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Brent's Bigass SSX 3 Review

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...



Brent's Bigass SSX 3 Review

This document is basically everything I know about SSX 3. First, a status update: I've completely beaten Peaks 1 and 2 with Kaori. I have a Platinum metal in the Peak 3 race level, Gravitude; a gold in Peak 3's Superpipe, Perpendiculous; and a silver or bronze in its Big Air level, Much-2-Much.

I make a lot of references to Tricky throughout this, so it helps to have played that game.

The document is divided into four sections: Technical, Character System, Trick System, and Level System.

Technical

Technical covers things like sound, graphics, menus, etc.

Graphics

The complement I always gave to Tricky's visuals was that I never really thought about how good they were. Well, seeing SSX 3, Tricky's graphics seem a bit lame, though not dramatically so.

First of all, the boards are absolutely phenomenal. In the last game, the boards were very stiff, as if they were made of metal, but in SSX 3, they bend and flex just like real plastic. (This is most obvious in a trick called the Springer.) Unlike its predecessor, there are no obvious texture seams, and when your character is riding over ice, it doesn't leave a furrow at all--instead you can see them slipping and sliding over the slick surface. Clothes are sharper, and now come in different shapes, unlike Tricky, where the outfits were just skins over the same model. There are close-ups of the characters' faces at several points, and when they talk, their mouth moves with the words.

Basically, the images have become sharper and more realistic, and the board effects are better.

Sound

As with Tricky, the sound quality is excellent. One addition is that, when one character yells something at another, the second will often have a retort ready. The game supports surround sound, although I can't test that support. Some of the sounds are more video-game like than Tricky's, but they can be turned off with the "arcade sounds" setting.

Rosselle didn't make it into SSX 3. There is an announcer, but he's basically just a DJ, calling out song titles as they come on. This is actually something I miss from Tricky.

Music

The music is different from Tricky, in that most of it is vocal; however, like its predecessor, the music shifts and fades with the game, dropping to a beat when your character is in the air, or switching to a simplified version in caves and other enclosed spaces. As with Tricky, the effect is stunning, and is integral to the gameplay--it feels like a different game with the music turned off.

Incidentally, I suspect that the shifting music is the reason that the Xbox version doesn't support custom playlists, as Dom complained in his rant.

Most of the songs are quite good, and they cover a pretty wide variety of genres (but don't expect any J-pop). Of course, there are a few that suck; the one that gets on my nerves is Mas by Kinky.

Saving

It's now possible to keep multiple save files on the same card, something that I sorely missed in Tricky.

Load Screens

The load screens are very good. They usually have either the character doing something with a spinning snowflake and the word "loading" at the bottom, or a percentage and an animation of some sort. Load times are very short on the Gamecube--I understand it has the best loading time of any system.

Controller

The controller has actually changed very little. The mostly-unused X button is now used for handplants (discussed later). The C stick is used for presses (also later); the shoulder buttons are now used to punch. Holding down both L and R blocks a punch; holding down only one of the two charges up the punch for more impact when you let go.

One welcome addition for beginners is that in the air, the analog stick can now control flips and spins; however, to prewind ("charge up" a jump) you still have to use the D-pad.

Additionally, there's a setting that shuffles the X, Y and Z buttons so that Z is reset (beam), Y is handplant, and X is the third grab button. I'm too used to Tricky to actually use this setting, but it may help people who hit reset on accident a lot.

Character System



Characters

I'm not going to go over the characters in detail, but I will list them. Surviving from the original SSX are Elise (babe), Moby (British black dude), and Kaori (teenaged Japanese chick). Three more come from SSX Tricky: Mac (hip-hop DJ), Zoe (more-or-less goth in SSX 3, although she was more of a punker in Tricky), and Psymon (insane guy). There are four new characters: Allegra (apparently the new punker), Nate (tough mountain-man), Viggo (Swedish guy), and Griff (a twelve-year-old--no joke). In addition, fans of Tricky and the original SSX will spot cameos of the other players from those games, in the form of NPCs you'll race against.

Unlike Tricky, there's no difference between the characters, other than their appearances, their voices and sound bytes, and their items; in Tricky, each character had slightly different maximum stats, so some characters were better at tricks while others were faster.

Money

Winning medals, completing Big Challenges (explained later), and doing tricks in freestyle mode earns money for your character. The most important use of that money is to buy stat upgrades; it's also used to buy equipment, new tricks, artwork, and songs for your custom playlist.

