Slalom (video game)
|Release date(s)||VS. System
Slalom is a skiing video game in which the player races in a series of downhill slalom runs while navigating past flags and obstacles before time expires. It was developed by Rare and 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 March 1987 and in Europe later that year. The game was developed by Tim and Chris Stamper and its music was composed by David Wise.
Slalom was the first NES game developed outside Japan and the Stamper brothers' first game released under the Rare brand. Reviews from the 1980s found Slalom unrealistic, but largely appreciated its graphics and animations. In contrast, AllGame's retrospective review called the game poorly made and rushed. Slalom was released in Rare's 2015 Rare Replay compilation for Xbox One.
Slalom is a single-player game in which players race downhill in a series of slalom races. There are 24 downhill runs total that are evenly spread across three mountains. Before the game starts, players choose their mountain based on difficulty: Snowy Hill for beginners, Steep Peak for intermediate players, and Mount Nasty for experts. The goal for each run is to reach the finish line within the allotted time. Players must dodge obstacles including trees, flags, snowmen, sledders, and other skiers on their way downhill, or else they will tumble and lose time. With enough momentum, players can jump over these obstacles. Players must ski around flags to maintain their speed. If they ski on the wrong side of the flag, the racer will snowplow and slow down.
Also located on the runs are moguls (bumps) that, when hit, causes the racer to go airborne and slow down slightly when landing. While airborne, players can perform freestyle tricks and earn bonus points. However, if the player botches the trick, the racer may tumble and fall, losing time. At the end of each run, final scores are calculated based on the amount of time remaining on the run and points scored from completing freestyle tricks. If the player earns enough points, they may race the next level "solo" (without other skiers onscreen). The points earned in qualifying runs convert to additional seconds on the solo run timer. The high scores on each of the runs are saved in memory until the console is powered off.
Slalom was developed by British video game company Rare by Tim and Chris Stamper. Rare had been looking to develop games for consoles in the wake of rampant computer game piracy in the United Kingdom. They chose the NES for its nascent popularity, though the console had no Western developers, and asked Nintendo for a license. When Nintendo declined, they reverse engineered the console and made a demo, Slalom to show the company. Nintendo was astonished at their effort, and made Rare its first Western developer, beginning a long and close collaboration between Rare and Nintendo of America founder and president Minoru Arakawa.
Slalom was originally released in 1986 in the arcades as part of the Nintendo VS. System and was titled Vs. Slalom. This release featured an upright cabinet, a joystick, one jump button, monaural sound, and standard raster graphics. There was also an optional controller upgrade that featured two physical ski poles and shortened skis that the player could stand on and use to control the skier onscreen. The NES version was released by Nintendo in North America in March 1987 and in Europe on October 15, 1987. Slalom was Rare's first video game developed as a new company. It was also the Stamper brothers' first video game console release.
The game's music was composed by Rare's video game composer David Wise, his first NES composing job. In a December 2010 interview, Wise said that he found the NES sound board work challenging. He had to first code the HEX values for each note by hand before converting them into subroutines with a computer. Wise recalled thinking that his first NES projects sounded like doorbells. He was humbled that others continue to remix his tracks.
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 with a brief overview and expert tips. French magazine Tilt appreciated the game's graphics and sound, but thought its animation did not fare as well. On the other hand, German magazine Aktueller Software Markt highly commended Slalom's animations (particularly its use of scrolling and perspective) and thought its sounds were mediocre. The magazine found the game fun, though unrealistic. Power Play and Gen4 similarly praised the animations. Though Gen 4 found the game unrealistic, they appreciated its depiction of speed and the gradual difficulty progression. Power Play liked the level and obstacle graphics. Gen 4 considered the graphics average for Nintendo, and disagreed internally as to whether the game was sufficiently fantastical. Power Play thought the game needed more variety and quickly became monotonous.
AllGame editor Brett Alan Weiss's retrospective review was critical as he called Slalom "a rush job" that did not capture the spirit of skiing. He felt that the game was repetitive, too simple, and not fun for adults. Weiss described the graphics as blocky and insipid, the sound as repetitive and derivative. He said that even though it was an early release in the console's lifespan, Slalom was on par with the 1979 Intellivision's capabilities. He recommended Antarctic Adventure for the ColecoVision in its stead. UK-based magazine Retro Gamer wrote that the game received little fanfare. The magazine's Stuart Hunt wrote in December 2010, on Rare's 25th anniversary, that the game was "fun but quite simplistic" in its lack of race variety. He said, though, that the game showcased how the company could maximize the system resources of the NES. Slalom was included in Rare Replay, a compilation of 30 Rare titles, released on the Xbox One on August 4, 2015.
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