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SSX’s nostalgia effect: looking back down the slopes

Friday, 2nd March 2012 14:42 GMT By Johnny Cullen

As SSX launches today in the UK, early indicators are its everything previous games have been and thensome. Johnny Cullen looks back at early SSX installments and why he’s planning a return to the slopes after seven years.

With the inclusion of RiderNet, a competitive side of me is going to reemerge that hasn’t been seen since Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit’s Autolog, the inspiration for SSX’s social aspect. Its been seven years since our last dance together, Kaori. Let us not waste another moment.

Who remembers booting up the packed-in demo disc that came with your PlayStation 2? You know the one. The disc which had an intro set to orchastral music with a montage of games like Metal Gear Solid 2, Zone of the Enders, Tekken Tag Tournament and others.

One of the games was SSX. There was a demo of it. I got my PlayStation 2 a few months after its November 2000 launch for my tenth birthday in January 2001, and while I could have played Ridge Racer 5 and Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2, I played that bloody demo all the time.

Eloping to Elsyum

For two full months straight, all I would play is the SSX demo on the starter disc. It featured Mac hurtling down the Elsyum Alps in France, and I played it over and over and over again until I finally convinced my mum to buy me a full copy of the game, which was a PS2 launch title.

Thinking back, the majority of 2001 was spent playing SSX in my kitchen, swapping between Mac, Moby, Elise, Zoe and Kaori. I don’t think I touched anyone else in the line-up besides those five.

I haven’t played the original SSX in years since I traded it in, but it was the first game I truly enjoyed over a long period.

The characters had unique personalities, like Elise as the bombshell, Mac as the cocky US teen, Moby and Zoe as the bash siblngs – think of them as SSX’s version of the Bash Brothers from the Mighty Ducks films – and the Japanese happy-go-lucky that was Kaori.

And the tracks spoke for themselves, too. The nightime environment of Snowdream, the dusk sunset of Mesablanca, the lush Aloha Ice Jam and the legendary bonkers Tokyo Megaplex all had their unforgettable vibes.

Of course, by year’s end, things got interesting with Tricky. Given to me as a christmas gift, Tricky threw out the door everything I knew about the original SSX and forced me to relearn everything: new tracks, new characters and the inclusion of the Uber system.

Tricky was special. For a start, Hiro and Jurgen were gone, but in came the loveable Eddie, the peaceful Brody, the angry Luther and the incredibly mental Psymon.

A-list voice actors were also brought in to help bring out their personalities, like David Arquette as Eddie, Macy Gray as Seeiah and Lucy Liu as Elise.

And the inclusion of the Uber trick system opened up new possibilities on tracks like Tokyo Megaplex (this was an Uber specialist’s dream), Mercury City, Alaska and my favorite track ever, Garibaldi, where I keep jumping the chicane near the end of the course to go for a trick instead of going down the S path.

The soundtrack was more open this time. It still had some stuff from SSX 1, but the infamous usage of It’s Tricky by Run DMC will go down in gaming history. Not to mention the return of Hybrid’s Finished Symphony (I unlocked Untouched with Tricky after not being able to do so in 1 – it’s still one of my proudest moments as a gamer).

Tricky surpassed its predecesor by a big country mile. So imagine my surprise the bar was raised again for a third time.

Leaving home

Whilst keeping the Uber trick system, which has now become a fundamental part of the series, the book that was written on SSX went out the door again with SSX 3.

Instead of travelling around the world, organisers stuck you on a three-peek mountain, getting rid of the typical courses that fans got used to with the first two games, but had an open-world approach to it.

You could either race or do trick competitions, before going all out in the back country of the peek you were trying to beat at the time in what was called Conquer the Mountain challenges once you had collected an x number of medals.

Eddie and Garibaldi in Tricky.

Character changes seen most of the popular characters from SSX 1 and Tricky make the jump – like Elise, Zoe, Psymon, Kaori and Mac (who missed out on the European release of Tricky for some reason, replaced by a German doppleganger named Marty) – with four new characters coming on board, including cover star Allegra and Griff, the latter the only new character from SSX 3 to make it into the reboot.

