you can get an idea of the different personalities on show. This is further elaborated in the making of videos that are packaged on each disc (with the explanation behind Brodi being particularly eye-opening). And the care put into the characters does show. They’re distinctive personalities, and you do start to like and dislike some of them – further helped by them actually being friends and enemies of you during the game – more likely the latter than the former.

The friendships actually matter in the games since an enemy can actually sabotage your chances by knocking you over. also the cutscenes watching the prospective boarders bicker can be fun. Especially since every boarder speaks in their native tongue (or at least in the right accent). This global view is a nice touch and one that the makers of Dead or Alive should heed when marketing their games abroad. Something actually taken a step further when they replaced one American character (Mac) with a German one (Marty… so cute) for the European release of the game. Then there’s the next step of customization, outfits and boards. With the latter being actually useful, and the former just… looking cute I guess. Some of the female’s outfits just scream fan service. (The females’) Not just them. You can have Brodi ride shirtless and he is nicely toned. We need to play more when we’re done with our writing then (oh jees) but yea a perfect example of the fanservice is Elise’s PVC policewoman outfit.

The next part, then, are the tracks. A nicely varied bunch, although some of them can get somewhat confusing. Some of them are truly insane. I mean Tokyo Megaplex is essentially a giant pinball machine with sections of zero gravity (with possibly the greatest potential for tricks). Then there is Hawaii’s Aloha Ice Jam where you are racing down a giant iceberg, which by sheer coincidence is melting (with a lot of tricky jumps and fast slopes.) The amount of thought that has gone into the construction of each track is mindboggling. It will take weeks of playing to uncover every conceivable route and discover each hidden shortcut. One of which means you have to dodge marauding penguins. Something Peter obviously wasn’t great at, as he squeed audibly several times over (imagine me glaring at him) …it’s cute. And yes, the later courses get worse. The early ones are fairly easy, but as you get further, you’ll be falling down ten times a minute.

That can depend on your ability though. There is a steep difficulty curve, but it’s done in such a way that warrents replay upon replay of the tracks. I cannot begin to count how often I have played the first track… It’s very true, and it’s not a bad thing – figuring out more ways to get through the tracks and do more tricks is very rewarding and the game does reward you for it.

The most rewarding aspect of the game, however, has to be the tricks. Even after years of playing this on and off there is a great deal of satisfaction that can be derived from executing a truly magnificent trick. It is, and it really makes you happy when you manage something like a 900 degree turn. Followed by a rail 50/50 and whatever more there is?

The best ones are tricks that simply defy the laws of gravity. Like executing a double back flip whilst doing the worm on the board. Kaori pirouettes, JP break dances and Marisol… well I am not really sure how to describe what her personal uber trick is. Yeah, it makes you wonder how that works. But then, at times, when you’re that high in the air, it feels like time slows down as you’re up there. Once you max out your characters stats and equip them with their uberboard then the tricks you can accomplish are stunning. The best one being where you do such acts of insanity that it can only title it as “???”. That’s quite insane, as I’ve never reached that, despite doing some impressive stunt even excluding the faceplants.

And if you do it well, you get ‘rewarded’ with Run DMC. Just an example of the great music used throughout. Each track gets their selection of songs which help add to their overall feel. There is also commentating by beat boxer Rahzel. Some of the quips that they have him come up with (depending on your boarding expertise) are genius. Mostly assuming you’re good enough. He is invaluable to the game’s atmosphere and was sorely missed in this game’s sequel SSX 3. I can see why that would be.

If there’s one criticism I’d have to give of this game, then it’s the learning curve that makes that a lot of the cool stuff stays locked just a bit long. Especially the cooler tracks are a long wait away. If you are more skilled with racing games then it makes a real different to the amount of time it takes to unlock all the tracks. Theoretically it may only take a few hours if you give it a good enough go. Thanks. It doesn’t help that the practice sections were not covered for the purposes of this review. The slope used to practice tricks is especially useful as it helps you realise how much of them rely in the timing.

As I mentioned in my profile this is my top sports game and I really hope Jeroen can see what I fell for. I can absolutely see that, and it might well be the best I’ve played so far. But we do have California Games coming up. As well as another 45 sports titles… Joy! Well, if this is part of the best, then these should turn out to be okay. But whether they’ll beat SSX Tricky… we’ll see. It’s a good start.

Final Thoughts

How can I finish now, having already mentioned everything there is to mention? The characters and level design of this game stand out, and it sets it apart from more normal sports game where you keep running around the same field with football players whose only differences are the shirts and hair colour.  The graphics are good – sure, it looks outdated by now, but it’s on that edge where it’s actually quite good still. And then there’s the sound, and I keep humming along to the songs I do know.

If you feel you have to try a sports game, this is the one you’ll want to go for. Truely. Until the next one that’ll make us change our minds, of course.

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