Friday, July 16, 2010

Excessive details on Snowboard Kids

NOTE: If you aren't a fan of Snowboard Kids or uninterested in this article, turn back now.

Hello everyone. Sorry for not updating my gallery in a while, It's just I've been doing a lot these past days, so I couldn't get to drawing lately (artist's block). One good thing I have to mention is that the illness I had the past week is almost gone. So until I get the urge to draw, I just want to have a moment so I can talk about a game series that has been a big part of my childhood for years, known as
Snowboard Kids.
SBKCoverage.png picture by Superjustinbros
Yep, you heard me correctly. The Snowboard Kids series. Never heard of it? Well, now you do. The Snowboard Kids series was a nice little racing game that fell downhill during an attempt to revive the series after five years of absence. The series kicked off in 1998 with the original game for the Nintendo 64, shown below:
Developed by Racdym (now known as Racjin) and published by Atlus co; Snowboard Kids (known as Snobow Kids in Japan) is, as I've stated already, a racing game featuring four 10-year olds and a single 11-year old living in the Canadian Rocky Mountains hitting the slops to prove who was the best snowboarder in town. Unlike real life, the five children involved were not limited to just everyday snowy mountains to show their skills, they also went as far to snowboard on public highways, grasslands, a theme park, and a dessert. If you were to make it through the first eight courses, you would get the chance to race against a ninja named Shinobin with an unknown age on Ninja Land, and if you defeat him, you unlock him as a playable character, but this brings unfairness thanks to Shinobin's 2.5 stars per category, thus making the gameplay a little unfair for players choosing the default characters in multiplayer races not using on of the game's special boards. Thankfully, CPU players do not use Shinobin, unless you're racing on Ninja Land as one of the default characters.

This game does have decent ratings according to it's page on GameFAQS. It's certainly not the best on the Nintendo 64, but it is a good title to keep you occupied for a couple of hours.

But what about owners of the PlayStation who didn't have the N64? Surely people may have seen this over at a friend's house and liked the game, but their family wouldn't allow them to get a N64 because they already have the PlayStation? Well, the people over at Racdym and Atlus came up with a solution: Port the game to the PSX, but add a little twist.

click to zoom
And that, was how Snowboard Kids Plus hit the scene. Taking everything you loved about the original and adding more content, Plus seemed to be a step in the right direction. To tell you the truth, I have been hunting down this title for quite some time, but there is one little problem: The game was released only in Japan. Fans that lived in the United States and Europe never got to experience this title when it first came out. Only after the invention of emulators and importing could one actually play this remake.

Compared to the original, Plus appears to be nothing special. The only difference between the original and Plus versions is Plus adds in four additional characters, with one being entirely secret with the same stats as Shinobin (and one default with un-balanced stats). Alongside the inclusion of the new characters, Plus also featured cutscenes, and additional methods of customizing the characters. Judging from gameplay videos I've seen on Youtube, I assume this version has smoother frame rate but slower gameplay than the N64 version.

But the big question is, why was the game never released outside Japan? Well, I think that maybe the staff involved in producing the first game feared that the it wasn't that successful with American and Europeans, plus the appearances of some of the female characters (Nicole, the blond haired girl with the long ponytail, for example) would be too sensitive for audiences outside of Japan.

Now we take a step ahead to 1999, when the first official sequel was created.
Enter Snowboard Kids 2 (or Super Snobow Kids in Japan), the sequel that somewhat worked. All the characters from the original (and let's not forget the items) returned, joined alongside another 10-year old female known as Wendy Lane. Unlike Plus, this installment was given an international release on the Nintendo 64, although it was not released in Europe. Only Japan and America received this sequel.

The second game withdrew the Time Attack mode in favor of a full-fledged story mode featuring the six children and their daily lives while a teal-green alien named Damien attempts to sabotage their adventures and make their lives as miserable as possible. I don't want to tell you about the game's ending, so feel free to head over to Wikipedia and see for yourself.

