720° Review





Developer: Tengen Publisher: Mindscape
Release Date: 1989 Also On: None

I’ve decided to mix this site up since I’ve been on as Master System reviewer for quite some time. Now I need to even out the score a bit, so let’s start it off for the NES with the numbers. During the time this title was released I was really into skateboarding, even though I could never really do much of anything and my brother and I ended up just sitting on the boards and going down the hill hitting each
other off onto the asphalt. The sport had a different feel to it then, with
words like “gnarly” and such attached to it and moves to pull off like
“boneless.” Pretty sure they don’t use these words anymore and it’s become
such an industry now there’s nothing to compare it to the early days when it
was just picking up. There were a few skateboarding games released for the
NES back in the day, some in combination with other games, and others just
stand alone. 720° is an earlier title, released around the same time as
Skate or Die, the skating game that normally stands out for anyone who
remembers the NES. It was actually based on an arcade game by Atari a few
years prior to its debut for Nintendo fans, and mimics the gameplay fairly
well. It’s not perfect, unfortunately, and nearly reaches the position of
simply being terrible.

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Graphically, I have to say Tengen could have done a bit more with the
programming. Skate or Die had plenty of detail and a good usage of the NES’
color capabilities. 720° jumps at you with a mediocre, crummy looking title
screen and then jumps right in to the game proper. Your skater is animated
well, though he looks a little too childish, and the skate park itself is
nicely organized with a decent amount of variety and things to look at. Some
of the obstacles/enemies look odd, but they fit the “cartoony” style of your
character, so I guess they’re somewhat permissible. Different than the
arcade, but I suppose they follow the theme throughout. Still, the color
scheme on most enemies is pretty bland.

For the events the backgrounds tend
to be pale blue to represent water, which you wouldn’t realize until you
fell in. Otherwise it looks almost incomplete, but this is surprisingly
close to the arcade, in fact. The ramps you descend upon on certain levels are
fairly well designed, no real problems there. One of the events is the half
pipe, here called the “ramp,” and the graphics are a bit strange. The half
pipe is basically just there in the middle of what almost looks like an
earthquake fallout. Crumbled brick walls, pipes, indiscriminately placed
green areas I suppose are grass and broken windows, all arranged in an MC
Escher kind-of-way. I’m not sure how else to explain it, it looks strange. I
suppose the background isn’t important since this is not where the main
action is, but the organization could have been better. Overall, the
graphics are decent, but there was plenty of room for improvement. Some
great ports of arcade titles were made for the NES, such as Toobin, but here
Tengen doesn’t seem to have done their job. What job would this be? To
make a great looking game instead of pulling a cheap one.

720° is not too strong in the sound department either. The opening thing,
nothing else to call it, at the title screen is pretty much awful. They try
to use some very basic, bland sounds in such a way that it seems as though
they’re forcing this “extreme” theme out of it. The main theme for the skate park as you move about is a little too cheery, very
reminiscent of “Paperboy,” which is no surprise since the same people
designed it. I’m not sure what the arcade music was like. If it’s the same,
I suppose they ported it well, but still, it just doesn’t make me ready to
skate. I think I’d rather have a picnic listening to it alone. The only
interesting theme I found that created a nice mood was the one you hear when
you look at the skate park map.

For the events themselves, they actually
reuse the title theme for two, which is lame, and then throw in another
that’s more upbeat. It fits the concept better and is probably the best
programmed song in the entire game, but it does have this odd “space alien”
sound to it near the end and at the beginning. It’s very strange. Sets it
apart from the action in a way, but I did find it a decent fit. Sound
effects tend to be very bland and almost nonexistent. The “crash” sound when
you fall is simply awful, it sounds like someone striking a piece of sheet
metal with a hammer and then they simply adjust this sound a bit for when
you fall in the water. Could have done more with the effects, I was pretty
disappointed with them. Plus, they use the same odd crash sound for
everything that strikes you including frisbees and bee swarms. What? I never
knew a swarm of bees sounded like Kraftwerk until I played 720°.

The gameplay is interesting in construction, but does not play out very
well. Basically, you move your happy skateboarding lad around a skate park,
referring to the maps if you’re lost, and you have to compete in four events
for each level to pass to the next. The four events are the jump, the ramp,
slalom and the downhill. In addition to these are four skateboarding
equipment stands where you can purchase one of four items which will
increase you character’s responsiveness and maneuvers. They are boards,
pads, shoes and helmets. You purchase these by scoring high on the events
and getting money for your efforts.

