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Rippin Riders (DC) Review

Background Info

Since the invention of the snowboard in the 1980's the public has awaited its arrival on the console gaming platform. In 1989 came the first attempt with Heavy Shreddin' for the NES. Publishers began to take note of snowboarding's popularity and worked at a frenzied pace to produce a top quality game for a console system. By 1997 a slew of Snowboarding titles had arrived including Snowboarding Kids and Cool Boarders for the Sony Playstation. Both titles were moderately successful and in 1998, 1080 Snowboarding for the N64 made huge strides in the genre by offering tight control and a great feel. With the advent of the Sega Dreamcast, the public was hungry for a 128-bit snowboarding title. To cater to their appetite UEP has brought us Rippin Riders, the first snowboarding title for the Sega Dreamcast.

Presentation/Graphics : 92
Much of the game's look is taken directly from the popular Namco arcade title, Alpine Racer. With incredibly detailed backgrounds and foregrounds, the trip down the slope is nothing short of breathtaking. There appears to be no sign of pop up whatsoever and images that can be seen downhill are perfectly represented in the distance. At the edge of a steep slope it is possible to get a view of the lower half of the track laid out in perfect graphical precision.

The lighting is top notch, offering gorgeous views at all times of the day and night. The sun setting in the distance produces a reddish glow that serves as a terrific skyline, as does the bright glow of the midnight moon. The view of the skyline and distant landscape is nothing short of breathtaking, especially when played on a large screen television. As far as racing titles go, Wipe Out included, the backgrounds in Rippin Riders shine above even the most detailed of racers.

The frame rate is more than sufficient. While traveling down each track, the manner in which the background graphics move to the foreground is absolutely smooth. Oncoming obstacles, ice patches, powdered snow, and jumps all can be seen clearly in the distance. Once they begin smoothly scrolling toward your racer the graphical detail that they contain becomes more and more apparent.

The text and numbers are oversized to give the game a true arcade feel. Large colorful numbers will display your time remaining and score. Virtually every word or number that you will read in menus or during the action is displayed with perfect clarity. This lends itself well to a fast paced action game where the user will rarely have time to focus on hard-to-read statistics.

The polygon-based characters each possess two different outfits. This may not seam like a big deal; however, given their vastly different styles offered, it truly adds a nice touch to the game. There is no option to change the angle at which you view the action, therefore we must be thankful that UEP gives us an ideal view of the course by making the characters a perfect size. This makes it easy to see over their heads, yet leaves their size large enough to contain intricate detail (right down to the tattoos).

The snow itself is striated and presents an excellent looking surface to race on. As you race down the track, crossing over the snow's different gradients, you will have no choice but to take note of the incredible detail the snow contains. After all, the snow itself and the ambiance it creates spearhead the beauty of this game.

Presentation/Audio : 91
This title benefits equally from its audio presence as it does its graphical prowess. Once again sporting a true arcade feel, there are dozens of voice-sampled phrases and top-notch sound effects that add an extra sense of action and surrealism. Each character will spew out phrases, each with a unique and entertaining voice that can at times be nothing short of hilarious. Hearing the reggae character yell, "yeeaaa moooooon" as he plunges off a cliff towards his death simply has to be experienced to be appreciated. Not only is each character equipped with great voice-overs, but each includes his or her own sound track.

The music is crystal clear and full of variety seldom witnessed in a console game. From techno to reggae, the moods that are created are entirely different. The songs aren't just different, but the actual "instruments" used in each song are so completely opposite (from voice sampling and echo effects to birdlike early morning chirps) that the gamer is left experiencing a completely different atmosphere from one song to the next.

The predominant voice that you will hear is that of the announcer. The voice is perfectly suited for a snowboarding game. Throughout the game his voice will be heard on several occasions. After you have selected the style of play you wish, his voice will announce your selection. From that point on you'd better get used to hearing him, for there is no option to turn his in-game comments off. Some may find it a bit annoying after a period of time but this will most likely be the case when you are boarding poorly. It can be a bit frustrating to hear, "speed it up, you're making snail tracks!" On the other hand, after you have mastered the basic skills, hearing his voice commend you for pulling off an incredible stunt is more than welcome.

