"Who Will Be Number One In The World?"
So says the announcer at the beginning of every event. Yes, its the
1998 Winter Olympics and Konami intends with this title to take the
gamer directly to all the action in Nagano, Japan. Nearly every event
is represented, from speed skating to curling, and the player is allowed
to represent most of the major participating nations.
Essentially, this is a very ambitious game, and you have to respect the
designers for this fact. The goal seems to be a total recreation of the
Olympic experience, with 13 separate events in which to compete. The nice thing about this is simply
the sheer depth involved. Even if you hate the Luge and like everything
else, this game is still for you. If you are not interested in any of
the other events, and just want a good session of electronic downhill
skiing, you will still be satisfied with Nagano '98.
Probably the most significant asset of this game is the realism. The
athletes are bit-mapped polygons, which gives them very realistic
motions. Likewise, each of the various stadiums, arenas, and outdoor
courses at Nagano are fully rendered to replicate the real thing. The
crowds will cheer for everybody, roar if a record is being broken, and
even snicker a little if you do something worthy of an Olympic "Hall Of
Shame." Of course, an emphasis is made on the graphics being a cross
between reality and television. During the bobsled event,
for instance, you can see the clock displayed at all times (no pun
intended), while the on-site announcer makes short broadcasts over the
local public address system.
But this game is not all that it could be. While the game's
marketability may be insured only so long after the 1998 Winter Olympics
have ended, the game's playability may have even a shorter life span.
For one thing, the events are fairly simple. The goal is simply to
practice at each event until you figure out the trick that makes the
skier jump higher or makes that thing in "Curling" go, well, farther. Figure
out the one thing that is needed to maximize performance on each event,
and you win the gold medal.
Nevertheless, there are some rather unique features to each event.
Take the Free Style Aerials for instance. For each set of stunts, a
long series of button combinations appears at the bottom of the screen.
As the skier takes flight, this button series lights up, much like the
lyrics on a Karaoke video. You then have to rush through the
button combination as fast as you can, before the skier loses the
altitude and comes back down. If the full combination is performed, the
skier will perform a great show and then land in a position other than
What might have made this game better would have been the inclusion of
two very important events. The first would have been figure skating.
Using the technique described above, a fairly good representation of
that sport might have been achieved. That would have been very cool,
not to mention extremely innovative. Another idea would have been to
add an Ice Hockey event. That would have sent the game into the
stratosphere, in my mind. Who can forget the 1980 US Hockey team's
"Miracle on Ice?" I might have played this game for that event, and
that event alone.
Otherwise, Nagano '98 is a fine souvenir of the Winter Olympics and
easily the best game in terms of graphics and realism that has been done
for that genre. It lacks a few things, and is overly simplistic at
parts, sometimes even lowering itself to the level of gimmickry, but
still comes through. The game is a lot of fun, for either one player or
many. If Konami can do something similar with the Sydney Summer Games
in 2000, we may see an EA Sports type monopoly in the works.