SSX 3′s soundtrack went above and beyond those from the past two games, going out on a fully licensed list of artists like Basement Jaxx, Black Eyed Peas, Chemical Brothers, Royksopp, Jane’s Addiction and Overseer. Truth be told, the OST was what ultimately defined how much I enjoyed SSX 3.

The open-world aspect was excellent and the gameplay was still the same SSX formula we had all come to love, but the soundtrack made so much sense. There was no Hybrid this time, but there was The Chemical Brothers and Audio Bullies. And that was enough.

So when SSX On Tour went down too much of a rock avenue in 2005, not just in the soundtrack but also in promotional work, there was no interest. I don’t mind a bit of rock in SSX, but On Tour approached that aspect way too heavily compared to the excellent mix that there was in SSX 3.

With that, my love affair with the series ended. I’ve yet to play On Tour to this day, as well as SSX Blur on Wii.

Then came the reboot announce. I was excited beforehand, but when it showed what was basically Call of SSX at the 2010 VGAs, there was some serious arm flailing of the wrong kind. But Todd Batty and his team at EA Canada gradually shown over the past year or so its made what looks like a proper old-school SSX game, which the demo indicates as such.

And with the inclusion of RiderNet, a competitive side of me is going to reemerge that hasn’t been seen since Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit’s Autolog, the inspiration for SSX’s social aspect.

Its been seven years since our last dance together, Kaori. Let us not waste another moment.

SSX launches today in the UK for PS3 and Xbox 360.

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10 Comments

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  1. DSB

    I feel the same way about the old games. EA Sports BIG was a real monster, it’s a shame they kinda skimped on quality towards the end, but then that’s also the story of EA Sports proper.

    SSX 3 was pretty much where the interest started waning, but having dug into the demo now, I really don’t recognize any of the things that made SSX so much fun.

    Like the other BIG titles, it was a game that embraced the absurd elements of extreme sports, but beyond the fact that it has mountains, rails and snowboards, I just don’t recognize it.

    It’s a celshaded half-assed snowboarding bore that might offer a lot more online functions, but none of the charm, craziness or excitement as far as I could tell.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Gadzooks!

    I’m loving the new SSX. It looks right, plays right, and riderNet is a perfect match for trick and race modes.

    It’s full-fat, oldskool SSX gameplay, but with a nice modern interface.

    All it needs are some Tricky courses as DLC and its gaming perfection.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Mike

    Lean, mean writing machine! Go Johnny!

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Stardog

    I’m not sure how you can compare it to an old school SSX game, because it doesn’t really play like one.

    I’m not sure if it was low FPS on the PS3 version, but even something as simple as the handling is just wrong.

    Previous SSX games did a much better job. I’m surprised it took them so long to make this knock-off version.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Gadzooks!

    Dunno what its like on the lagstation but its buttery smooth and just like good ol’ classic SSX on the 360.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. OlderGamer

    I get accused of bitching and hating on everything, so I won’t dig too deep into this. Other then to say this game is lacking that magic that made me unable to put down my PS2 controler so many years ago.

    Thats it, all I am going to say. It doesn’t have that SSX magic.

    DSB and Stardog +1.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. tenthousandgothsonacid

    How can you not mention that the original game was ace as it was 60fps and the new one is not so has none of the feel :(

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Gadzooks!

    This SSX feels just as smooth as previous games.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. mojo

    im not sure if we played the same game, honestly.
    Admittedly, its long time since i last played an ssx game, but for me the feeling was instantly there.

    with gadzooks here. The game is loads and loads of fun and i dont regret a penny ive spent for it (although the carving controls are a bit off, admitted. but u get used to it relatively quick).

    #9 2 years ago
  10. minxamo

    Preordered the fuck out of this after playing the demo, should be arriving tomorrow.

    #10 2 years ago