First off, let me say that SSX isn't exactly the killer-app that everyone makes it out to be. Like Dale, my experience with SSX also saw its highs and lows (and I'm not just talking about the slopes, either). At first, I too was blown away by the visuals, but I didn't initially see what was so great about the gameplay. It wasn't flawed by any stretch of the imagination, but there was nothing that really grabbed me and held on tight. The characters were all sort of generic stereotypes. The controls, while serviceable, weren't anything earth shattering like Wave Rave 64, and performing tricks in the game seemed a bit perfunctory.

I even took issue with the Circuit mode that forces you to do the exact same race three times over, which wouldn't have been so bad if the stages weren't so long. By the third run of the same track, I found it incredibly hard to stay interested and competitive. Losing the third race after taking two consecutive gold medals on previous runs is also very frustrating. There hasn't been a racing title with an outstanding Circuit or Cup mode that not only had a nice progression of tracks, but also allowed for two-player simultaneous play as well (a feature that kept me and my neighbor playing for months on end) since the original Mario Kart.

Sadly, SSX does not include such an engaging Circuit mode as Mario Kart did. Like so many other racing titles, there's no two-player mode outside of the usual boring "Versus" option. For the life of me, I can't understand why any developer would do their efforts a disservice by not including a decent Circuit mode that is going to keep me interested in the long-run.

Another thing that bothered me about SSX was how successfully navigating through short cuts was so damn hard. I can understand making players work for it, but the problem here was that the consequences far outweighed the reward. If I couldn't make a proper jump or grind during one of these short cuts, I would often find myself plunged into the middle of nowhere and almost always out of medal contention. After awhile, I gave up on most of the short cuts and just raced as "straight-up" as possible.

Yet despite my gripes, I'm still giving SSX a largely positive review, and it's mostly due to the course layouts that started to shine after prolonged play. They aren't progressive, and the Circuit format isn't to my liking, but the individual course designs in and of themselves are truly inspiring. Yes, they are sometimes gaudy, but also intricate in a good way. The freedom to carve through some courses as I saw fit was refreshing, and I also loved the jumps and elevations that SSX allows you to achieve. Some of the leaps and plunges that occur during a race are just breathtaking.

First-generation games on any new console system get plenty of leeway so long as it opens up my gaming palette and demonstrates some eye-grabbing potential. This was the case with Ready 2 Rumble on the Dreamcast, which I gave a high rating for showing me a level of personality in videogames. Im giving SSX a similar nod because it elevated the term "thrilling" in videogames to all new heights. Rating: 8 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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