Konami's ESPN X Games Skateboarding brings the X Games into the palm of your hand. The game features 10 pro riders, six different vert and street/park courses, and more than 40 different tricks and signature moves. The roster is star-studded, containing notables such as Bob Burnquist, Chris Senn, Kerry Getz, and Carlos De Andrade, as well as other fan favorites, including Colin McKay, Lincoln Ueda, Chad Fernandez, Rick McCrank, Rollie McNolty, and Kailei Williams.
The vert competition in X Games Skateboarding is phenomenal. As you know, the vert event gives participants 45 seconds in a massive half pipe to perform a lengthy crowd-pleasing trick routine. Tricks--ranging from simple tail grabs and ramp stalls to more complex maneuvers such as the benihana and roast beef--are performed via a mixture of button combinations. Happily, the game uses all four of the GBA's face and shoulder buttons. For variety's sake, there are three different vert events. You can compete in the X Games competition, which lets you compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals, as well as earn "skillz" points to purchase or upgrade your skater's skills; the free skate mode, which lets you practice combinations and hone your dexterity; and the X-Rage mode, an arcade-style minigame that lets you earn dragon gems with which to upgrade your skater's jump, speed, and balance traits.
In all, there are three different vert arenas, including San Francisco, Houston, and Daytona, each of which is gorgeously detailed with cheering fans, mirrored surfaces, and gimmicky lens flare effects. Throughout each stage of competition, weather and daylight also affect how the arenas look. However, the true beauty of X Games Skateboarding isn't reflected in its stages--it's reflected by the dazzling fluidity of animation present in the game's pro skaters. Tricks, spills, and landings are re-created with near-broadcast accuracy, while simple touches, such as arm waving and leg motion, are included to give the experience a more lifelike flavor. Whether you're chaining together five or six tricks in the X Games competition or leaping 600 feet into the air in X-Rage, X Games Skateboarding offers an immaculate rendition of the trick-laden vert event.
Sadly, while the vert event is stellar, the park competition is not. Known as the street competition to most, the park event is renowned for large obstacle courses full of steep ramps, tall quarter pipes, and all manner of rails and platforms. The park competition also places ESPN X Games Skateboarding in direct competition with Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, a match that, for a variety of reasons, X Games is ill-equipped to contend. Although tricks are just as easy to perform as in the vert event, the park competition offers only two gameplay choices, X Games and free skate; and two courses, San Francisco and Daytona. Skillz points are also slower to accrue in the park mode, a fact that lessens the entire game's overall replay value. Still, the greatest failure of X Games' park event isn't its gameplay shortcomings, but rather its stilted visual presentation. Each time you near a ramp, rail, or other useful object, the screen goes black for nearly a second as the game switches from its lofty top-down viewpoint to a more close-up side-view camera angle--a shift that is both jarring and dizzying.
If you're wondering how X Games sounds, note that you'll have to make do with digitized speech and board samples, as there is no in-game music of any kind. This is in stark contrast with Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, a game that is chock-full of hard-core thrasher tunes.
Thanks to its dichotomous design, fans of the vert event will love X Games Skateboarding, while street fans should look elsewhere. It is really too bad that the park competition is so incomplete and lackluster, as it virtually ensures that few people will ever purchase the game and experience the sheer joy of the more magically delicious vert competition.