The sound effects are extremely similar to Alpine Racer and 1080 Snowboarding. The cush sound of the powdered snow is contrasted by the scraping sound of the ice and gravel. Throughout the game a light sound emanating from your board's friction with the snow is to be heard and enjoyed. These realistic sound effects combined with its precise graphics give Rippin Riders one of its finest assets: its presentation.

Interface/Options : 85
Games that have such a great arcade feel often times suffer from limited options. While Rippin Riders by no means runs off the scale as far as options go, there are more than enough modes of play to keep the fun factor in the highest percentile. The three main modes of play are Free Race, Half Pipe, and Match Race.

Free Race offers five different courses, each harder than the next. The goal in these races is not to beat any opponent but rather to rank in the top three in one of three different categories. In each race a record is kept of the total time elapsed, the trick score, and the overall score. Rankings are saved via memory card in all three categories for each track. Placing in the top three in any one category will make the next course available for play. The exception to this is the penultimate stage in which you will be required to rank in the top three of overall score only. Great finishing times and excellent trick points are in themselves not enough. In order to advance to the last course you must do both, providing you with a satisfactory overall score. Overall score points entail demolishing objects (more on that later), landing smoothly after executing tricks, and obtaining a fair track time. Points are deducted from your overall score for each wipeout and/or trick missed.

In the Half Pipe, tricks are the focal point of the gameplay and the finishing time is of little consequence. Even the slowest descent will complete the track in the allotted time. At the end of the course the racer is rated on eight separate categories such as altitude, technique, landings, and rotation as well as given a direct score for completed tricks. Ranking in the top three of either the categorical ratings or the actual trick score will land you a saved spot in the rankings. There are two half pipe courses, one more outlandish than the other. To obtain entry to the second half pipe, a score in the top three must be obtained on the first in actual trick score.

Match Play is an incredibly fun option that pits you against a friend in a split screen contest. You are given the option to select either a vertical or horizontal split of the action. There are three different types of races in the split screen mode.

Free Race simply requires the fastest time and is the most traditional of the three. Any course opened up in the Free Race one player mode is available to select in the two-player mode. The game plays out in an identical manner as it does in the original Free Race Mode with the exception that there are two competitors. Keep in mind that there is literally NO drop in graphical detail, resolution, or game speed in the split screen mode.

Battle mode is where this game really shines. There are two options in Battle Mode: Line Attack and Trick Boost. The only difference between the two is a "turbo" feature in the Trick Boost mode that will enable a racer to obtain turbo power by executing successful tricks.

During these races you can increase the size of your playing field and shrink your opponents by completing difficult tricks. The smaller the area of view, the more difficult it will become to see what is coming at you, thus the harder it will be to complete the race. If you opt not to go for any tricks and simply try to beat your opponent to the finish line (which would result in a win) you run the risk of being "shutout." This will occur when your playing field has gotten so small that the game actually ends declaring the opponent the victor. There are even more factors such as score multipliers which increase the value of tricks to make the action even more competitive. It is difficult to explain just how many different type of winning strategies can be executed with all of the variables; suffice to say the fun factor is practically off the scale with a human opponent who knows his way around the course.

Before taking to the slopes there is the option of choosing one of seven riders at the start of the game. The next step will be choosing one of the two available outfits for the character selected. Each rider is equipped with different abilities including balance, technique, power, speed, jumping, power and more. The actual board selection offers alpine, freestyle, all around, and wide boards. Each category of board, along with having its own unique pros and cons, contains three to four boards within them with their own advantages and liabilities. Adding up the possible combinations there are hundreds of different configurations you are able to select from. Want more? OK, there are numerous "goodies" available in the game such as secret boards, outfits, and characters, all of which can be released and permanently saved on a VMU taking up less than five blocks of space.

Gameplay : 88
Ok, you have your character selected, you're happy with the outfit, the board is just perfect--now it's time to hit the slopes. The first though most will have is, "it's ok, but it's not 1080." It is far less precise in terms of control and is based on a completely different command system. If you give it a chance, you just may forget all about your N64 snowboarding days. If you play this game enough, it becomes easier and easier to do so.

