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Nagano Winter Olympics '98

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Konami is well-known for its unofficial Summer Games series, Track & Field, so it tried to take a stab at the Winter Games with the officially licensed Nagano Winter Olympics '98. Unfortunately, not only because of the actual game design but because of the nature of the Winter Games, Nagano Winter Olympics '98 comes up quite a bit short, especially against the classic Track & Field games. Nagano Winter Olympics '98 features two different modes of play: Olympic and Championship. The Olympic mode lets you choose any of the 12 events to play individually while the Championship mode is a contest in which you must play through seven required events. Before going into these modes, you can select your country from a list of 16 and enter your name just in case you get a high score. The 12 events in Nagano Winter Olympics '98 are as follows: Snowboard Giant Slalom, Snowboard Halfpipe, Speed Skating - 500 Meters, Speed Skating - 1500 Meters, Ski Jumping - 90 Meters, Ski Jumping - 120 Meters, Alpine Skiing: Giant Slalom, Alpine Skiing: Downhill, Freestyle Skiing, Curling, Luge, and Bobsled. Sadly, the events in Nagano Winter Olympics '98 vary quite a bit in design, control, fun, and difficulty. For example, the Snowboard Halfpipe requires you to pick the stunts you want to do, and then the computer will flash the required sequence on the screen that you must enter before you land each time. I actually kind of liked this, though. Speed Skating, which is an event I really hate, requires you to alternate between the L and R buttons. But you can't go too fast during a 1500-meter race, or you'll run out of stamina. Ski Jumping is odd to figure out but fun once you do. Alpine Skiing, especially downhill, is entertaining because you can go really fast. Freestyle Skiing is kind of lame. Bobsled is one of the better events in the game. You're required to get as much speed as you can in the beginning by pressing A, while loading your guys into the sled at the correct time, and then you have to steer going fast down the course. Luge is similar to the Bobsled, except you must alternate the L and R buttons to get speed at the beginning, which is dumb. Finally, there's Curling. Before playing Nagano Winter Olympics '98 I had no idea what Curling was about. Let me say that it's awesome. In fact, I'm going to try to explain it a little for those who have no idea about it. There are two teams going head-to-head with each other. There are three people on each team. One person throws the "stone," of which you have four, and the two other people "brush" the ice right in front of its path to make it go faster. You do not have to brush the ice unless you want to, though. The object is to get as many stones as you can in the "house" (it basically looks like a bull's-eye). The two teams alternate throws. Once each team throws all of its stones, then the team with a stone closest to the red center dot gets one point. However, if one team doesn't have any stones in the house, then the other team can get bonus points if it has multiple stones in the house. There are four rounds of this. And the team that loses the round goes second in the next round because the team with the last stone has a decided advantage. So during your four throws, you have multiple decisions. You can get as close to the red center dot as you can, you can try to block the other person, or you can knock the other team's stone away. Therein lies the mind-boggling strategy of Curling. For example, if you have the very first throw, do you try to go to the center knowing full well that your opponent will try to knock it out of there, or do you try to set up a little block on the edge of the house so they might get a bad bounce? And, for example, on your third throw, do you just try to get the closest to the center, or do you try to knock your opponent's stone(s) out of there? All of that strategy is why I've grown to love the event. And, fortunately, the video game rendition appears to be very well done. The big problem with Nagano Winter Olympics '98, though, is the game design. Nearly all of the events are insanely difficult at first, especially if you're trying to get a record. And although the control is intuitive on some events, it's flat-out terrible on others. But quite possibly the game's biggest flaw is the lack of a multi-player mode. True, the nature of the Winter Games don't really permit simultaneous play, but it's sorely needed in a game like this. When it comes to graphics, Nagano Winter Olympics '98 scores pretty high marks. Some of the levels do look much better than the others, however. For example, Speed Skating looks very nice with its reflections and all, while some of the Skiing events look almost blocky and fuzzy, presumably to keep them running very fast. There are also some big pop-up problems on a few events. Animation in the game isn't all that detailed or comprehensive, but it does get the job done. Sound in the game, however, is quite impressive at times. The announcer sounds about how you think an announcer at the Olympics would sound, and the crowd noise really provides a sense of immersion on some events. I wouldn't classify Nagano Winter Olympics '98 as below average, but I wouldn't say it's really anything more than above average. Some of the events (Curling, Bobsled, Downhill Alpine Skiing) are great while others (Speed Skating, Freestyle Skiing, Ski Jumping) aren't so good. If the game's events were more balanced when it came to challenge and control, coupled with a multi-player mode, then Nagano Winter Olympics '98 might be in the same league as Track & Field. But as it stands, Nagano Winter Olympics '98 is a worthy attempt at the Winter Games that comes more than a few places short of a medal.

Graphics: 3.5 out of 5 Sound: 3.7 out of 5 Control: 2.9 out of 5 Gameplay: 3.3 out of 5 Lastability: 3.1 out of 5 Overall: 3.4 out of 5

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