Late in the Saturn's lifecycle, as the 32-bit wonder entered terminal decline in the U.S., Sega released a snowboarding title to compete with Sony's Cool Boarders game. Did Sega succeed? Well, as far as helping save the Saturn from an early grave, we all know they didn't. In terms of making a quality, fun to play snowboarding game, the answer is definitely yes.
The game is pretty straight-forward; your menu screen lets you select "Start" or "Options". Start the game, and you have 7 tracks to choose from. You can snowboard down a mountain in Russia, the U.S., Japan, and Italy for the "extreme" courses. You also get the option of an alpine course in Japan, a snowboard park in New Zealand, and a half-pipe in Canada. So, if you didn't have me telling you which country these courses are set in, would you know just from playing it? No, but that's ok, because the fact is that they are well designed and fun to play through, which really is all that matters. You begin by dropping onto the course from a helicopter, which is a cool touch. Tricks are very easy to pull off, control is spot-on, and graphics are very good, especially considering when this game was released. You are able to see far ahead of you, far enough that no pop up in the game will affect your play session. The courses are reasonably long, jumps are well-spaced, in my opinion, and there are plenty of them to pull off a lot of cool tricks on each run. Also, though I haven't actually gone snowboarding in about six years, the sense of speed going down the hill felt very realistic to me as well.
When you first start the game, you have four initial characters to select from, whose back stories are in the manual, if you are interested for some reason. To be honest, they all seemed to control about the same to me, so I would just start off picking whoever looks coolest to you. As you play the game, you are able to unlock four more characters, including a neat looking green alien. It is certainly rewarding to get four new characters to play with, though I must admit that actually unlocking them was very, very easy. Nevertheless, it was a nice touch. Other extras include your typical ghost rider and a cool little feature that lets you edit your replayed runs to make a more cool-looking video.
The in-game music consists of some decent techno beats. I found them to be enjoyable, but I could certainly understand someone not sharing my opinion on that. There is no obnoxious announcer to get on your nerves either, which I found to be a big plus. In game sound effects were just fine to me, though they were pretty much limited to the sound your board is making as you go down the hill, and a small impact if you go down.
So now that we've covered the things this game does well, it's time to go over its faults. It doesn't take long to tire of having only 7 tracks, especially when those 7 include a half-pipe, board park, and alpine course. So really that means you only get 4 all-purpose tracks on which to pretty much just go down and do whatever you want. Also, 8 total characters were plenty for me, but it would be nice if they would control a little more differently from each other. Add that to the fact that you can so quickly unlock the second set of 4 characters and you get a game that can easily make you feel like you've already finished it within an hour.
In the end, this game is just too little of too much good stuff. I love picking this game up and playing it. It always gives me a good time, and I can play it for 10 minutes and feel satisfied. On the other hand, if I try to play it for something closer to an hour or two, I definitely feel like I've had enough, as I just end up repeating things at that point. That being said, going down again and again and racking up an ever increasing trick score as you learn more of each level can be a lot of fun. If this game had (most importantly) more tracks, and if the characters were better differentiated from one another, this game would get a higher score. As it is, I still find this to be one of the most entertaining games in my Saturn collection, and I enjoy it as much, if not more than Cool Boarders. If you're into snowboarding games, nothing comes close on Saturn.