Title  : Nagano Winter Olympics '98
Platforms  : Nintendo 64
Publisher  : Konami
Game Rating  : 6.6
Review by  : Ken Gagne

The medals have been earned, the athletes sent home. The Olympics may be over, but gamers can keep playing with Konami's Nagano Winter Olympics '98, for the Nintendo 64. (The game is also available for the Sony PlayStation, but with slightly different events.) 

This title includes ten popular Olympic events, and some lesser-known ones. Included are downhill and slalom skiing, half-pipe snowboarding, bobsleigh and luge, speed skating, and curling. Some fans will bemoan the lack of the favorite events hockey and figure-skating. Up to four players can compete in alternating turns, as there is no simultaneous competition. None of the stars of the real Olympics are present in the game, as one would expect in a basketball or baseball game; Michelle Kwan fans will have to get her book. 

Most of the events are based on pushing buttons in sequence or rhythm. This quickly becomes boring, as it requires no skill, reducing the gameplay to a simple chore. One would think pulling off snowboard stunts would require dexterity and imagination, but all that's necessary is to follow the on-screen directions as they appear. 

The graphics are realistic, with nice touches such as the ice's reflective surface and the motions of the athletes. But it's hard to focus on these qualities when the game demands one's attention on some power bar or chart necessary to accomplish the moves. The downhill racing events tend not to convey any real sense of speed. 

Don't expect symphonic opening ceremonies or even any national anthems; Nagano does not sport great music. Most of the events occur in silence, with the instant replays accompanied by simple tunes not worthy of the Nintendo 64. Fortunately, sound effects do not suffer similarly: the rushing wind and cheering crowds sound authentic. 

Although the motions are often the same (slalom racing is the same whether it's on skis or snowboards, and the track is the same for bobsleigh and luge), the variety of the events themselves create whatever replay value this game has. If you're having trouble in one sport, it's easy enough to switch to something else. Most of the events are not particularly difficult, but matching the game's par scores seems nigh-impossible. Since one often has little control over the speed of the athletes, getting those fast times may appear an unattainable goal. 

Nagano is not a place gamers will want to visit. Its gameplay is unimaginative, tedious and lacks any competitive feel. Slalom racing is done better in Wave Race 64; Saturn owners would be happier at the Olympics with Sega's Winter Heat. As for Konami's interpretation Nagano, the only thing possibly worse is this year's CBS coverage of the events.


This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 02-Mar-98