Sounds good enough right? Well, the controls are pretty responsive, I’ll
give it that, though at times you seem to misjudge where exactly you are
during certain parts because they use this quasi-three-dimensional
organization where everything is kind of at an angle. During some of the
ramp events, you can tend to mistake where you’re going to land. It’s easy
to get the hang of however. Still, the main problem is though 720° starts
out strong, it ends weak. The jump consists of you moving your character
down a set of ramps and making a jump when you get to the parts that are
sectioned off from the lower one. Do some spins, get some points and then
get a higher score. The ramp is just a half pipe where you can do different
tricks to score points. The slalom is like the downhill minus the breaks in
the course and, obviously, you have to go through flags to get a high score.

On the downhill you just move down a ramp to the finish line, falling and
landing correctly from each section break to score points. Later in the
game, in order to get into these events, you have to score points in the
main part of the skate park to get tickets. Without the tickets you cannot
enter the events. The best and only way to do this is through spins, thus
why this game is called 720°. You can do a 180, 360, and so forth, more
points given for more spins. With ramps around and such you can get some
pretty decent height and a ton of spins once you get the controls down.
Some additional moves would have been nice, but I guess they stuck with the
theme till the end.

So where’s the problem? Well, first off, you don’t have to get a bronze,
silver or gold medal to pass each “class,” of which there are four total.
You simply do what you can and if you make it you make it. After dying
three times the game is over, which can only happen if the bees get to you
in the skate park, but you can continue infinitely and start right back
where you were minus your score (oh no, please don’t take that away from
me), so it doesn’t matter how much you screw up, leaving no room to want to
improve.

In addition, there is hardly any difference between the class
other than some graphical color swapping and a few adding flags here and
there or an extra part of the ramp on the downhill. That’s it, and it’s
really disappointing. I was thinking each event would get a bit harder or
would throw something else at you but they don’t. It’s the same game for
each class and even when you complete the fourth one, regardless if you
score perfectly or not, it just stays there and keeps repeating. I’m not
sure what happens in the arcade version but I assume there was originally
some type of ending. With no ending in sight and an endless experience
ahead of you, you’ll eventually wonder why you’re playing in the first
place. Great concept, poor organization, that’s all you can say in this
category.

I will give this game a pretty high score for creativity. Though it is an
arcade port and I tend to despise ones that strip too much down while trying
to stay the same, this was a pretty interesting game for its time and a
definite precursor to games like the Tony Hawk series. Don’t take that as a
reason to purchase an NES and play it, I’m just saying you can see some
early features of later titles here. The skate park idea is pretty cool and
I like the point gathering feature in order to access the events. 720°
isn’t too shabby in its creative features, I just wish they organized it all
a better.

I do play this game now and then, but really only for nostalgia. The lack
of a two-player feature really makes it lame to play with friends since you
have no way of competing and aside from escaping into my childhood I can’t
see any reason other players may want to come back to this after finding
that Class Four never ends and it doesn’t matter how well you do in any of
the events. The length would have been good had the levels been more
difficult, but as it stands it’s not very long. You can completely screw up
all of the events and it would take you approximately twenty minutes to go
through everything. Technically, since Class Four is endless, I guess I
should score high here. I mean, if a game goes on into infinite, who’s to
judge it doesn’t have an enormous amount of length? If only, but for now
poor 720° gets yet another low score.

In conclusion, I’d have to say there really isn’t a reason to own this game. If you’re an NES fan and happen to be looking for another skateboarding
title, give this a go I suppose. Or, if you have fond memories and want to
relive them a bit, go ahead. However, if you’re actually looking for a
well-designed skateboarding title that’s strong throughout, stay away from
720°, you’ll just end up disappointed. I must admit, I was quite
disappointed. I never played it too much when I was younger because I
didn’t actually own it. I always assumed there was a lot to be had in the
later classes and when I actually found out for myself I just wanted to cry
and curl up in a ball, howling occasionally. Why most so many of my fond
memories be crushed? Why? I guess it’s my curse for actually playing these
games thoroughly.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 3.5
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 2
Final: 4.8
Written by Stan Review Guide

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