Skydiving Extreme is the type of game that you see on the store shelf and wonder how they managed to make a game out of it. Skydiving is the sort of sport that wouldn't really translate well into a video game... you jump out of a plane, then you open your parachute and land, right?
Thankfully, this game went the exact opposite direction I was expecting from it. When you start the Tournament mode (the main arcade mode), you'll get to pick from several skydiving teams with exciting names like "Tien", "Iron Feather" and the ever-popular "Big Man". Each team is made up of four identical people. Then it's off to the battlefield where you compete with another team to see who is better!
Soon, you'll see your team leaping from an airplane and the round will start. Then you're presented with a series of d-pad and/or button presses that must be pressed within a certain time limit. If you manage to do it, you'll successfully make a formation and get ready for the next one. If you fail, you'll fall a little ways and have to start again from formation one. Once you successfully complete a full set (8 formations) you'll move up to the higher difficulty formations in your class. If you do consistently well through an entire stage, you'll move up to the next class for the next stage. And if you can manage to get to S class, you'll go against a secret team! Beat them and you can then use them the next time you play. There's also a two player mode, if you have a friend who's willing to play something a little outside the norm.
As you successfully perform formations, your attack meter will slowly fill - the faster you start and complete each formation, the faster it will fill up. When you have at least one full bar (there are a maximum of three), you can attack the other player, which speeds their rate of descent and forces them to do a more difficult series of button presses in order to keep formation. What's more, if they fail, they aren't off the hook - they continue to fall at the faster pace until they can successfully do a move to escape the attack.
The graphics in this game are quite good for Playstation - although it's kind of disappointing that each team seems to be made up of identical quadruplets. The stages look pretty cool and there are some neat background effects on some of the stages like fireworks and a thunder storm. The music is the sort of stuff you'd expect from a game like this, I suppose - synth pop stuff and guitars mostly. The sound effects in this game do their job, but they aren't at all remarkable. The announcer in the game sounds like the guy from Sega Bass Fishing - which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about him.
The one thing that always bothered me about Bust-a-Groove is that you basically had the exact same set of moves to perform throughout the entire game. Skydiving Extreme's "class" system eliminates that. If you've done well on one stage, you'll move up to the next class when you start the next stage, and each class has a whole new set of moves to do, more difficult than the last. This helps keep the game fresh the whole time you're playing. I also like the fact that the game has several unlockable characters and stages. It gives you an incentive to keep coming back for more.
Even though it plays almost exactly like Bust-a-Groove, it's still a solid game and worth owning.