Snowboard Kids 2
  • Genre:
    • Racing
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • Racdym
  • Publisher:
    • Atlus
  • Released:
    • JP 02/19/1999
    • US 03/02/1999
Score: 85%

This review was published on 04/08/2016.

Snowboard Kids 2 is a 3-D snowboarding video game published by Atlus and developed by Racdym for the Nintendo 64. It was originally released in Japan on February 19, 1999, North America on March 2, 1999, and Australia on April 30, 1999. As can be seen by the 2 in the title, this is the sequel to the first Snowboard Kids, which was also released for the N64 about a year prior. Strangely, Snowboard Kids 2 never came out in Europe, even though the first one did. Of the two games, Snowboard Kids 2 is the better known one, and for good reason: it's substantially better. The first game was good, but this one improves upon everything from the previous entry and also adds a lot more content. In fact, this may very well be one of the best snowboarding games of all time. It wouldn't be wrong to say that this is the Mario Kart of snowboarding.

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Controlling Snowboard Kids 2 is even simpler than Mario Kart. Much of that has to do with the fact that you spend most of the game snowboarding down hills, meaning you don't have to worry about an accelerate or brake button. This places the emphasis completely on turning, which you do with the analog stick. Pulling back on the analog stick a bit while turning will make you do an extra sharp turn. If you get hit by something and fall down, you can do a few short hops to get yourself going again. You can learn all this information in the game's training mode, though the sheer simplicity of everything hardly makes that a necessity. The controls are even more polished here than in the last game, further adding to their intuitiveness. Of course, there's much more to the game's mechanics than pushing the analog stick to steer your character around.

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Tricks are a core part of the Snowboard Kids experience. Normally, holding down the A button makes you crouch, and releasing it causes you to jump. However, if you let go of the A button whilst holding down a direction on the analog stick, you'll do a majestic flip in the air. This is known as a trick. You can also supplement your tricks with board grabs, which are performed via the C buttons. In the previous game, you could only do a single trick at a time, but in Snowboard Kids 2, you can combo a string of tricks by rapidly tapping the A button while in the air. You do have to be careful, however, as you'll fall flat on your face if you do a trick too close to the ground. Primarily, tricks exist to earn you cash, and you need money for various things in the game. It's just like real life.

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During a race, you can use money to get items from red and blue boxes that are littered across every course. The color of the box determines what kind of item you get, with red giving you offensive items and blue granting defensive ones. Offensive items include stuff like tornadoes that blow opponents away, snowballs that transform opposing racers to snowmen, and gloves that slap people silly. On the other hand, defensive items are things like rockets that attach to your board to greatly boost speed, wings that let you briefly float in the air, and temporary invisibility. Most of the same items from the previous game make a comeback here, but a couple of new ones were added to the mix. Due to items costing money, you have to repeatedly do tricks to ensure that you get a continuous supply of items all throughout the race. This adds a certain degree of strategy to the game without slowing down the pacing, as items can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

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You begin the game with six playable characters, which is one more than the starting cast of the first Snowboard Kids. The five original characters from the previous game return to reprise their roles in Snowboard Kids 2: Slash, Jam, Nancy, Linda, and Tommy. New to the main cast is Wendy Lane, who's a little scientist girl. Later, you'll unlock a few other new characters, such as Damien the demon, a snowboarding penguin, and an anthropomorphic dog known simply as Mr. Dog. Besides their differences in looks and sounds, each character has different statistical attributes that govern their snowboarding skills, like speed, jump, and turn. Something you couldn't do in the last game is dress the characters up in different outfits. This is purely cosmetic, but it's cute. There are enough characters available this time around to provide players with lots of choices. Choice is good.

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Unlike the previous game, Snowboard Kids 2 actually has a proper story mode. The story is set in Snow Town, the home of the titular Snowboard Kids, and revolves around the evil antics of a demon from the underworld named Damien. Story mode is essentially a series of races, each of which are separated by short, comical scenes involving the Snowboard Kids and Damien. A cute detail is how characters wear different clothing depending on the theme of the current racecourse. In addition to the main races, there are a couple of other snowboarding events present in story mode, like a trick competition and a newspaper delivery game. You get stars for completing races and events, which is how you keep track of your progress. In between races, you'll be able to walk around Snow Town, which acts as the central hub to all of the game's other menu functions, such as the board shop and character select. All in all, story mode is pretty cool.

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Every race takes place on a course, of course! Despite the game's title, there are countless courses that don't contain any snow, so there's a nice amount of variety to the themes. For instance, there's a tropical island, a prehistoric jungle, a haunted mansion, the interior of a giant house, and even a port in outer space. Chairlifts will bring you back to the top of the course every time you do a lap, and each one is specifically tailored to the course's theme, like how the island stage has turtles instead of actual lifts. The colorful graphics and wonderful music make racing through these courses a delight. They're all designed decently, too, having different environmental hazards and alternate paths. You can grind off rails with your board to access some shortcuts, which is neat. There are far more courses in this game than the first one, and they're far better designed. On top of being playable in the story mode, you can also play all these courses in the multiplayer with up to four humans. Set a course for fun with the courses in Snowboard Kids 2.

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Similar to Diddy Kong Racing, this game has bosses in it. Every so often in the story mode, you'll be forced to face off against a gargantuan boss. The way boss battles work is that you have to chase after the boss on your board, shooting it with offensive items you find on the course, like bombs. Most bosses have a life meter that displays at the bottom of the screen and you need to fully deplete it to attain victory. Bosses will also sometimes attack you with their own offensive items, but this is merely to slow you down, as you can't die. However, if the boss reaches the end of the course before you defeat it, then you lose. There is a single boss that's an exception to these rules, in that you do a one-on-one race against it instead of having a fight, though you must still rely on items to get ahead, as it's much faster than you. These are the hardest sections of the game by far, and they can be infuriating. Don't be surprised if you spend hours stuck on a single boss.

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Claiming victory during races will earn you copious amounts of cash. What do you do with all that money? Why, go shopping, of course! Snowboards are the main items of interest at the shop. Every board has different stats that will combine with a character's innate stats to drastically alter their performance during races. Of the regular boards, there are three primary categories; one that has balanced stats, one that specializes in doing tricks, and one that focuses on speed. Far more interesting than those are the special boards, however. These are unlocked via a myriad of ways and exhibit special effects, like a board that gives its user permanent invisibility, or an incredibly awesome board that has a built in rocket! You can also paint your boards for a fee. There are far more boards in this game than the last one, which grants the game a good deal of customization.

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The ultimate in virtual snowboarding entertainment can be found within Snowboard Kids 2. Decent graphics, spectacular music, tight controls, deep mechanics, and there are tons of cool courses available. Aside from the insanely frustrating boss battles, Snowboard Kids 2 does no wrong. Unless you hate fun, you should totally play this game.

Word Count: 1,527

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