The year was 1993, owners of the Sega Genesis console had not yet been blessed with fantastic gaming achievements such as Clay fighter, Boogerman, and Madden 94 . They were craving some some new action. Something gritty, some real, something unlike anything else out there. Something OLYMPIC! Sure they had a chance at the summer games with Barcelona '92, but they wanted something so cool it was ICE COLD! They needed hardcore realistic sports action and they got it. It was time to strap into EXTREME WINTER EXCITEMENT!!!!!
|According to this mao there was one heck of a worldwide earthquake in 1994|
As you'd expect with an Olympic game you compete in Olympic events. You don't get to do all the Olympic events that were available at the time, but you do get to do 10 of them: Downhill, Giant Slalom, Super G, Slalom, Bobsled, Luge, Freestyle moguls, Ski jumping, Biathlon & Short track speed skating.
Controls vary from game to game. In general they're OK for everything that isn't a downhill skiing event. Fairly responsive and easy to use once you've figured out what they are. Admittedly figuring that out isn't always easy, I had to break out my original booklet for several of them. The downhill skiing events have very difficult to deal with controls, it's just the d pad, but even with the ability to change how you want your d pad to work, it's quite a feat to make it down a hill without crashing let alone making a qualifying time or even managing not to get disqualified by missing gates.
Soundwise, It's pretty meh. There are some surprisingly good tracks on a few events, but nothing really WOW worthy. The tracks are actually fairly complex so they don't get too repetitious, which is a big plus for a game of this period.
Once you've gotten past the intro screen you hit the main menu. As far as the play modes go you can choose: Full Olympics and play all 10 games and will see Opening and closing ceremonies, Mini Olympics where you choose just the games you want to play with no ceremonies, or Training where you can train the events.
Before heading into any of the game modes I suggest checking out the options screen first where you'll want to put the difficulty on skill level 1 unless you're a complete masochist. Setting this game to easy does not make it easy, it makes it almost fair. You can also add another player if you feel so inclined in this screen, play with a sound test and show your international flair by changing the language. Just don't forget to adjust the difficulty for your own sanity.
These games are difficult to master even for a veteran gamer so your first stop should be to training to get a feel for them before attempting the Olympics. Once you start either of the Olympic events you can choose the country you want to represent, set your name and set the countries you want to compete against. No matter what country you choose or which name you put in for yourself you will instantly become the greatest athlete who's ever lived able to compete in EVERY SINGLE event offered in these games!
So assuming you're starting off in a full Olympics, in your role Mr. Super athlete (you can actually choose to be Ms. Super athlete but the sprites look the same) you start off on skis doing the downhill course. I really feel this was an unfortunate choice as downhill (and the other events like it, super G, slalom & giant slalom) is one the hardest parts of the game. You're very likely to run into the trees or one of the gates sending your skier sprawling resulting in what the booklet claims are "fatal injuries". It's OK though because you apparently hold on to conscious thought just long enough to see how the other skiers did as well. Very convenient.
|Generally going down the mountain on your back is considered poor form|
Luckily for those of us who just can't keep our dendrophilia* in check, the Norwegian Olympic committee kept necromancers on hand! So even though you may have died from fatal injuries while skiing down that first hill you can continue your Olympic dream and compete in subsequent events. Pretty much all the downhill events work this way: attempt to ski between the gates, crash into something, suffer horrific fatal injuries, see how much better every other country did, be resurrected, go to next event.
With some practice you can skip the whole crashing into gates and trees bit and just get to the bottom of the hill. However, getting to the bottom of the hill without getting disqualified and while making good time, takes quite A LOT of practice even on the easiest difficulty setting.
The other events on Skis work quite a bit differently than the downhill events and as a consequence are a bit more fun for the average gamer.
Ski jump is pretty much what it seems like it would be. You do a ski jump, that's it. It's got easy controls and is probably the event you'll be the most likely to learn to do well in. As an added bonus it's also the only one that doesn't completely disqualify you for crashing. If you fall on your first run you'll still get some distance points (though no landing points) and have the opportunity to preform your second jump.
Moguls while a little bit easier than downhill are a still hard. You jump from mogul to mogul occasionally trying to land a trick. Tricking looks cool but it often leaves you head first in a mogul. The booklet doesn't list falling into a mogul as fatal so while it will end your run and not earn you any points you can avoid the death and subsequent necromancy hopefully leaving you in a better less zombie-like state before competing in the next event.
The final event on Skis is biathalon, where you ski for awhile and then shoot at some targets. Then you ski for awhile and then shoot at some targets. After that you....well, I think you get the idea. Biathalon I think is impossible to really screw up on, you can just get a really crappy time. The cross country skiing portion controls simply enough but when shooting, your Athlete aims like he's pounded roughly 50 shots of the highest quality grain alcohol available prior to hitting the course. Each missed shot costs you a 1 minute penalty, though aiming one good shot takes about as long. On the upside it's at least not a fatal event.
|Ya Dead? Yeah Mon.|
But not all of our extreme winter sports are on skis, they're also on sleds! So in come bobsled and luge. Bobsled and luge are probably the easiest to master and most fun events of the entire game. They're additionally the best animated as well. In addition to the cool looking and very innovative for the time period 3d style courses, I personally am a little bit enamored with your butt in the bobsled animation. It rivals the pinky demon bottoms in the original Doom for best but detail in an old school video game.*ahem*Putting that aside, they are easier than the skiing but it's still not easy to win, and you are very likely to flip over on to your head. It's just that it's more of pleasant defeat rather than the soul crushing defeat the other events can offer.
|I'm clearly not particularly good at this event|
But if you don't like Skis or sleds, you've got one more chance to find your happy place, Short track speed skating. It's a fairly easy to deal with event, button mash and avoid the other skaters who can and will knock you down if you don't move out of their way. Like the others it's nigh on impossible to master, but it's one of the easiest events to successfully complete especially since the other skaters can fall down independently of you and get disqualified.
Once you've finished the competition you'll get to see your standings as compared to the rest of the competing countries and then be treated to a medal ceremony (if you did well enough in all the sports to earn one) and the closing ceremony. It's enough to bring a tear to your eye.
Being that I go out of my way to purchase and play games based on the Olympics I know that this isn't really a bad example of one. It's actually better than most of the vintage ones I've played. However, most people who attempt to play this game aren't going to see it that way. It's impossibly hard and doesn't really inspire you to take the time to master it's more poorly planned out games *cough* downhill skiing *cough*. That being said the not so poorly planned out games can be a lot of fun especially if you're playing head to head with a friend. While it's nice to play a sports game that isn't just a generic baseball, football, basketball or soccer clone, sadly there isn't enough going for it make this game something I'd really recommend. It is an interesting novelty title though and quite a challenge. So it's worth picking if you consider yourself a hardcore vintage gamer. Anyone earning the gold here would certainly earn my respect.
* love of trees
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