Secret Characters

Another thing that can be earned by winning events is secret characters. These are just skins over your own character; they have a single outfit and don't speak. They include the old SSX and Tricky characters, as well as a few new ones.

Trick System

The trick system in SSX 3 has changed, though not dramatically so.

Spins, Flips, and Jumps

As in Tricky, spins are done using the directional pad and jumps (on the Gamecube) with the A button. The only difference here is that the game allows for more flips and spins before question-marking--my brother's gone up to 2,520 (13 spins) without it displaying the three question marks.

Style Bonuses

Style bonuses are mostly new to SSX 3. These are the children of Tricky's Big Air Bonus, and in fact Big Air is one of the Style Bonuses. There's also bonuses for long grinds and presses (explained later).

The rest of the Style Bonuses come from altering your spins and flips. Pressing in the opposite direction of both spin and flips is a Stall; stopping your flips while upside down, without changing your spins, is Inverted; and stopping your spins at the right point will earn an Off-Axis. All of them earn more points the longer you hold them.

Grabs and Tweaks

Grabs and tweaks are also virtually unchanged from Tricky. The big change is in the three-button grab; in Tricky this did a trick called the Experimental, whereas in SSX 3 it does one clalled the Shifty. Tweaks are still done with the B button; the Unethical Experimental has become the Nifty Shifty in the new game.

By the way, ubertricks (discussed later) are now true grabs, and can be held for long periods. This can look pretty funny on some moves--the LaLaLa Lockstep comes to mind--but it's a good way to rack up a few extra points if you know you won't be able to fit in a second ubertrick.

Adrenaline Meter

The old boost meter (sometimes called the "tricky meter") has become the adrenaline meter. It has a new graphic, but its functionality is basically the same--do tricks to fill it up, and when the light at the top goes on, you can start doing ubertricks. Two lines of letters are above the adrenaline meter, spelling "SUPER" and "UBER"; more on these in the next section, Ubertricks.

Ubertricks

The ubertrick system has vastly changed from Tricky.

Ubertricks and "UBER"

Ubertricks in SSX 3 involve only one foot coming off the board, like Tricky's Experimental on BX and Freestyle boards. These are all short tricks, and seem to be the same for all characters. Doing four ubertricks spells out "UBER", the lower of two lines above the adrenaline meter, unlocking the Super Ubers. Once UBER is spelled out, it stays that way until the end of the run.

Super Ubers and "SUPER"

The familiar Ubertricks in Tricky have all become Super Ubers. Unlike Tricky, where each character had five ubers, each now has six; only the Shifty doesn't have an ubertrick associated with it.

Doing five super ubers spells out "SUPER", the topmost of the two lines above the adrenaline meter. This turns on infinite, stuck boost--superboost in Tricky, although I don't know what it's called in SSX 3. This condition only lasts a minute or two; the amount of time may vary based on the event type, but I'm not sure about that. During this time, you cannot run out of boost or lose the ability to do super ubers, even if you crash or beam.

Configurable Super Ubers

With the money system, you can buy and select new ubertricks for your characters. These include the "signature moves" that in Tricky were unique to a single character--you can have Kaori do a LaLaLa Lockstep or Elise pull a Walking the Dog. Super Ubers are quite expensive, usually some multiple of five thousand dollars.

Combos

After you do a trick, a white "pizza" appears where the trick's score was, and the quarters of the pizza turn red in succession. The pizza turns entirely red and goes away in a second or so. If you start doing any trick before the pizza disappears, it's considered to be a combo with the previous one.

Tricks can be linked into combos indefinately, and the combo builds up points. If you let the pizza disappear (I call this letting the combo lapse), those points are added to your score. On the other hand, if you crash before the pizza disappears, all the points built up in the combo are lost. That's not to say that if you do two tricks and crash on the third, the first two don't count--it's just the points they put in the combo that disappear.

Linking tricks into combos is extremely important. Especially on the Peak 3 trick levels, you need so many points that it's virtually impossible to win unless you link most of your tricks into one huge combo. (On Peak 3's Slopestyle course, Kick Doubt, my brother needed an 80-trick combo to win a gold.) Fortunately, this task is made far easier by board presses.

Board Presses

Presses are the snowboarding equivalent of skateboarding's manuals. Basically, the rider shifts his weight so that the board bends, putting all the rider's weight on either the front or the back quarter of the board. Presses are considered tricks; since they can be done on flat land, they are very useful for knitting together long combos.

Nose and tail presses are done by pushing the C stick forward or back. (The punching controls are now in the shoulder buttons.) Once you've started a press, you can spin in it by moving the C stick to the desired angle. Rotating 360 degrees in a press is called a Butter.