Shinobin, as well as all the characters exclusive to Plus, did not appear in the sequel, although SBK2 has several characters (three to be exact) that can be unlocked as you advance through the game. The different terrains the characters snowboard on have become even zanier; only three of the nine courses in the entire game (not counting two courses where sub-games are played) feature snow. Aside from the absence of Time Trial and the secret boost at the start of a race, and slightly slower movement speed, I thought this was a great entry in the series once you run through it once.

After around five years of absence, Altus decided it was time to give the series a revival. So they turned to a new company known as "in-glove Co., ltd" to develop the next entry in the Snowboard Kids, and it turned out to be a big mistake. A very big one. This was primally an insult to the original N64 games, although there were a few good things that were in the game. Since I didn't enjoy this one as much as the originals, I'm going to discuss the negative factors about the DS game; SBK: Snowboard Kids.
Now incase you're wondering, yes. These are the characters I used for the promotional image I created especially for this article, but that doesn't mean anything. Let's start talking about how much this one failed to impress me, starting with the characters.
SlashPKMNTransform.png picture by Superjustinbros
One thing I was quite disappointed about was the fact the cute chibi-styled characters with big fat noses were abandoned in favor of a general anime style, and also that there were very little simalitaries to the characters from the original series. First of, none (and I repeat, none) of the characters are actually young enough to be considered children. In fact, two of the characters (Jam and Tommy) are 18 years old, thus making them not teens but adults. So, that right there defeats the whole purpose of it being called "Snowboard Kids". Should have been "Snowboard Teens & Adults." It would have been stupid, but it would make a whole lot of sense how old everyone was. If you don't believe me, this diagram should be quite useful.
SBKCharactercomparison.jpg picture by Superjustinbros
Also, all the characters are now from different countries. No longer do they live in the same town located in Canada. The only person that still resides in Canada itself is Tommy, who has also transformed (personality-wise) into a nasty bully.

Now let's talk about the two newcomers. Brad Maltine is, I kid you not, the sister of Linda Maltine, the girl responsible for starting the snowboard tournament in the original Snowboard Kids. The other newcomer, Koyuki Tanaka, is entirely original, although very slightly inspired by Kaede, one of the two secret characters from SBK+. Kaede also serves as part of Linda's replacement, since they're both of the same gender, and appear to have similar stats. (not sure, though.)

Another thing I was disappointed about was the gameplay itself. No longer do you see these kids (um,... excuse me.) teens snowboarding down strange and bizarre landscapes, all the courses in this game take place on snow. The closest to the original format this game's courses ever got was one of the tracks featuring the characters snowboarding down the top of buildings. They were covered in snow, but even if it wasn't, it would still be interesting.

Now how about Projectiles and Items? Well, to say the least, they brought them back, but made things a lot worse when it comes to them. No longer can you collect coins scattered along the track and break open red and blue boxes to obtain weapons to use to your benefits,... Well, yea. You can do that in this game too, but all the items are free, and there's not much variety. Plus, they only house non-projectiles. So how do you get projectiles? You earn them. How? By filling up some stupid "SBK" meter by doing tricks and picking up diamonds. And that's another thing that bugs me. The SBK meter. It's probably on of the most annoying features about the game. It's main purpose is to signify how much "energy" you have. They power-up your projectile weapon, and if you fill it all the way, you can do a special trick by launching off a ramp, then almost immediately touching several pannels on the touch screen. If you miss-calculate a touch, don't jump high enough, or waste too much time touching the screen in the right way to do the trick, you'll fail at the special trick, and waste precious time, allowing your opponents to pass you.

I feel I've said enough. Overall, SBK: Snowboard Kids isn't bad, but it's not much of a worthy title on the DS if you look past it's flaws. If you can't get a hold of the originals, then get this one if you can find it. Hopefully Atlus will bring Racjin back into the ring to create one last SBK game that stays true to the concepts of the N64 installments, even if it's a enchanted remake or compilation of the original games.

Good day, everyone. I'll see you later.


Joe said...

The character designs on the original boxes look reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka's style.

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