If the sport trade provides me only one final remaster earlier than its remastering machines run dry, please let or not it’s SSX Difficult. From in the present day’s viewpoint, when many large publishers are nonetheless betting on life like stylings and critical performances, it’s most likely not as easy to make a case for SSX Difficult because it was to make one for a collection like Tony Hawk’s. Each might have a killer soundtrack and are definitely beloved sports activities video games for gamers of my technology, however SSX Difficult might by no means act as a car for its sport or the sporting personalities behind it. It basically lacks the real-life advertising and marketing and real-life historical past that’s such an enormous half in FIFA, F1 and the opposite sports activities video games with annual releases and large licensing offers.
Nonetheless, its ultra-arcade stylings, utterly untethered from how actual snowboarding occasions truly work (I wouldn’t know, however I doubt its ice tunnels and sky-high rails are a factor), turned out to be its large promoting level. All the things about SSX Difficult is loud and disobedient, however in contrast to Jet Set Radio, it nonetheless comes packaged as a sporting competitors, only one the place knocking opponents off the monitor is overtly inspired and rewarded.
I’ve solely performed a couple of video games in my life with the form of obsession I had with SSX Difficult. I needed to excellent each course, and unlock each outfit for each character, and I feel I did as a result of SSX Difficult is the type of sport that makes you’re feeling cool in quite a few methods that are all equally essential. There’s the low talent ceiling – you get to really feel cool with little or no, and you may put money into your talent and turn into actually good on the sport, a sense I didn’t actually get to expertise in different sports activities video games till then. Touchdown a cool trick in SSX Difficult is simple, partly due to the great controls, but additionally as a result of even the only trick seems cool. Your character and the announcer react, the variety of factors, regardless of how excessive, seems good and large, after which there’s in fact the shout of “Difficult!” that celebrates your profitable touchdown. It’s even higher whenever you get loads of airtime, which the sport units up on every monitor with big, unmissable ramps at the very least as soon as. For a second, you hear nothing however the howling of the wind, and it’s simply you and the sky.
There’s all the time one thing about throwing your self from an enormous peak in video video games, nevertheless it’s even higher when you need to use it to drag a ridiculous trick, just like the Propeller, throughout which riders are making their boards spin like propellers in entrance of their faces, or the LaLaLa Lock Step, the place riders spin their board clockwise and spin themselves counter-clockwise. These tips are clearly too wild to be actual, however I really feel like they have been designed in a manner that also makes you’re feeling like they could possibly be actual. They’ve their origins in feats of athleticism or dance strikes, and so they look so slick that I nonetheless take pleasure in loads of them for the animation, at the same time as the remainder of the sport has sadly not aged as gracefully.
SSX Difficult understood one thing about characters that licensed video games can take with no consideration – sports activities video games are sometimes extra enjoyable when you can take pleasure in them as somebody you want. In FIFA, you play as your favorite workforce, and watching Tony Hawk’s digital alter ego age in Tony Hawk 1+2 was a wonderful second each for these of us who had grown up with the true skater in addition to these for whom he was only a digital avatar. However the snowboarding scene, and Difficult as an arcade sport, as beforehand talked about, had no such recognisable faces, so it simply made its personal.
SSX Difficult’s characters aren’t simply avatars with very distinct trend tastes; they’ve backstories, friendships, rivalries and favorite films. I’ll say that among the character designs skate a little bit near caricatures – as good as it’s to have a Latino character in Marisol Diez Delgado from Venezuela, she is described as a “mixture of innocence and uncooked sexuality, somebody who can’t preserve her mood beneath management and likes to occasion all night time”. Typical Latina stereotype. Equally, the African-American Seeiah Owens is “a self-sufficient sistah” who’s into R&B and Spike Lee movies. Again within the early 2000s, it was merely neat to see such characters exist, these days I’d have a phrase with their designers. As govt producer Steve Rechtschaffner put it on the time, “subtlety most likely wasn’t going to be a superb factor with characters.”
Even these characters, as stereotypical as they’re, are delivered to vibrant life by their voice actors. SSX Difficult, a snowboarding sport, was voiced by a gaggle of individuals that might rival an early 2000s Pixar film solid. Okay, perhaps Dreamworks, however you get the purpose. The sport has an amazing DVD extras part, typically a stunning thought to gather bonus materials, the place each voice actor will get launched and so they dutifully say PR snippets like “I didn’t know video video games might seem like that,” and, “sure, I play it so much,” whereas trying like an individual with a digicam assaulted them at 5am with a foot out the door. Celebrities like Macy Grey, Oliver Platt and David Arquette and the legend that’s then-EA senior advertising and marketing supervisor Nick Malapariman have been instantly voicing online game characters (or in Malapariman’s case, giving his greatest impression of a Chelsea fan on the stands), and whereas in actuality they’re simply shouting a bunch of barks at prime quantity, I used to be so fascinated by what they have been promoting that I turned an enormous fan of sport voice appearing then and there – and I’m to this very day.
Just like the title implies, SSX Difficult is SSX, a snowboard racing sport, with extra tips, as a result of its makers realised that the trick half was what could be most attention-grabbing to individuals. Possibly that isn’t a lot the case for different sports activities, though I’d love for somebody to have one other go at a Captain Tsubasa-style trick-shot soccer sport. However it appeared clear that SSX Difficult’s large promoting level was simply what it mentioned on the field, which is why I nonetheless don’t grasp the motivation of strolling the collection again to one thing comparatively bland with successive instalments. It seems like EA went again to one thing that was simpler to clarify and to market to a big group of individuals, which was satirically what nobody needed.
SSX Difficult was the product of many nice artists coming collectively, individuals who knew their topics very well, be that appearing, animation or music, which was produced by The Beastie Boys’ Mixmaster Mike. It’s a wealth of expertise we now virtually take with no consideration within the gaming trade, what with its dimension and financial value, and SSX Difficult to me is an instance of how all these assets could possibly be used.
Maybe, as an alternative of a remake of a really 2000s-style sport, we must always have a brand new SSX Difficult – made by a various group of individuals with the assets EA has now, it could possibly be an amazing reminder of the spirit of the unique sport and EA Sports activities BIG, the label that so needed to supply a unique expertise. At a time when EA isn’t recognized for being significantly adventurous, it will be nice to see one thing a little bit wild.