The release of SSX this week has brought back memories for a lot of people, but not everyone knows where the game started. The executive producer and creative director of the first game was Steve Rechtschaffner, the inventor of the now Olympic snowboard event, Boardercross. In fact, SSX stands for snowboard super cross. The game came out of the new label, EA SPORTS BIG. The concept was to make games that were larger than life, and SSX fit the bill perfectly. After the original game, many other franchises started up with the intent of being SSX-killers, but now, in 2012, SSX is still standing.
Here’s a brief history of SSX.
SSX (October 2000)
The very first SSX game not only launched the label EA SPORTS BIG, it was also one of the launch titles for PlayStation 2 in the U.S. While it was deemed a commercial failure, the critics couldn’t get enough. The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences awarded it with five prizes including “Console Sports Game of the Year” and “Racing Game of the Year.” The game was immensely playable due to its huge jumps and improbable stunts that would kill a real life snowboarder.
The original game let you pick one of eight characters – Mac, Elise, Moby, Kaori, Zoe, Jurgen, Hiro and JP — each with their own unique stats and boarding style. Four characters were available at the beginning of the game, with the other four unlocked through competing in events. While SSX was considered a racing game, at its heart it’s all about the tricks. The more tricks you did coming down the mountain, the higher your boost meter would rise, which meant you gained extra acceleration. Basically, if you wanted to win the race, you had to do the tricks.
*Interesting Fact: SSX was released in Japan under the name Extreme Racing: SSX
SSX Tricky (November 2001)
The next iteration of SSX, which was also released by EA SPORTS BIG, featured the song “It’s Tricky” by Run-D.M.C. The game wasn’t considered a true sequel since it had a “remixed” version of the tracks from the original along with two new tracks, Garibaldi and Alaska. It did, however, add two new concepts to the SSX franchise. The first: Uber Moves. Uber Moves are tricks so intense the characters actually take their feet off the board. Each player had five moves including a personal move that could only be done if the character was using a board that matched their boarding style.
The main difference between this iteration of SSX and the previous one is the addition of rivalries. This created a consequence system during the race. If you attacked your opponents, they would find a way to even the score. If you played nice with the other racers, you could arrive at the bottom of the mountain virtually unscathed. SSX Tricky also attracted some big names to voice the boarders including Lucy Liu, David Arquette, Macy Gray, Oliver Platt and Billy Zane.
*Interesting Fact: Hiro and Jurgen did not return, apparently suffering off-season injuries
SSX 3 (October 2003)
SSX 3 updated the franchise in multiple ways including an open mountain concept and a new graphics engine. Instead of offering several runs on multiple mountains, SSX 3 created one open mountain with three peaks. The trails were all connected to give the mountain a realistic feel, allow players to find multiple ways down the mountain and to eliminate load times for each individual track. The runs were designated as Race, Slopestyle, Super Pipe, Big Air or Backcountry. The new graphics engine not only gave SSX 3 an updated look and feel, it was used to create “Mountain effects” such as snow spray, snowstorms and natural disasters to make the environments come to life.
SSX 3 also eliminated the statistical differences between players allowing style to be the number one factor when choosing a board, which were now all the same type instead of a choice between freestyle, BX and Alpine boards. The reward system was also completely revamped to use the money a player gained from competitions. Players could also earn a percentage of the collectibles and a set number of the Big Challenges in Freeride instead of only being reserved for the competitions.
The soundtrack was another important aspect of SSX 3. As the games progressed the SSX sound became synonymous with the game. For SSX 3 the soundtrack was a mix of different genres including house, trance, electronic, drum and bass, punk, modern rock and hip-hop with 13 of the tracks – not including the title track – released on a CD. There was good news for fans of Hiro and Jurgen, who finally recovered from their injuries and made it back up on the mountain. SSX 3 also saw the debut of four new characters: Allegra Sauvagess, Griff Simmons, Nate Logan and Viggo Rolig.
*Interesting Fact: SSX 3 was the first SSX title to break the 1 million mark
SSX On Tour (October 2005)
SSX On Tour took the idea of customization and character style to a whole new level. Players were given the freedom to create a character that reflected their own personality, even down to what they strapped to their feet. Everything was customizable from hats, pants, goggles, jackets and boards to your skis or snowboard. That’s right, for the first time in SSX history players were given the chance to ski down the mountain. The addition of freestyle skiing was due in large part to the freestyle ski culture taking off and making a push into the mainstream. In addition to customizing the characters already in the game, players could create their own character selecting everything including the symbol, makeup and height. For SSX On Tour, customization was king.
The overall style of SSX On Tour was different from the previous games as well. The game menus and cover artwork were presented in the style of a sketch-book. While the graphics were fully formed, the sketch style even extended to in-game collectibles which went from snowflakes to sketch-like doodles.
While the lack of multiplayer features was considered by some to be a weakness, the single player competition was the fiercest in SSX history. Players could compete in official competitions called Events, or unofficial challenges called Shreds. Even the soundtrack got an update with more punk and rock songs rather than the usual house and dance beats.
*Interesting Fact: Uber tricks were called Monster Tricks in this iteration
SSX Blur (February 2007)
The last SSX was a Nintendo Wii exclusive title. It was, in fact, one of the first games to take full advantage of the Wiimote and the nunchuck along with all of their capabilities. That also means that it wasn’t necessarily for the casual gamer. A player had to have quite the mastery of the Wiimote to pull off all the tricks. One of the main aspects that carried over from previous games was the choice between skiing and snowboarding. Also like the previous games, the game took place on one mountain with three peaks with players being able to explore the interconnected trails. Players participated in race events, trick competitions or the all-new slalom event – which was, at the time, quite popular around the world.
The rivalry aspect of the game also continued with players given the ability to throw snowballs at their competition as well as targets to gain points. Ubertricks were, once again, called Ubers and required the player to draw special shapes in the air with their Wiimotes.
The soundtrack and the gameplay were also connected like never before with the addition of the Groove Meter. The Groove Meter would raise and the music would intensify every time you stuck a trick. The higher your Groove Meter the faster your speed and the higher your air.
*Interesting Fact: This was the only SSX to be entirely developed outside of EA Canada in Vancouver
The newest SSX just hit stores last week. To find out all about Geotagging, how NASA played an integral part in the game’s creation and what it truly means to Survive It look for the all-new “Making Of SSX” article due out later this week.