Stalagmite's Skate or Die Review
Great concept for the time, nice looking graphics, catchy soundtrack
Frustrating to play at first and it might bore you after a long while due to repetition
Created in 1987 by EA (Electronic Arts) for the arcades and ported to the NES in the same year by Konami and Ultra, Skate And Die is a game where you skate either 1 of 2 downhill courses or 1 of 2 different half pipes. Proving to be an excellent arcade game, Konami thought it'd be cool if they ported the game to the NES, they'd appear more versatile in style. Well, they managed that, and they managed to keep it true to the arcade.
There are five different modes of play; freestyle, high jump, downhill jam, downhill race and joust. There is also the option to do all of them at once, though that's if you sign up at the start up screen. The start up screen is actually the skate shop with some middle-aged ex-marine with a blue mohawk, with a sign up sheet and a couple of text choices like practice and compete. Sign up on the sheet by entering your name, then you can compete. You can practice without signing up as well, though it's better to sign up and compete, as the point of the game is to better yourself.
So anyway, what are the different modes? Well, freestyle has you on a half pipe and what you have to do are tricks which give you points. Depending on how many degrees you spin in the air or how long you hold your handstand on the end of the pipe, you get points. Obviously, more spin and longer holds give you more points. To actually build up some speed, mash A. To actually do the tricks, use combinations of A or B and the d-pad. Simple enough. Now, of course, if you land on the front or back of the board, you stay on, but if you land on the side, you'll fall and not get any points. If you go too far towards or away from the half pipe, you'll fall. You get 10 attempts at points, and at the end, your score gets calculated. Fair call. The main problem is actually getting these tricks to work. Most of the time, you'll fall flat on your face, so getting the right angles and such is required.
High jump is basically the same, only you work on getting as high as possible and you only have 5 attempts. The control scheme changes to having to mash up as opposed to mashing A to get speed, and trust me, you're going to need a lot of speed. The disappointing thing is that the game doesn't record your highest; it records your latest. Why does that suck, you'd normally get your best there? Well, how about if that theory actually gets proved wrong!? It gets proved wrong often as you fall flat on your face if you don't land straight with the board, and the last one may yet be your worst! SHOCK HORROR! This is my least favorite by far.
Downhill jam is basically you against a punk named Lester and you have to race him. Along the way, you'll have to avoid walls, mesh, puddles and other obstacles. Lester will occasionally punch you to slow you down. Winning is a matter of not only being as quick as you can, but also avoiding as many obstacles as you can, which will be indicated by your score. To get more bang for your buck, there are some ramps which you can do tricks off, though the timing is somewhat off, as when I got to jump, I bugger up, and it happens a fair amount, which becomes a problem. The control scheme itself differs depending on whether you select regular or goofy. Regular has down for speed up, left for left and right for right, and goofy reverses that. Either way, you jump or punch with A.
Downhill race is the same thing, only it's just you, and the responses for the turning are slightly delayed. There are times where you're required to make some sharp turns, but as you're going fast, you'll bugger up. The goal is to make as little mistakes as possible yet finish as fast as possible. You know, there's something wrong here...shouldn't this be downhill jam? I mean, this feels more like a jam, while what's being called downhill jam is more of a race, and should be called downhill race...could it just be a typo on Konami's part? Who knows...
The final event is jousting. When you first play this mode, it will be your biggest nightmare as you have to avoid the opponent when they have the joust, then when it's your turn, you have to line it up perfectly to hit the opponent. The controls are basically like freestyle's, only you don't fall flat on your face; you just get winded pretty badly by a joust. Oh...whoever gets hit 3 times first, loses. Also, to gain control of the joust, you have to catch air 5 times without getting hit, and the same goes for your opponent. There are also 3 different opponents you can face; an easy one, a medium one and Lester, the hard one. That basically explains itself. Of course, once you get the hang of it, it might actually end up being your favorite event. This is easily the best event in the game, that's for sure.
That's really all I can say about how it controls and plays. Now for the audio/visual aspect. The visuals are very simple yet they look very good. I guess for 1987, these were very detailed visuals in gaming, though they don't look as detailed; more simplistic. But that's what I love about the visuals. Also, the animations seem to flow quite well. There's no stiff, huge jumps in the visuals; they actually look like they're jumping and gaining speed on the board! As for the audio of the game, the sound effects are typical 8-bit affair and suit the game well, so I can't quite pick on that. The soundtrack is intense...well, as intense at it could possibly be in 8-bit. It keeps you on your toes, making you concentrate on the task at hand and feeling...extreme! Extreme...and 8-bit!? Who would've known that would've gone together quite well...oh...and it's catchy.
So basically, Skate Or Die is the sort of game that appeals if you're down with retro games and their limitations. If you're unable to adjust, you will not enjoy this game one single bit, and should stick with more modern games such as the Tony Hawk series. If you're adjustable, you may want to give this game a shot.
Gameplay - 7/10 - You get to perform tricks, and hit people with a giant cue tip! How is that not fun? Well, it might bore you after some time.
Graphics - 5/5 - The animation flows very well and the appearance of everything looks quite pleasing.
Sound - 5/5 - Catchy soundtrack and pretty cool sound effects (typical of Konami and Ultra).
Controls - 3/5 - Quite frustrating to grasp at first, but after a long while of getting used to the controls, you'll grow to like them.
Overall - 3.6/5.0 - Although the game seems frustrating at first, it's still fun to play, if for an hour as it gets tiring. Hosts great audio/visuals.