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Developer Konami Options
Distributer Konami 1-2 Player
Game Type Racing Multi-tap
Review Date March 1998 Analog Joypad
Screenshot No.1
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Screenshot No.3 
Setting the Scene
A couple of years ago Konami introduced PSX gamers to the thrills of button bashing with the release of International Track and Field. Only because of the abundance of varying athletic events were they ever forgiven for the atrocious graphics in this game. Also, it was released during the early days of the Playstation console and to be honest there were worse sinners around than IT&F - at least it had gameplay. Within a month of release it had a close rival in the form of Olympic Games. The graphics were much better and there were even more events although it became a chore rather than being an enjoyable experience to wade through a full Olympic competition.

What have we here? Two years down the line and the heat of Atlanta has been replaced by the colder climates of Nagano for the 1998 Japanese Winter Olympics. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to use their experience Konami have scooped up the rights to portray this prestigious event for the pleasure of all you gamers. Let's hope lessons have been learned.

At first glance you could be fooled into believing that Konami had corrected all of the wrongs committed in Track and Field. The athletes are constructed from bit-mapped polygons giving them extremely realistic motions while the arenas and outdoor courses are all fully rendered to replicate the real thing. As for the rest.... well, it very much depends on which event you are looking at.

All of the Alpine Skiing events moved so slow that I was in serious danger of nodding off, while every time the slope became steeper the visuals suffer from some horrendous glitching and flickering. I'm afraid after recently witnessing the excellent Cool Boarders 2 all of the skiing events were boring to play and painful to watch.

The Bobsleigh, Curling and Speedskating events have an altogether tighter appearance to them and move along at a challenging pace. Unfortunately the effect of the smoother graphics are lost by some downright stupid camera angles. Surely the best place to view a Bobsleigh race is right up front in the drivers seat, not above and behind the sled. Similarly in the Curling event you get a useless top down perspective, not a view from the approaching target area. When the angle eventually switches it's a little too late to adjust the direction of the weight. I really couldn't see the point in having left and right sweepers with these camera angles on offer. I will come to the Speedskating problem later because it seriously affects the gameplay of this event.

After each event you are 'treated' to a replay mode that is shown from alternative trackside angles.

Sounds and Effects
The crowd noises have been put together fairly well as they offer each competitor a rousing cheer and react accordingly should records be smashed or your athlete suffers the embarrassment of disqualification. A commentator calls the competitors to the start line, offers a countdown to the off and then disappears on the piste until the next event begins. Most of the snowy slushy sounds are well handled but the music is bland and repetitive - very Sim City.

I was quite impressed with the long list of events on offer in Nagano Winter Olympics but on closer inspection I have to admit there are really only five. The first is Alpine Skiing which is divided into four styles - Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom and Snow Boarding Giant Slalom. Your skier begins from the summit of a hill launching himself onto the downward sloping obstacle course. By tapping left and right on the directional pad you must follow the route determined by red and blue markers which the athlete must zigzag through . Pressing up on the control pad makes your skier will crouch down low to reduce wind resistance, thus increasing speed, while a tap of the X button allows edging for those tighter turns. The object of the exercise is to complete the course within the allowed qualifying time. Succeed and you advance onto the final stages to go for Gold. Fail and your disqualified. After three or four runs I disqualified myself and moved onto the next event.

Get those button bashing fingers warmed up for the Speedskating events which take place over two long and two short tracks. The longer circuits involve racing against a single opponent, either CPU controlled or a second human player (don't!). The single player mode is purely a test of finger endurance over 1500 metres, while the two player mode amazingly is not viewed in split screen. What this means is that should you suffer a poor start then you don't even get a chance to catch up your opponent because the camera only tracks the leader. You can't even watch your athlete because he's way out of camera range making it impossible to judge the corners. In effect a two player speedskating event is all over by the first corner (a bit like the Australian Grand Prix). I found this to be a shocking piece of bad programming. At least the shorter track races included a type of catch up system that kept all four skaters on screen at the same time. Once again this idea makes a mockery out of racing because if you refuse to press the relevant buttons your skater is dragged along anyway. Now you can sit back and watch your mates do all of the hard work for 8 laps and then join in on the final straight with a quick burst from your fresh fingers to win the race. Amazing!

Bobsleigh and Luge fare a little better requiring skillful steering to avoid the sled from touching the side of the track and reducing your momentum. I was happy to play these two events a couple of times but the thrill of it all was over too quickly.

Freestyle Aerials is another embarrassing affair. Hold down the buttons until you reach the end of a ramp, then let go and try to press a 16 button combo before you land on the slope. Succeed and you are awarded points. Fail and you hit the deck like a sack of shit. At least Parappa had music to it.

Curling is the final event which only just fails because of the lack of skill needed to succeed. The idea is to slide a weight down a channel of ice and draw it to a halt in the centre of a target area. You quickly realize that by aiming for the inner red circle to one side of the centre will provide a bulls eye almost every time. As soon as you do this the computer opponent sends down the next weight a 100mph and blasts it out of the way. This process is repeated until home time. Sweepers are used to finely adjust the direction of the weight but are only needed if you cock up your original push.

Value for Money
Some will be fooled by the official Nagano sponsorship. Others will say that this game is value for money because of the Curling and Bobsleigh events. I say there's better things out there to waste your money on.

GRAPHICS: 13/20 The Alpine events seem to have been included purely for a sudden burst of adrenaline but because the speed doesn't pick up pace until the final straight it will have to be a very quick thrill. The courses lack any true challenge and result in an experience as boring as.... watching downhill racing, I suppose. Thankfully it's all over in a couple of minutes. These type of games are all about getting your mates together and going head-to-head but the lack of split-screen mode renders your Multi-tap to being as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 12/20

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