GameCube Retrospective #1: 1080 Avalanche

This is the beginning of a series looking at the games I picked out from the Let's Play Every GameCube Game project I did a while back. It's coming before the end of the similar series for GBC because I realized that, if I'm being honest with myself, I'm not actually interested in playing just about any of those for longer than I already did. I ended up putting too much on there because it was vaguely interesting rather than because I wanted to play it more, which made the whole thing too much of a chore.

So I'm moving on to the GCN list, which I'll be trimming for games that shouldn't be on it as I go along. The first title on the list, and also the GCN's first title alphabetically, is 1080 Avalanche:

1080 Avalanche
It just about looks like a normal winter sports game here

1080 Avalanche (Nintendo Software Technology/Nintendo, 12/1/2003)

Avalanche is the sequel to the N64's 1080 Snowboarding, and it doesn't fall far from the tree. The core game mode is still a 1v1 race down a somewhat ridiculous mountain. The main differences are the draw distance, which is no longer capped at six feet in any direction, and the survival races that cap off each campaign. The latter start you at the peak of a much larger mountain and give you approximately 2 minutes to reach the bottom. The timer is almost completely irrelevant, however, because the real threat comes from the avalanche that chases you down most of the course. It might be possible to dodge the avalanche and still lose on time, but you'd have to really try for it.

1080 Snowboarding
Just before the avalanche starts

I mostly enjoy these as a sendoff for the campaigns, but as the difficulty goes off they start the avalanche closer and closer to you until you're basically snowboarding down the mountain while inside it the entire time. Is that exciting? Sure. Unfortunately, the avalanche effect was a little too eager to show off the GameCube's new particle effects and it becomes almost impossible to see your character long before the game thinks you've been hit. It also likes to throw rocks ahead of you on some courses, and it's very hard to dodge these without memorizing their locations since they sometimes keep rolling after landing.

1080 Avalanche
Hey! I'm snowboardin' here!

There are three campaigns unlocked by default, and beating the third one both unlocks "extreme" difficulty and rolls the credits. I greatly appreciated that it considers the third campaign good enough to beat the game, because the fourth one is unfair well past the point of being any fun. There are seven tracks that the AI will execute just about perfectly every time, so making anything but the smallest mistake will cost you the race and one of your three lives. If you lose all three, you have to start right back from the first race. Even with save states I found these incredibly frustrating, and it really doesn't help that a lot of these "extreme" tracks aren't even particularly interesting. You could play them in another mode to get practice in without the tedium of replaying earlier races, sure, but I just don't think it's worth the effort.

1080 Avalanche
A used copy of this blizzard will set you back about $70 on eBay

There are three other modes besides match race: time trial (which is confusingly actually about collecting hidden coins), slalom, and a trick competition. Time trial and slalom are effectively just about memorizing the location of the objects you need to hit and aren't very interesting, although time trial does at least help you unlock alternative boards. I didn't bother with the trick mode because tricks just aren't very fun in this game - it's mostly just spinning and mashing some buttons to get a slight boost. GameInformer's 2003 review of this, at least according to Metacritic, described that system as being from someone who "got their doctorate in stupidity", which may be the most 2003 game review phrase I've ever read.

1080 Avalanche
There's a bug that makes it impossible to get up sometimes, and here it happened to the AI

So, that leaves a game with a solid set of three campaigns that you can finish in 1.5-2 hours and a pretty lackluster everything else. You could get a bit more time out of trying to unlock all the secret costumes by beating the third campaign with each character, but the costumes aren't that interesting and the characters really don't play that differently anyway. Nothing else is really worth much time, and while Kirby Air Ride is proof enough that a GCN game can succeed on just one mode, 1080's Match Race isn't really City Trial. This is a game I would happily play for a bit if it was in front of me, but I wouldn't put much effort into seeking it out and would never consider paying the sky-high price of a used copy.

Bonus footnote that I couldn't fit in anywhere else: The soundtrack is almost all punk, because that was legally required of extreme sports games back then. I say "almost" because the one exception is a melancholy acoustic song about some guy whose lover walked out. It doesn't fit the game at all and I am very curious what led to it being included.

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