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Avalanche rumbles into view

Dev team speaks out on 1080 sequel.

1080 Avalanche lead designer and director Vivek Melwani and the game's producer Shigeki Yamashiro have spoken in a recent interview about the trials and tribulations of bringing such an esteemed franchise to the GameCube, discussing the difficulties in retaining the feel of the previous game whilst also developing the concept in new ways, and also telling gamers why they think Avalanche stands out from the likes of SSX 3 and Amped 2.

Their number one goal was to retain the feel of the N64 title according to Melwani. "But really everything else could be changed," he says. "So we wanted to work on the interactive environment, we brought the game to a new level; we added a feeling of danger, we wanted the player to feel a little bit scared, because that risky side to snowboarding is what makes it so exciting; we wanted that rush, that sense of speed."

But despite sticking to the N64 blueprint, some changes have been made, particularly to the trick system. "We made the tricks easy to pull off," Melwani says, "easy for somebody to just pick up the controller, but we also wanted to add enough complexity so that the hardcore players would be able to get plenty out of the game, too" - a key aspiration for Nintendo because its celebrated snowboarding competition from SSX and Amped both already manage this to a certain degree.

Also like Amped, the team wants their game to stand up as snowboarding and not just a high-flying, pyrotechnic clash of branding and arcade gameplay. On the feel of the game compared to other snowboarding titles, Melwani simply says, "When you play the game, you really want to get out there and snowboard yourself." Yamashiro concurs. "We've taken a lot of time to get everything just so, whether that's the rumble effect, the visuals and the audio all working together to give you the impression that you really are going over 100 kilometres an hour down a mountain. So we've captured that sense of speed, I think, in a pretty impactful way." But Melwani is quick to rescue the game for SSX die-hards, pointing out "that's not to say in 1080 there aren't some crazy things that you can do that would never be possible in real-life." That's a relief!

Instead of aping the free-roaming, gimmick-driven turns of SSX 3 and even Amped 2, 1080 Avalanche should be more traditionally structured. "There's a lot of different modes that we have in the game, as well as the match racing mode there's modes such as the trick mode, which we've expanded, and the time challenge mode," says Melwani. One slight concession to the nature of the beast though was the first licensed music to make it into a Nintendo game, reportedly ever. "I think the licensed music gave a jolt to the game that was appropriate to the genre. It seemed that when we looked at what we were trying to do it was entirely appropriate to use licensed music."

But Melwani seems keen not to set a lazy precedent. "As for whether we'll use music on games in the future, we'll consider it on a game by game basis," he says. "It's good not to have to rely on external music, but if the game calls for it, of course we'll use it."

Finally then, we come to the titular avalanche. How will it compare to the rather ineffectual effort in SSX, which seems to play a bigger role in the game's TV advertising campaign than it does on the powdery slopes of Mount BIG. "When we put that in, we noticed the impact it had on the player straight away and we realised that any version of the game we were going to do had to feature the avalanche feature quite strongly."

We'll be given a chance to see the avalanche for ourselves later this month, with the game reportedly on track for a November 28th release date. You can read the full interview with Melwani and Yamashiro here.