As you race down the mountain, you can lean back on your board to gain speed, leaning forward will keep you a bit more balanced over the rough terrain. Moving to the left and right with the analogue stick will shift your weight in the proper direction in order to execute turns. The analogue triggers function as spin buttons that will reverse the direction that your character is facing. Basically it will perform a grounded 180. The button most often used is the jump button. It will enable you to hop over hurdles, get height off a ramp, and to scurry off into a separate section of the track.

Jumping is done in the exact same manner as in 1080 snowboarding: the longer you hold down the button, upon its release, the further you will jump. Before releasing the button, if you hold the analogue stick in any direction you will rotate vertically or horizontally in the direction you held the stick when you released the jump button. The longer the jump button is held, the more velocity you will have on your rotation. Once in the air you can perform grab tricks using the analogue trigger. This trick system is simple to learn yet very difficult to master.

The difference in feel from rider to rider and from board to board is tremendous. There is little doubt that one must configure the proper setup to successfully complete various courses. A few new techniques are thrown in as well such as the "defend" maneuver. This button will enable you to plow over sheep, break through fallen trees, cement pylons, snowmen and countless other obstacles all the while racking up bonus points for your score and perhaps even releasing a "goodie." Nailing sheep at 80mph is a blast for gamers of all ages!

The "edge" button can be used in order to dig into the snow enabling the rider to make even the sharpest corners. It can be a problem at times since most will wind up coming to a complete stop when using it. Don't fear though, once you realize that it is enough to simply tap the button once while making a sharp turn you'll be keeping your speed up enough to avoid the train on your tail. This game is sharp!

No game is perfect, and even fewer without some major problems. You will notice that when traveling downhill, your actual speed indicator doesn't seem to accurately reflect the rate at which things are moving by you. In short, the physics just don't seem right. When traveling at 75mph along a steady plane you would expect that a sudden steep downhill slope would increase your speed, correct? While the sensation of speed is accurate, the numerical representation seems off at times, but it is a minor flaw.

There is no option to race against a computer opponent, split screen or otherwise. I found this to be unforgivable since such enjoyment had been had racing against computer boarders in 1080 Snowboarding. Again, this is a fairly minor gripe.

There is also the issue of actually falling off the track and dying! This I did not expect in a snowboarding title. While you are able to get back on the track, losing only a few seconds of time, it still doesn't sit right with me that I have to be worried that I'm going to fall off the track at all times. Though this is true, you will find that a close call will have your heart racing, and escaping the jaws of death by the narrowest of margins can be quite exhilarating.

By far the biggest gripe that most will have about this tittle is that it is not 1080 Snowboarding. Gone is the sharp control that had us pressing a button to soften our landing. Gone is the perfect manner in which our boards would react on the powder snow, ice and packed snow. In its place is a great looking game that comes damn close with better graphics, options, ingenuity, and almost as good a feel.

Replay Value : 88
Easy to pick up and play and very difficult to master, a combination that has made many a game a success. The ingenious two-player battle mode will ensure that this title is placed into your Dreamcast again and again. There are plenty of surprises and secrets that will no doubt leave you coming back for more. This game is more enjoyable the more you play it and will please even the most pessimistic of gamers after a few rounds of battle mode.

While fans of 1080 may not be immediately attracted to Rippin Riders, within a few days and a few battle matches with friends they will no doubt be won over by its assets. The courses are filled with plenty of variety and branching paths, enough to keep most gamers more than satisfied. With a slew of boards, characters, options, tricks and courses, Rippin Riders will keep you coming back again and again.

Overall : 87
Rippin Riders is more than tolerable and actually great fun. This game isn't perfect but after a few hours with a friend you'll be thinking it's rather close. The two-player option is absolutely vital to getting the most out of this game. Aside from the fantastic, innovative split-screen action (most fun I've had in a split-screen contest in as long as I can remember), it is also fun to take turns trying to make rank on courses in order to open up new ones. This in turn will make the one player mode that much more fun.

If you love two-player simultaneous action, you can't go wrong with this title. I would avoid this game only if you plan on playing solo, and even then I would consider renting it more than once and saving the data on your VMU. What it really boils down to is you will have so much fun with two players it will make your one player experience fun as well. Having never played the two-player contest, I can imagine some gamers not giving Rippin Riders the chance it deserves (me included). One last thing: more than most games, and like most split-screen racers, a large television screen is a definite plus.

By: Jon Licata 12/20/99

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