Remember when Extreme Sports were all the rage? Remember when your video game characters were brimming with nothing but ‘tude? Well, time to enter the world of Snow Surfers on the Dreamcast and get back to those cruder (in certain ways) times!
Developed by UEP Systems of Cool Boarders on PlayStation fame, Snow Surfers is an often overlooked member of the series. It doesn’t help that it has a different name in each territory. In Japan it’s known as Cool Boarders Burrrn acknowledging its lineage, but in North America it’s known as Rippin’ Riders Snowboarding. The reason it didn’t use the Cool Boarders title stateside is apparently due to the distribution rights of the series falling with a now-defunct arm of Sony. This not being a Mega-CD game, it’s fair to point that yes this game was distributed/published by Sega. It’s on the Dreamcast, after all.
But whatever you want to call it, the very nature of the game is what you’d come to expect with an ‘action sports’ title of its day. ‘Cool’ characters with attitude, a funky Hip Hop-styled dance soundtrack and totally tubular voice-overs. That about says it all for the main presentation, quite honestly. It’s not exactly the most scientifically produced or heartfelt fare by any stretch. It does slot itself happily into its niche and delivers what series and genre fans would be expecting. Not going above and beyond, but just being there. Standard, if you will. It has to be said that the intro vid is still pretty cool to this day, utilising in-game graphics with smooth edits and good music.
The gameplay itself is solid enough. It’s far, far from bad but there’s literally nothing outstanding that’d have you recommending this to every man, woman and child under the sun. It handles well enough, but can be a bit confounding at first. Coz manuals are for suckers. Though the majority of what you need is easily accessible. That’s your thumb stick and you’re A-button. Even in race mode you are forced to bust out some gnarly tricks, so be prepped for those jumps or the commentator will just hound you with the fact you need more practice. This’ll become essential, too as they appear to add extra time which can be sorely needed if you want to you know, get to the end of the track. That’s the thing, though. The first time you play don’t be shocked if you suddenly get an OUT OF TIME after bombing it down a mountain. It happens to the best of us. It’s the game, it’s how it rolls.
Graphically it looks good, contextually speaking. Only problem being my end in that I was playing this on review through SCART on a contemporary HD-TV and didn’t check for any available VGA options. My fault, sorry guys. But the characters are all of a nice size, though very white (yurp) the tracks look pretty enough and it all moves along rather smoothly with only the occasional clipping, yet the draw distance is far from horrendous which ultimately is what you need to rely on with any game of this sort. Perhaps graphics wise it sits somewhere between Crazy Taxi (oh, there it is again – oopsie!) and previous series efforts from UEP Systems. Again, standard fare where the Dreamcast is concerned; but you should be hardly expecting Shenmue with a title like Snow Surfers or you’d be classed as a mental guy, guy.
Now the soundtrack is pretty nice. I will give it that benefit of the doubt all day long, sirs and sirettes. Jimmy’s theme in particular is a stand out track (pretty much consensus as far as I’m concerned, as I found it on YouTube while re-writing this review), but the majority of the OST is good stuff and well worth a listen. Generic in the good sense, peeps. Check it. That said you can easily find the soundtrack under the games alternative titles online so if you want your late 90’s dance fix of chill loops, go seek it out. If you regret it you just aren’t cool, dawg.
I can’t help, even if it was unintentional (keep in mind back then it was Daddy023 who owned the PlayStation so my Cool Boarders knowledge was practically non-existent, the Dreamcast was my child I’ll have you know!), to make direct comparisons to Sega’s own Crazy Taxi. The characters remind me of Crazy Taxi (at the very least Axel), the over the top arcade play style, etc. Yet most of this comparison would simply be from a younger Olly023 wanting every game to be Crazy Taxi. Yeah. I really dug Crazy Taxi. Deal. However, playing this back recently for the purpose of the review I really can’t see my initial comparisons much anymore. They seem to have faded with time, yet my overall experience and enjoyment of Snow Surfers has surprisingly increased…
There is not a whole lot of modes of play available, although the basics are covered. You essentially have your race type, or trick type. On the main menu you can select Match Race to play with friends, but no one wanted to play this with me for the review. So, I can’t officially comment (I remember it being aiiiight, though). They’re listed as FR Free Ride (race mode), SP Super Pipe (trick mode), MR Match Race (multiplayer) and the developers also whack in the obligatory Options choice on the main menu, too. Under OP. D’uh.
You get seven characters to select from off the bat (or would it be board?), all with varying skill sets. There’s also two hidden characters so OHMYGODYOUGOTZTAWORKFORIT. Word. The thing you’ll immediately notice is that Jimmy is represented by a Salomon logo, so he’s essentially a faceless billboard as far as the game is concerned. Poor Jimmy. You got the bleach-blonde white guy, the cool Japanese girl, the hard as nails black guy, the sassy black girl, the Asian DJ and the Rastafarian (obviously named Bob). So all manner of stereotypes lay at your disposal, folks. Get in!
Overall though there is not a whole lot on offer with Snow Surfers that hadn’t been done already by the point of its release, or somewhat bettered since. That is my opinion however and I am sure it has its own fair share of fans – I’ve just yet to properly encounter them in the retro community.
So, if you’re in need of a 1080 Snowboarding alternative on a console that isn’t produced by Sony but from a similar era, well; you can’t really go wrong. But that’s a very specific thing you’re looking for there, my retrobate buddy. As far as I am aware Snow Surfers is (at least PAL territory) the only snowboarding title available on the Sega Dreamcast (at least during its ‘official’ shelf life), so you’re hardly spoilt for choice. I guess being the only one makes you the best one, eh? Some sort of claim at least. So props to you on that, Snow Surfers!
I hope this review hasn’t read as entirely negative, as Snow Surfers certainly does have its plus’. There just isn’t enough for me to personally go crawling back to it with bloodied thumbs and cramped hands in a need to get that one last snowy fix. This reviewer thinks you’re better off with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 for the Dreamcast, or a snowboarding game on another system. And that’s honesty! The best policy! SNOW SURFERS!
Verdict:- We’re back to the decidedly average again here. It certainly (snow)bo(a)rders a 7/10, but I dunno. There’s just not enough here to truly warrant it, no matter the sound and graphics. Typically, the poorer Dreamcast titles all have a sense of playability about them as is and this isn’t an exception to the rule. It’s just it’s so standard. And just 'there'.
It’s Snow Surfers and what you see is what you get, love it or hate it. Or just sit on the fence with the rest of us nodding to Jimmy’s theme saying: “it’s alright”.
Second Opinion:- *Disgruntled Robot Noise*
This really is a bit of a meh game in most respects and if i'm honest it's something I had not played until the review from Olly hit the e-mail inbox for the robot from the 2nd level dimension.
Transbot cares not for this game, it's all a bit too snowy for him; although it does look and sound very nice, Cool Boarders was where it was at and where it shall remain.
Transbot Scores:- 5 out of 10