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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Of All the Video Game Remakes, Why Not 'SSX?'

Arcade-style sports games had quite the following in the early and mid-2000s. From Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to the many iterations of FIFA and NFL titles, these games had lasting impact on players, with many continuing to play new games or seeing remakes or remasters of their favorites. One such series was SSX, the popular snowboarding game that was released just over 20 years ago.

SSX was the first title from EA Sports Big, a new-at-the-time addition to the EA developer umbrella. The game received critical acclaim across the board and received several awards, including 2001 Console Game of the Year from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences.

The franchise saw several sequels, and a full-on reboot of the series was released in 2012 to rather positive reviews (though fans seem to have had mixed reactions). But since then, there hasn’t been a ton of talk about SSX. Other popular games from the PlayStation 2 era have gotten remakes or remasters in recent years, such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, Dark Cloud, and several Grand Theft Auto games. But why not SSX?

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When speaking to fans of the series, it becomes pretty clear that there were certain key elements that attracted them to the game in the first place. Matt Paprocki, a freelance writer and game collector, shared what initially interested him: “Immediately? It felt new. Compared to Cool Boarders or 1080 Snowboarding, SSX used light, color, and sound in a way that showcased next-gen hardware. That, and its systems were completely divested from games that mimicked Tony Hawk. Super accessible design.”

And as any player might know, there’s a sense of nostalgia and love for games that can stick around for years after first being released. For Flora Eloise, cofounder of gaming website Epilogue Gaming, there’s definitely some nostalgia baked into SSX.

“Nostalgia? That's the name of the SSX game for me. I grew up in a low income household, where I was lucky to even get a game for my birthday or Christmas, so if games had some rough spots, they still embedded themselves deeply within my memory. SSX, however, is one of the rare games from that era that I'd defend as still holding up from a mechanical and design perspective. It's just as fun to play now as it was then, and I can say that both with nostalgia goggles on or off.”

SSX has a genuine foothold in the memories of players. Whether because of the colorful graphics or its focus on speedy gameplay, players still crack out the PlayStation 2 to revisit the title. Paprocki says that he returns to both the original SSX and its sequel, SSX Tricky, often. “The discs are loaded up somewhat regularly when time permits. I'll say this: If I'm booting up the PS2 or the Xbox, SSX is undoubtedly in the rotation, if not the reason I turned them on in the first place.”

So with fond memories tied to the game, what do players think of a hypothetical remake or remaster in the future? Across the board, fans seemed pretty in favor. Chris Alaimo, who runs the YouTube channel Classic Gaming Quarterly, said, “It's a real shame that we haven't seen a new entry in the SSX series in a long time. As my fondest memories are of playing the original game, I would love to see a remaster of it for modern consoles, but to be honest, any new entry in the series would likely be a day one purchase for me.”

With the love for SSX clear from fans even now, the topic of remakes and remasters bubbles to the surface especially when looking at other remasters of more-recent titles. Players seemed in agreement that a remake or remaster of SSX would be especially welcome. Eloise had this to say:

“I would love a faithful remake or remaster of any of the original SSX games, and I believe that an SSX trilogy remaster or remake collection—something akin to the diligent Mass Effect remasters, albeit with few more bits and bobs upgraded—would be an instant preorder for me. I still look back on the botched PS3 reboot of SSX, its strange asynchronous online system for multiplayer, and its less inspired level designs, with genuine disappointment. So unfortunately, that specter looms over any potential SSX news. If there's any chance of a remaster or remake of any of these SSX games, sans that PS3 reboot, I'd be chomping at the bit for a chance at high fidelity alpine nostalgia.”

Of course, it’s not that easy. A remake or remaster is a big undertaking with lots of moving parts. Teddy Philips, a game developer who created the game For the Culture—a remake of the popular Heads Up mobile game—says that before he starts a remake process, he will play a game himself several times over to be able to place himself in the mindset of a player. This allows him to evaluate the gameplay and see which key features make a game unique from a player’s perspective.

Philips says, “Remaking allows you to leverage the structure of the existing gaming engine with refreshed content and the latest technology to improve upon the existing platform.” This blending of new and old elements that occurs during the remake process allows for a new take on a well-loved game to come about.

There are a number of players who would welcome a new take on the original SSX, including Alaimo. “The game is very nostalgic for me. As I said, I picked it up on launch day, so the game is tied into my memories of that day and that all happened right as I was getting ready to move away from my hometown and go to university. The game was fun to play solo, but I also have great memories of playing the game in its two-player split-screen mode with my friend Josh, who generally wasn't a gamer.”

And while we couldn’t get ahold of anyone who worked on the development of the original SSX, there’s certainly no lack of enthusiasm for the game as a whole. Should a studio that wants to take on the task of a remake or remaster ever decide to take a listen to fans that are eager to see one created, they’d certainly have a fantastic idea of where to get started and what could make for a successful return to the high-altitude mountains players have come to know.

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