There was once a time where if a game had a board in it, some sort of score multiplier, and an attitude it would sell well. Some exceptions naturally go to BMX, and there's something to be said about Jet Grind Radio, but extreme sports was for a long time a fairly popular genre. Perhaps it was due to the lack of mainstream media support that the genre faded away in the gaming industry (though we can also argue that market saturation didn't help either), but one way or another there hasn't been a good snowboarding game in a long time. Some would think that would be an advantage for the new iteration of SSX around the corner, but I can't help but wonder how many others out there are willing to shell out 60 dollars for some extremely niche nostalgia.
That's what it's really all about at the end of the day right? Remembering all those cool tracks from the previous SSX games, the unlockable boards and character costumes, and trying to beat a friend in a friendly local match. There really was a lot to love in those games, but for different reasons than most would expect. At the time gaming really hadn't pushed the boundaries of what defined realism, and like it or not these extreme sports titles were filling a role that today is largely dominated by titles like Uncharted. It's not that gamers ever grew tired of seeing exotic locations, they just simply grew tired of boarding down them.
SSX looks like it's trying to draw us all back in again with some new key features, like creating a wave when you land after a particularly sick jump, doing a trick off a helicopter, or looking rugged. It also features a pretty awesome soundtrack, something that has always been a staple of the series. But what else is there to lure me back to the genre? I'm extremely skeptical that doing a few tricks in rapid succession is going to be enough to appeal to a generation of gamers that has grown extremely used taking steps away from the arcade feel that early PS2 sports titles used to highlight, not to mention raising some concern that multiplayer offerings may be too slim to support the intriguing single player.
As it stands right now SSX looks to be a strange blend of everything that modern gaming has shifted to (realism, online passes, open world levels) while still holding onto some of the iconic characteristics of the franchise. I couldn't care less for said iconic bits. Does it matter if I play as Elise? Or Mac? Or how fantastic the snow will look coming off my board? Maybe I played the wrong game back then, but I remember some of the best parts of the SSX series featuring me grinding around levels like Pipedream, or speeding through the pinball inspired Tokyo Megaplex. Neither of them were very real, which may go against everything this new SSX is trying to accomplish, but what they were was fun and memorable. You couldn't really ask for anything more.
I'm afraid that somewhere between these NASA scan-assisted mountain ranges and Conan O'Brien announcements (Travis Rice will be playable) that the real fun behind SSX will be lost. After all, that was the real success behind the extreme sports games when they first launch. It was never about the snowboarding itself, but more about the magic of being someone else, going somewhere impossible and getting caught up in the thrill of doing something absolutely amazing. Kind of like any other video game.