Review: Snowboarding The Next Phase (Switch) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: Snowboarding The Next Phase (Switch)

by Danny Bivens

Let’s shred some powder.
I’ll be honest. When it comes to snowboarding games, I’m kind of a snob. For me, things just don’t get any better than the original 1080 Snowboarding on the Nintendo 64. The awesome physics, challenging gameplay and overall polish made it not only one of my favorite sports titles on the platform, but one of my favorite games of all time. Since that game, I just haven’t given any other snowboarding game a fair shake. Enter Snowboarding The Next Phase on the Switch. The developer, Sessions Games, is responsible for a number of mobile games including Red Bull Free Skiing, Red Bull Air Race and the precursor to The Next Phase, Snowboarding the Fourth Phase. Don’t let the mobile background scare you. The development team was founded by a group of guys who were responsible for the the original SSX trilogy, Skate and even have experience in the snowboarding and skating scenes. For me, now seemed like just as good of a time as any to give a game like this a chance.

Right off the bat, it’s important to know that The Next Phase isn’t a simulation title but rather an arcadey trick attack snowboarding game. The title features a Career mode, two play split screen Multiplayer, an Arcade mode and various options to customize your boarder and base camp. Arcade mode has players trying to complete missions to nab high scores and continue on to different courses. Missions challenge players to perform a certain amounts of tricks before reaching the finish line. For example, perform a 540 grab three times, or collect eight green geotags that are scattered throughout the level. In an odd twist, if you over perform a trick, you won’t clear the mission. This is the same for both Arcade and Career mode. Let’s say you were trying to go for the 540 grab, but accidentally turn it into a 720 - you won’t clear the mission. Without understanding this, missions can sometimes get a little annoying. Even going into courses with this understanding, it’s still likely to get on your nerves.
Back to the Arcade Mode, you have three chances in the form of tickets to clear one mission per run. If you fail to clear the missions three times, you’re done. This mode is fun and challenging, however, the inclusion of an online leaderboard system would have been a nice way to keep gamers coming back. Otherwise, you’re just competing with yourself.

Career mode offers numerous locations including the likes of British Columbia, Japan, Russia and more. Each of these locations contain three or more courses as well as hundreds of missions to clear for further unlocks. Missions are locked behind a medal system made up of bronze, silver and gold level challenges. There are three missions per course, per medal - there are nine missions per course with increasing difficulty depending on what medal level you’re tackling. Clearing missions nab you various boards, clothing and vehicles. The boards and clothing are all purely cosmetic however the vehicles play a role in enabling you to access certain courses. For example, if you don’t have a specific snowmobile, you won’t be able to get to X level. It sounds a little annoying, but I’ve honestly only ran into vehicle restrictions a couple of times. Even when I did, I just found where I could get the required vehicle, cleared the missions and pushed on.
There is a leveling system which introduces a point modifier. This determines the amount of points you get when landing tricks. If you get a perfect “stomp,” then you’ll get max points for the trick. Using this modifier, the game also suggests that you go into each course with a certain modifier level (or higher). It’s possible to tackle high level courses and missions with a lower than suggested modifier, but you’ll have a harder time getting past them. Overall, there is quite a lot to do here with courses, gear and a decent amount of vehicles to unlock. This is where you will be spending the majority of your time with The Next Phase.

Controls are pretty easy to get the hang of. You can tuck and jump with B, do grabs in air with A, change your grab style with L and perform spins and flips with the joystick. Pressing left on the d-pad will snap a photo and down will change the camera angle. Like mentioned above, landing tricks perfectly will net you more points which is important when trying to get high scores in the career mode. The game is pretty forgiving when it comes to sticking landings. As long as your board is facing the ground, you are pretty much guaranteed to stick your landing. While the controls work pretty well, there are some aspects of the gameplay that felt a little bit off. When entering tight areas on the course, you don’t always have direct control over your character. In areas like these, the game will guide your character to ensure that they don’t slam into obstacles in these tight areas. It's a little weird, but perhaps this is a way to prevent frustration in what would be pretty tricky areas.
The first thing to draw me in with The Next Phase were the graphics. The character models and courses all sport a cel shaded look. The levels are also all modeled after real world locations. Although the levels are a bit small and sometimes feel claustrophobic, they’re pretty convincing and varied. As you shred down a mountain, snow kicks up behind the boarder all while running at a super smooth framerate. Upon closer inspection, and I mean getting up close to places on the track and stopping, environments are kind of low-poly. However, given the fact that the majority of your time will be spent doing tricks and speeding down the mountains, this will probably go unnoticed by most. The music here is also well done, consisting mainly of hip hop/dubstep mixes that fit the game perfectly.

Snowboarding The Next Phase is a nice addition to the Nintendo Switch small library of sports titles. The game looks fantastic, is easy to control and was surprisingly enjoyable. Don’t let the teams’ background in mobile games or the fact that the game ISN’T 1080 Snowboarding scare you away. Sans a some gripes with the missions parameters and hand holding in tight spots, The Next Phase isn't without flaws, but it remains a super fun and affordable game that will help scratch that snowboarding itch that you’ve been waiting for on your Switch.

Final Score: 7.5

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