|Source // Wikipedia|
There are a few games on the 1001 list where I don't know a whole lot about them but are looking forward to finding out more. 720° is one such title, not because I'm a skateboarder (Heeeeelll no), but because I enjoy skateboarding games quite a bit.
My first was Tony Hawk's Skateboarding, and I'd imagine that was the first for many a gamer, but we're going back a full 13 years before that to see what the state of extreme sports video games were like.
Will I fall flat on my face at the simplest of tasks? Will it have a memorable soundtrack? Can I pull off a 720°?
I'm playing the NES port and I'm frankly amazed that 720° is an open world skateboarding game crammed into a NES cartridge. I don't know how much that says about how easily amazed I am or how little I know about the NES hardware, but it does say that 720° isn't just a skateboarding game. Even though it is.
You start off in a little hub world of sorts, Skate City, where you can skate off ramps and tear about the roads pulling off sick ollies. Most of the time. It is hard and I have not got the technique down at all, which is a problem for a game with a time limit that is enforced with the phrase 'Skate or Die', and a swarm of angry bees hunting you down.
I'm not joking. Don't land sideways is my advice.
Not content with giving you a pretty big playground to skate around in (as well as some funky music to listen to while you do so, though no Cyclone from the Dub Pistols), 720° has four mini skate parks in which you can compete for money and medals. It costs a ticket to enter each, which you can earn in the hub world by scoring points.
Parks are themed and include the likes of slaloms and half-pipes, and the more successful you are in the competition, the better equipment you can buy back in the hub world to increase your ability (higher jumps, faster recovery from falls etc), earning more points, unlocking more parks to earn more money - you can see where this is going.
720° is a bit repetitive. I'm tentative to say it feels like a grind, not because of the pun but because it doesn't give off that impression. Sure, you've got to work a little to get into a skate park but that's sort of the idea of it being an open world.
You need to complete each skate park to complete a difficulty class, and completing four classes will see you finish the game. The hub worlds change with the difficulty, so you're being rewarded in more ways than one for being a better player, but you're still skating around it to get to an event, then skating around it to the next event, again and again until you're done.
Like many skateboarding games, you may find yourself on a run of ridiculous bad luck, if not from falling over on every landing then from being run over by cars. Even in the 1980s that was a thing in skateboarding games. It's annoying regardless of the decade it can happen.
It must be said that after a while I started to get a little bored by it, but for a quick session 720° can be entertaining. Tricks are very limited, the frustrations may be plenty depending on your skill level, and the pressure of that time limit might make you dread ever firing the game up, but if all you're going to do is put ten minutes into it, it's worth doing so.
It probably won't turn many heads unless you're interested to begin with, but since playing it and writing about it here, my head is now stuffed with memories of other skateboarding games. The insane combos in the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, the stick waggling fun (and frustrations) of Skate. They're all coming back to the point where I simply must listen to Goldfinger's Superman much louder than I should.
So here I am, growing older all the time - looking older all the time - feeling younger in my mind. All thanks to an old NES port of an arcade game from the mid 1980s. Three cheers for video gaming.
Stick the ZX Spectrum cassette in to listen to the B side and you'll get to hear music from the arcade version.
720°, developed by Atari Games, first released in 1986.
Version played: NES, 1989, via emulation.