Blast from the Past: SSX 3 (Xbox)
If ever there was a franchise that reminded you that the PS2 era was underway back in the early 2000s it was the SSX franchise. SSX Tricky did a fantastic job to follow up and improve on the original game, but SSX 3 is where the franchise reached its peak.
Conquer the mountain
SSX 3 did away with the bright and colourful visuals that made Tricky such a hit and instead went for something a little more realistic. You did not have specific levels to conquer as you now had one massive mountain made up of three peaks and various events to overcome. As with the previous titles there was a massive focus on each character, each with their own unique characteristics, and you had four new characters to choose from in SSX 3 – Allegra Sauvagess, Griff Simmons, Nate Logan and Viggo Rolig. Your first entry point? Conquer the Mountain mode.
Your aim is to build up the stats for each character, which can take you a very long time if you plan to build up the stats for all the characters. Every time you complete an event, which I’ll touch on shortly, you’ll be rewarded with points to increase each characters acceleration, edging, speed, spin, stability, toughness or tricks. The quicker you can reach UBER status, the better you’ll do in events, and to do this you need good stats for your character.
I got mad skills, I will get wild!
Events are made up of races, freestyle events and freeride. SSX 3 is in essence a glorified racing game that allows you to do tricks to build up more speed. Pull off a more complicated trick and you’re rewarded with a letter. Once you highlight the word UBER, by pulling off four tricks, you’re granted more advanced tricks. Do another six tricks, without failing, and you’ll complete the two words SUPER UBER. This gives you access to an unlimited speed boost and just about puts any race in the bag. Fail to do that and you’ll mostly win or lose the race by split-seconds. Freestyle events require you to pull off a high score by maintaining your trick combos in Big Air, Super Pipe and Slopestyle events. Knowing when to use the right analogue stick to perform a board press or doing a hand plant on a rail can be the difference between smashing the score or pulling your hair out. There is a slight problem with the controls on the Xbox that can be overcome with practice.
I originally played SSX 3 on the PS2 and with the Xbox you have two shoulder buttons missing, meaning you’re short two trick moves. These two additional trick buttons have been moved to the face buttons (Y & B), but it felt like a mixed bag. Trying to pull off tricks using the face and triggers felt very awkward. I changed my style from default to Pro that allows you to use all the face buttons to pull off tricks, while the right trigger stick lets you jump and the left trigger provides the boost. It took some getting used to, but once my muscle memory kicked in I was pre-loading jumps and pulling off UBER’s and SUPER UBER’s with ease. It was also a reminder of just how well this open-mountain was designed.
There really is no school like old school
Throughout your ride you’d collect extra points, made up of snowflake-like items, to help boost your stats. Riding from an avalanche or navigating high drops all feel natural and is a super amount of fun. Do well enough and you can ride down the entire mountain (all three peaks) that’ll last you close to an hour without one loading screen in sight. Considering that there weren’t any loading times on your way down over a decade ago is quite astounding. Include an absolutely pumping soundtrack, and a somewhat annoying DJ, and you have an extreme sports game that really pushed the franchise to the extreme.
Plug in a second controller to allow you and a buddy can go head-to-head in a split-screen race, or to tear up some tricks. Is it the best snowboarding game that’s ever released? That’s debatable, depending on the person, but in my books there’s never been a snowboarding game that’s got everything quite as right and is, after so many years, still as enjoyable as it’s has ever been. SSX 3 never quite received the love Tricky did. If you missed out on it I highly recommend that you hit the slopes just one more time.