The History of SSX
If youve never played an SSX game youre likely wondering why everyone is losing their minds over this years snowboarding release. Its just a snowboarding game, right?
Wrong. SSX is more than that, as you can read about in our review, and theres a reason for the insane fandom. With a new game just released there's no better time to jump in to SSX, but before you do we've put together a timeline of the franchise, giving you some history before you hit the slopes for some fast, tricky action.
SSX wasn't the first snowboarding game. Before it was Cool Boarders, 1080, and Snowboard Kids, but while it wasn't the first, it completely reinvented the snowboarding genre when it released in 2000. The first title from the newly formed EA Sports BIG brand, assembled specifically for extreme versions of sports (like FIFA, NBA, and NFL Street), SSX was released to critical praise, being called one of the best PS2 launch titles and one of the best sports games of the year.
Problem is it apparently didnt sell all that well. While we can't find detailed sales numbers, reports are that it did alright, but nowhere near as well as EA had hoped, mainly because it was a PlayStation 2 launch title, which automatically limited the possible install-base. From then on, EA made sure the franchise hit more platforms, which helped grow the series in the future. It also hired Run D.M.C. for the sequel, which is totally a move we can get behind.
SSX Tricky (2001)
Only one year after the release of SSX came a sequel: SSX Tricky, which functioned more as remake more than sequel thanks to the reliance on remixed versions of old tracks instead of a full suite of new areas. That said, this version introduced the Tricky meter, changing the gameplay significantly. It also had one other thing that the last game didnt: Run D.M.C.s Its Tricky played almost non-stop from the beginning to the end of the game. Seriously, it was obnoxiously amazing, and helped set the games silly tone.
EA also hit multiple consoles this time, with Tricky landing near the launch of the Xbox and GameCube alongside the PlayStation 2. This helped it grow in popularity, and while it sold modestly compared to expectations, it still warranted a sequel while managing to get "It's Tricky" stuck in our heads for... well, going on 11 years, now.
SSX 3 (2003)
For as big and grandiose as SSX and SSX Tricky were, it wasnt until SSX 3 that the series really achieved amazing success. Running on a new graphical engine and featuring 2-8 player online play, the game garnered critical acclaim and expanded the fanbase tremendously. And for good reason SSX 3 was amazing. It gutted some of the more zany elements from SSX Tricky (including, *sniff*, Run D.M.C.s music), and replaced it with a slightly more serious tone and an abundance of awesome new mechanics. It also expanded the music roster and mainstreamed the idea of a narrator DJ and big licensed electronic soundtrack, something that games like Burnout would go on to expand upon.
SSX 3s tracks, for instance, were all on one giant mountain, giving players a chance to really feel like they were snowboarding on a massive, treacherous peak. Best of all, it managed to make all of these changes without sacrificing the big tricks that fans had become accustom to on the contrary, it actually added another category of uber tricks, making for more fun tricking down slopes.
SSX On Tour (2005)
On Tour didnt make the same splash that SSX 3 did when it released in 2005. The focus was shifted slightly away from the iconic characters towards character customization, as was sort of the trend kicking off in games circa 2005 (besides shoehorning rag-doll physics into everything). It also saw the removal of online multiplayer, which many saw as major step backwards.
Many also drew issue with the gameplay, which, too, felt unnecessarily removed from the core franchise. While it still had some over-the-top mechanics (and skis, which it went it out of its way to remind you), the game tried for a more sim feel than its arcade-inspired predecessors. This, mixed with a somewhat controversial new "sketch-book" art style, left many SSX fans out in the cold.
Oh, and it had some Mario characters in it, because it came out in 2005 on the GameCube and that's just what Nintendo made people do back then.
SSX Blur (2007)
Oh boy. So, remember a few years back when the Wii became ten times bigger than anyone expected, and developers felt the need to shove waggle into every corner of games even if they didn't need it? Introducing SSX Blur, the quintessential just add waggle! game of 2007.
Thats not to say that the game was bad, though SSX Blur actually had some cool mechanics, and we didnt hate drawing shapes on the screen with the Wii remote to execute uber tricks, its just that it didnt really feel necessary. After SSX On Tour left a bad taste in gamers mouths for diverging too much from the core formula, Blurs Wii-exclusivity did little to rekindle the fire in our hearts.
And here we go! The first real SSX in seven years has been released. Was it worth the wait? According to our review , the answer is a resounding "yes." Here's a quote:
While it doesn't top SSX 3 in terms of that game's vibrant sense of place, and is occasionally hampered by being hard for the wrong reasons, SSX is a vast, deep, beautiful and nuanced blend of showboating adrenalin and sharpened intelligent play. It's a demanding game, but its rewards are immense, providing a feeling you won't get anywhere else in gaming.
So, in other words, the SSX series is back, and as good as ever. But we're sure that this release isn't the last we'll see from the franchise...
The Future (20XX)
We have a feeling that the console SSX isn't the last we'll see of the snowboarding franchise. DLC is almost mandatory at this point, and we'll likely hear more about that in the near future.
But besides DLC for the console version, there are other platforms we'd like to see SSX land on. A few years ago EA announced that it would be bringing SSX to the iPhone. Then it got delayed. Then it got delayed again. And now, EA has officially confirmed that it's cancelled completely.
We'd be shocked if EA didn't revive its dead iOS game in the coming months, maybe showing it off at Apple's next press conference or releasing it alongside the iPad 3 (or holding off for the iPhone 5 next year). We're also sort of surprised that we haven't heard about a Vita or Wii U version of the new SSX game, since we genuinely expect both to be home to plenty of current-generation ports for the coming months.
After that? Who knows. Depending on the sales of SSX we might see this franchise becoming a star for EA, or, if it doesn't do well, it might be put back on the shelf for seven more years... Personally, we're hoping for more, since we really liked this last one, and it would be a waste to see one of the coolest franchises around die an untimely death.