RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Oct 24th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under reviews, super famicom, atari jaguar, super nintendo, winter sports

Once upon a time, I convinced my mother to buy me an Atari Jaguar on clearance for sixty dollars at our local K-B Toys store. I had a nice stack of games with it including some of the 'good' ones like Alien Vs Predator and Checkered Flag. However, two games my sister and I played together for hours on end were Ruiner Pinball and Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding. Ruiner Pinball is a pretty basic pinball game with some great sound effects. I remember Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding to be a pretty good downhill skiing game, and for its time it may have been, but as it turns out, I must have had my nostalgia-colored glasses on.

At some point, I sold my beloved Atari Jaguar and all of my games with it. I moved on to better things and although I always looked back fondly on a few of the games for it, I never sought out another Jaguar as an adult collector. In fact, I had one fall into my lap about a year ago and I immediately flipped it.

By coincidence, a few years ago when I learned how to do the world's easiest console mod on my SNES, I grabbed a few super cheap Super Famicom games off of eBay. One of them was Ski Paradise with Snowboard which, unbeknownst to me at the time, is the game Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding is a port of. When I first found this out, I was kind of excited but I had better games to play, so I didn't spend too much time with it. The game was also released in the U.S. as Tommy Moe's Winter Extreme: Skiing & Snowboarding.

I decided to take a closer look at the game today and although it brought back some warm and fuzzy memories, the game itself is disappointing overall. Since I'm playing the Japanese Super Famicom version, I had a little trouble at first with the menus, but nothing too bad. There are three game modes which include: Free Ride, Training, and Competition. You can do each mode on a snowboard or on skis, but there is really no major difference in how they play.

Gameplay footage courtesy of Japanspel

Gameplay consists of holding the B button to accelerate and steering left or right with the directional pad. You can bank hard left and right with the shoulder buttons and jump with the A button, but jumping is nothing but a hindrance. You see, Ski Paradise plays much more like an automobile racing game than a skiing game. Instead of getting the sensation of going downhill, the track is mostly flat and sometimes even goes uphill. With a very short draw distance, obstacles will come up on you way too fast, especially when the turns come rapidly; this gives the track a whipping back and fourth effect. The problem with jumping, other than it serves little purpose as there are few obstacles that can be avoided with it, is that while airborne you become left to right immobile. As a result, you're better off staying on the ground where you can at least try to steer.

I mostly played the Free Ride mode, which is a checkpoint to checkpoint mode with a countdown timer. Once I figured out the controls, I had a span of about 45 seconds where all of the excitement of playing this game came flooding back to me. To its credit, the forward scrolling does a great job of simulating speed, and at the beginning of the track, the only obstacles are small mounds of snow. Every time you hit one of these mounds you do some kind of flip or twist or grab automatically. You have no control over what type of trick you do, so you're just bouncing up and down flipping and twirling your way down the track and it looks and feels awesome!

Then you hit a tree.

Okay, so you might not hit that first tree if you're better at twitchy gameplay than I am (and you likely are) but I swear it comes out of nowhere on the first hard right turn of the track. From there, the obstacles come fast and varied, which is appreciated, but the track can really be littered with all kinds of things at times, and navigating the aforementioned back and forth turns can be more than enough of a challenge without the hazards everywhere.

The presentation of this game is great for its time. The sprites look very fluid and lifelike, and I don't think it's a matter of how many frames of animation each one uses, but which frames were used. On a results screen, the sprite of a particular person cheering in the crowd caught my eye for how human his movements looked. The designers used what resources they had to great effect. Each track has neat weather and time of day effects including whiteout conditions, which were particularly impressive as I believe the developers nailed the 'less is more' aesthetic there.

Revisiting this title was really enjoyable overall for me, even though actually playing the game can be frustrating. Although I'm incredibly bad at this game, I certainly had a hard time putting it down, and I believe gamers who are more retro focused than I am will have a good time with it. I got a lot of nostalgic enjoyment out of it.

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It looks like a skiing version of Rad Racer, which sounds terrible. Glad that it brought back the warm fuzzies for you though!
It's interesting to see the humble beginnings of a genre later dominated the following generation by the likes of Cool Boarders, and later by stuff like SSX, Dark Summit, 1080, Amped, and Shaun White Snowboarding, among others.  I didn't take to Cool Boarders back in the day, because I've always been terrible at racing games, but having picked up a couple of these games in recent months, I think I might try my hand at them this winter, and give the genre a proper chance.  Nice find, and cool to hear about the port from the Super Famicom to the Jaguar, that wouldn't be something you'd expect to see much of.

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