Slalom (video game)
|Producer(s)||Tim and Chris Stamper|
Slalom is a skiing video game made by UK-based video game company Rare. It was first released by Nintendo for the Nintendo Vs. System in 1986. It was then released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in North America in August 1987 and in Europe on October 15, 1987. In Slalom, a player races downhill in a series of slalom runs, and the object of each run is to navigate past flags and obstacles before time expires. The game was developed by Tim and Chris Stamper, featuring the debut soundtrack of young David Wise. Slalom is notable for being Rare's first NES and video game console title, their first game developed under the Rare label, and for being the first NES game developed outside Japan. It received some coverage upon its release from Nintendo Fun Club News, which featured a basic description and tips. Later retrospectives would say that, even though the game did not make any large impact, it received some praise for its simplicity and enjoyability. It should also be noted that Slalom was the last "black box" NES game released in North America, in August 1987.
Slalom is a single-player game in which the player races downhill in a series of slalom races. There are 24 downhill runs total that are evenly spread across three mountains: Snowy Hill, Steep Peak, and Mount Nasty. Before the game starts, players get to choose which mountain they wish to race down; Snowy Hill is for beginners, Steep Peak is for intermediate players, and Mount Nasty is for experts. The goal for each run is to race downhill to the finish line within the time allowed. Each run has a series of obstacles that players must avoid, such as trees, snowmen, sledders, and other skiers; hitting any of these obstacles will cause the racer to tumble and possibly fall, losing time. Each run also requires players to navigate through flags in order to maintain their speed. If players ski on the correct side of the flag as its arrow indicates, the racer will continue to ski at its current speed, but if they ski on the wrong side of the flag opposite of what the arrow indicates, the racer will snowplow and slow down, and hitting the flag will cause the racer to tumble and lose time.
Also located on the runs are moguls (bumps) that, when hit, causes the racer to go airborne and then slow down slightly when landing. While airborne, players can perform freestyle tricks and earn bonus points; however, if the player fails to properly perform a trick, the racer may tumble and fall, losing time. At the end of each run, points are calculated based on the amount of time remaining on the run and any points scored from completing freestyle tricks. In qualifying runs, points earned transition to additional seconds of skiing while competing in solo runs. Each of the 24 runs have saveable high scores that disappear when the system is turned off.
Development and reception
Slalom was developed by UK-based video game company Rare by Tim and Chris Stamper. It was originally released in 1986 in the arcades as part of the Nintendo Vs. System and was titled Vs. Slalom. The arcade version featured an upright cabinet, a joystick, one jump button, monoural sound, and standard raster graphics. There was also an optional controller upgrade that featured two ski poles along with shortened skis that the player could stand on and use to control the skier onscreen.  The game was released by Nintendo in North America in August 1987 and in Europe on October 15, 1987. This was not only Rare's first title released for the NES as well as any video game console, but it was also Rare's very first video game developed.
The game's music was composed by Rare's video game composer David Wise, his first composing job for an NES game. In a December 2010 interview, Wise said that he found the work on the NES sound boards for Slalom to be challenging, saying that he had to code the HEX values for the notes by hand and convert them into subroutines on his computer. Looking back at his first projects, he commented: "It sounded more like a door-bell to me at the time, but people are still making remixes of those tunes. Very humbling."
Slalom received preview coverage in early 1987 in the first issue of Nintendo Fun Club News – the predecessor to the company's house organ Nintendo Power – citing the arcade conversion to the NES. It was featured in the following Summer 1987 issue, where it gave a brief overview and basic tips on the game.
Years later, UK-based magazine Retro Gamer looked back on the game, as it was Rare's first NES title. In January 2006, the magazine said that the release of Slalom "was hardly an auspicious occasion, greeted with trumpet fanfares and buxom maidens riding on golden swans". In December 2010, as part of Rare's 25th anniversary, editor Stuart Hunt said that the game is "fun but quite simplistic", noting the variety of courses and races. He said: "It showed even then how talented the studio was in getting the most out of the NES."
Allgame editor Brett Alan Weiss was highly critical of the game, describing it as a rushed game that offers little in the way of fun. The Video Game Critic criticized the game's controls, describing them as "squirrely" and lacking precision. He awarded the game an "average" score of C.
- Slalom back cover. Nintendo. 1986.
- Instruction Manual, p. 4.
- Instruction Manual, p. 5.
- Instruction Manual, p. 6.
- Instruction Manual, p. 7.
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