Grinds, Ubergrinds, and Handplants

Another part of the trick system that got some lovin' is the grinds. Standard grinds have changed little, except that you can now do nose and tail grinds using the C stick.

Ubergrinds are completely new to SSX 3. There are three ubergrinds that every player does, accessible with the L, R, and Z buttons. Use of B isn't necessary; as with Tricky, it controls boosting.

Also new to SSX 3 are handplants. Any grindable surface can be planted by holding the X button; once there, you can lean either way and let go of the X button to fall out of the plant.

Crashes and Recovery

So, your character just had an up-close-and-personal meeting with a snowbank. What do you do?

Whenever your character crashes, a white box appears. Tap B repeatedly to fill it up with red. If you're fast enough--faster than the character can get up normally--the character will get up immediately and you'll earn back some of your lost boost. This is called "recovering".

The cool thing is this: let's say that instead of eating snow, your character ate the rocky outcropping above him. Now he's falling down the three-hundred-foot cliff you were trying to trick off of. Recover here, and you'll be able to pull a couple tricks before you hit the ground! Nifty, isn't it?


Level System

The biggest change between Tricky and SSX 3 is in the courses--they've been completely removed and replaced. Besides the Merqury City Meltdown, whose spirit lives on in the Metro City Breakdown, all of the courses are brand spankin' new.

Peaks

The courses are divided into three peaks. Each peak has one of each type of course, plus (usually) a second race course and a peak race. Initially, Peaks 2 and 3 are locked; to unlock a peak, you have to beat either all the races or all the trick courses on the previous one (or earn enough money).

Course Types

There are six types of courses in SSX 3.

Race

These are the usual three-round, first-to-the-bottom-wins races seen in Tricky and elsewhere. The dynamics are little changed from Tricky, although the time limit on infinite boost changes the rules a bit. Usually, there are two race courses per peak; however, Peak 3 only has one race course.

Slopestyle

This is the trick type most similar to Tricky. These are timed events, where you must score more points than your competitors (who have already done their runs) to win. There's a three-round format, like race events. Slopestyle courses are about as long as race courses, and have one or two checkpoints that add time to your clock. Each peak has one Slopestyle course.

Big Air

Big Air courses are similar to Slopestyle, but shorter; usually these last only a minute or two. They don't have any checkpoints. Each peak has one Big Air course.

Superpipe

My favorite trick type. The entire course is a half-pipe; on Peaks 2 and 3, there are also two ancillary pipes that can be accessed via handplant. The pipe is tight enough that tricks can be linked into very long combos, sometimes 20x or more; therefore, crashing even once will lose you a lot of points. Superpipe events usually mean extremely high scores. Each peak has one Superpipe course.

Back Country

Remember Untracked, the practice-only course in Tricky? Well, SSX 3 has no less than three courses just like that. These are accessed via Osprey (an airplane-helicopter hybrid). Each peak has a character who's essentially claimed it as his own; you must defeat this character to beat the level. Each peak has one Back Country course; however, it appears twice, both as a Race and as a Jam (trick course).

Peak Course

All of the courses are connected by freestyle land, in which you can board from event to event. This comes in handy in the Peak Corses, where you board from the peak's Back Country course all the way to the bottom of Peak 1. In the Peak Race, you go through the race courses; in the Peak Jam, you go through the Slopestyle courses. For example, Peak 3's All Peak Race brings you through its Back Country course, The Throne; its race course, Gravitude; Peak 2's race courses, Ruthless Ridge and Intimidator; and Peak 1's Metro City Breakdown. Each peak has one Peak Course, but it comes in both Race and Jam variants, so it appears twice.

Lodge

Finally, each peak has one or two Lodges, where you can spend money on stats, equipment, songs, and other stuff.

Course Quality

SSX 3's courses are more consistent than Tricky's; the best Tricky courses are better than the best SSX 3 courses, but the worst Tricky corses are worse than the worst SSX 3 courses. However, the new Superpipe courses push things over the edge, making me conclude that SSX 3's courses are better than its predecessor's.

Comments

( Read 1 comment — Leave a comment )
aphoenix
Dec. 6th, 2003 04:12 pm (UTC)
Dude...
Guy, this is a great review. Kudos! I came across it through google... I typed in '"ssx 3" airplane' and hit "I'm feeling lucky" and you came right up.

I'm very impressed with your review; have you considered writing reviews for newspapers / mags / etc.?
( Read 1 comment — Leave a comment )