TGS 2008: We Ski & Snowboard First Look

Boarders won't be left out of the fun this time around.

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TOKYO--We Ski was released this past May when the Wii Balance Board was still a relatively new and untested peripheral. As such, the game took a fairly apprehensive approach to the way it integrated this new control device by limiting its use to a simple means of steering left and right. Now that the team at Namco Bandai Games has had more time to get a feel for the Balance Board, they're looking to offer more advanced control in the form of We Ski & Snowboard, the upcoming sequel due for release next March. We recently visited Namco Bandai's Tokyo office to see what amateur riders can expect out of the snowboarding half of this upcoming game.

At first glance, changing the Balance Board from a pair of skis to a snowboard is simply a matter of turning it 90 degrees. But there's a bit more to it than the alignment of the board in relation to your television set. You'll still be steering by leaning from side to side, but now you'll need to bend your knees and do a quick upward bounce to initiate a jump onscreen. In fact, these jumps can be done anywhere, not just on big, clearly marked ramps on the course.

The ability to jump anywhere you want is a good example of the game's focus on adding more style to your repertoire of moves, but it doesn't end there. You can also do butters (or manuals, or nose/tail presses--whatever you want to call them) by leaning forward and backward on the Balance Board. You can do these on flat land, or when you find a handrail or trick box to grind.

The development team has decided to change the overall layout of the slopes. We're told that the first We Ski was designed to replicate the traditional Japanese resort, which is very regimented and sectioned off. In We Ski & Snowboard, they've decided to design the mountains in the vein of European and North American resorts, which tend to offer more freedom of exploration. This means that if you don't like the course you're on, you can cut across to a nearby one through trees rather than pulling up the menu and starting over on a new track. The danger involved in this type of trekking will vary depending on which of the two resorts you're skiing. There are two to choose from: one that's a very family-friendly collection of well-maintained slopes, and another that's classified as the "extreme" mountain, offering lots and lots of exposed rock faces and big drops.

One of the other areas of improvement that we were shown is in the field of character customization. A variety of enhancements have been made to this feature, but the biggest one is probably the ability to adjust the color and pattern of each item you find. There are about 40 different articles of clothing, and each one gives you 16 different colors and patterns to select. You can also stylize your snowboard with 20 different designs and your rider with 200 different predesigned faces.

We Ski & Snowboard--a working title, we should add--is scheduled for release in March of 2009 on the Nintendo Wii. You can expect to see more coverage in the coming months.

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