Freestyle Boardin' '99 Review

If you demand nothing more from a snowboarding game than "simple fun," this title should keep you satisfied.

Capcom's first PlayStation snowboarding title is like a diet soft drink: It's light on features, easy to consume, and it tastes a bit different from its competitors. Some avoid diet drinks like the plague, while others swear by them: This review falls in-between. Although this game seems refreshing in short sips, it doesn't have the depth and variety to sustain long-term enjoyment.

At first glance, this game seems like any other on the market. The main selling point is its one-player championship mode, which is a series of ten individual courses that measure your speed and trick prowess. Roughly one-half are varying downhill tracks. These tracks, while long, are fairly easy to master from a racing standpoint but, unfortunately, offer too few shortcuts and alternate routes. The other, shorter tracks consist of slalom courses, a halfpipe, and a tricks ramp. The game's other modes include freestyle (race the tracks at your leisure), time competition, and two-player.

The game's primary innovation is its ability to let you build up your boarder skills by winning races in the championship mode. This also unlocks hidden goodies, like alternate outfits. Although it's virtually impossible to score a first-place finish the first time through, once your skills have increased, this task will become easier to accomplish. While this character-building may appeal to some, the downside is that the same ten tracks have to be played again and again in order to build up stats - and prolonged exposure to these tracks can cause boredom.

From a presentation standpoint, this game holds its own. Although there's inevitable pop-up, given the PlayStation's limits, the game runs at a silky smooth frame rate that never seems to suffer, even in the vertical split-screen two-player game. Even at this rate, developers added smart visual cues, such as the gradual blending of background textures via light shading. The effect isn't noticeable but the results are: tracks that heighten the sense of motion as backgrounds come into focus. The boarder animations also look true-to-life. Sadly, the music and announcer are wholly uninspiring and unhip.

This game also delivers responsive control. The only gameplay gripe is that some boarders get knocked down too easily by others during collisions. While there is no fighting in the game, this is a cheap tactic that bigger players can take advantage of. The only way to correct this is by building up stats to make your boarders knockdown-proof.

Unlike the Cool Boarders titles, this game does not rely on list upon list of moves to memorize - either a big plus or a minus, depending on your playing preference. After jumping off a ramp, you use the buttons and D-pad to flip, spin, and grab. This "improvisation" style of play may not be as technically challenging, but it seems a more natural way to simulate the sport. Of course, the big challenge is landing safely; it'll take several frustrating hours for you to get the timing of the tricks down to land correctly.

In its own world, Freestyle Boardin' 99 plays like a decent title. Against competitors, its "diet" personality reveals its shortcomings. It lacks the in-depth moves and wealth of tracks that the Cool Boarders series provides. It lacks the real-life name/music ties that X Games Pro Boarder offers. This game also lacks a training or skills-test mode that might have given it added value.

What Freestyle Boardin' 99 lacks in depth and originality, it makes up for by being good-looking and easy to control. If you demand nothing more from a snowboarding game than "simple fun," this title should keep you satisfied.

The Good

  • N/A

The Bad

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