1080° was announced on November 21, 1997 and developed over nine months; it garnered critical acclaim and won an Interactive Achievement Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. 1080° sold over a million units, and a second installment, 1080° Avalanche, was released for the Nintendo GameCube on November 28, 2003.
In match race mode, the player competes in a series of races against AI-controlled snowboarders. The game times the player throughout the level and players receive a damage meter which fills if the snowboarder falls down or is knocked over. The difficulty level in match races can be set to easy, medium, or hard, adjusting the complexity and number of races. If the player fails at defeating an AI competitor, they must retire. The player is given three chances to beat the computer before the game is over.
Players may initially choose from five snowboarding characters: two from Japan, and one each from Canada, America, and the United Kingdom. Each snowboarder has different abilities and is suited for different levels and modes, since each has varying statistics in fields such as technique, speed, and weight. Three additional snowboarders are unlocked by completing certain game levels and modes. Eight snowboards are initially available for every character, and one additional snowboard may be unlocked later in the game. Each board also excels in different situations, since each have different strengths in categories such as balance and edge control.
1080° was programmed by Englishmen Giles Goddard and Colin Reed, developed and published by Nintendo, and produced by Shigeru Miyamoto. Goddard and Reed had previously programmed Wave Race 64, which sold over a million copies and was a huge commercial success. Its sequel, Wave Race: Blue Storm, would feature characters from 1080°.
When developing 1080°, Goddard and Reed used a technique called "skinning" to eliminate joints between the polygons composing the characters. Their programming used a combination of standard animation and inverse kinematics, creating characters whose appearance during collisions is affected what object is hit, what direction the collision occurs in, and the speed at which the collision takes place. Tommy Hilfiger outfits and Lamar snowboards appear throughout 1080° as product placement. 1080°'s soundtrack of "techno and rappy beats" with "thrashy, foozed-out vocals" was composed by Kenta Nagata, who also composed soundtracks for Mario Kart 64 and other Nintendo games.
1080°'s development took place from April or May 1997 to March 1998. The game was released on February 28, 1998 in Japan and on April 1, 1998 in North America. Nintendo delayed the game's European release because they hoped to boost sales with a winter release; 1080° was eventually released on November 30, 1998, in Europe and the PAL region.
Critics generally praised 1080°, which had an average score of 88/100 on Metacritic and 90% on Game Rankings. It won the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' 1999 Console Sports Game of the Year award and was called "one of the best values in both sports and racing gaming" by Gamespot. 1080° has been perceived to be a leader among snowboarding titles at the time since it was "so good...that it took publishing giant Electronic Arts several years and a far more powerful console to give it solid competition" in the form of the SSX franchise. Edge hailed it as the "most convincing videogame emulation of the snowboarding experience so far" with an "atmosphere of sobriety" unlike any other Nintendo game at the time.
The game's graphics were of the highest quality for the Nintendo 64 at the time. Critics praised general aspects of the game's graphics such as their crispness, detail, smoothness, and lack of polygon dropout. More specifically, critics praised the game's camera use, the game's "very solid" physics model, the impression of racers' speed, and the game's snow effects (sun reflected in the snow as appropriate, and fluffy snow and packed snow appeared and behaved differently). Graphical faults identified by critics included occasional pop-up, misplaced shadows, and lag when racers passed through on-track trees; these problems were generally identified as minor.
Although writing a positive review, Edge found faults in the game's AI; they asserted 1080° suffered from “cheating” CPU opponents. They criticized the AI's simplicity and ability to quickly catch up to the player near the end of a race; they also noted the AI's "limited series of predetermined routes" and the possibility of a player learning where and when an AI falls over, "offering an opportunity to pass [the computer], but conveying little satisfaction with it." Edge also stated that the PAL release delay "is frankly ludicrous." They believed that, due to Nintendo's slump of noteworthy releases, "any quality title is likely to top the charts with little difficulty."
Allgame considered the "highly technical" control scheme of 1080° one of the game's strengths despite its initial difficulty. CVG positively reviewed the control scheme, but disagreed on its difficulty, noting "the controls have been implemented so brilliantly that you're able to play perfectly well with just one hand on the stick and Z button." GameSpot called the game's control "thoroughly involving" and said that "[t]he crouch move alone - which makes for supertight turns - makes this fun to play." The music was also generally praised, with IGN calling it "a shining example of what can be achieved on the format" and Allgame calling it "one of the best N64 soundtracks to date." Gamebits, however, criticized the soundtrack as "minimal" and insufficient. 1080°'s sound effects were critically praised as "some perfect sound effects" and "nice as well."
In a retrospective review by the Official Nintendo Magazine in 2006, Steve Jarratt commented that 1080° "boasted the best videogame representation of snow," and was complimented by "swooshy" sound effects." Positive comments were also made about handling and the quality of the multiplayer, despite its age. In summary, Jarratt believed "this was a straight-up snowboarder, stunt-free but fast and fun."