I'd like to preface this segment by making it abundantly clear that I've never enjoyed snowboarding games. While most consider the niche sport to be an acquired taste, I've always stood clear of them simply for the fact that I am just bad at them. The learning curve always felt one step ahead of me and I'd just end up getting frustrated. So when I had the privilege to personally check out Atlus' latest Snowboard Kids iteration -- you can imagine a bit of groaning took place.
Picking up the basics took a bit of time to get down the basics, although this was by no means a fault against SBK's game design – I
am was scrubby. If you're a newcomer like me, it would be wise to take advantage of the in-game training mode, which will help you become more comfortable with the basics before hitting the ice.
As highlighted in our preliminary coverage, SBK is basically a marriage of SSX and Mario Kart elements, resulting in a rich, unique snowboarding game that's bound to satisfy diehard fans and intrigued newcomers. Most of my hands-on time was spent with the World Tour Challenge mode, which basically can be considered the game's "career mode". Players will face off against multiple rivals throughout several circuits spanning 3 grades. You'll start off on the junior grade (C) and eventually graduate to the more advanced level (A).
To quickly sum up the challenge and fun factor: the computer AI is quite challenging -- almost to the point that you probably won't sweat it much if you're unable to battle against human opponents. Speaking of which, SBK doesn't support Game Sharing, meaning every player will need to have their own copy of the game to participate.
While most titles tend to only take of advantage of one specific capability offered by the DS, SBK surprisingly manages to seamlessly integrate everything without making it seem like a needless gimmick. Taking full advantage of the dual-screen estate, all the action is left to the top screen while the touch screen doubles as a real-time map and alternate control mechanism for special tricks. There's also a bit of voice recognition involved too, which comes into play during situations where your character is struck with a sleep power-up. Personally I feel odd about speaking to an electronic device other than my cell phone in public, so it's safe to say I wouldn't exploit this option very often.
While the graphics aren't exactly bleeding-edge by DS standards, each level offers an exceptional amount of detail and is about as impressive as you'd expect from a conventional snowboarding game. I witnessed some background animation peppered throughout some areas, but to be honest, the action often got a bit intense for my attention to be focused elsewhere.
SBK features an respectable amount of single-player modes that will keep you adequately entertained. As expressed earlier, the World Tour Challenge mode serves as the game's career mode. Shalom challenges you to earn points while showing off your snowboarding skills while racing against time. Finally, Boss Battle challenges you to take out a rival as fast as possible to earn points.
During any mode, the game still promises to offer an exceptional degree of fast-paced action that's high on the fun factor. The game is also rich with replay value -- by racking up points, players will earn the ability to "shop" for new additions to customize and enhance their overall gaming experience. Some of the stand-out highlights include unlocking new board designs, hidden characters and levels. It's my guess that Atlus heard the cries of diehard fans seeking to get more extras and thus, wisely delivered in abundance.
Though it will take some time to overcome my initial bias towards snowboarding games, SBK could very well end up as a title that incites me to warm up to the genre. Fans undoubtedly will be looking forward to hearing our final thoughts on the game when it ships Nov. 22 – so be sure to stay with us for a conclusive report within the coming weeks.