One of the best winter sports titles has to be the Epyx classic Winter Games, which everyobody played on their Commodore 64 computers (myself included). In the fall of 1987, just before the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Winter Games was ported to the Atari 2600 and 7800 and was also brought to the NES, courtesy of Acclaim and Pony Canyon, the same group that brought us Super Pitfall. Saldy a LOT was lost in the translation, and the final effort is as un-Olympic as can be.
Once the torch is lit, it's time to get ready for the games. This version of Winter Games only features four the original seven events and only allows for two players can compete. You enter your name (up to four letters) and pick one of seven countries to represent. After you and your opponent get that squared away the games begin. The first event is speed skating, where you try to beat your opponent to the finish line with rhythm and speed. Next it's the hot dog aerials. You fly off a small ski jump and show your stuff in the air for style points. Then it's figure skaing, giving you a chance to dazzle the judges on the ice with spins and jumps. Finally there's the bobsled. You have to guide your sled down the twisting tunnel to hopefully reach the finish line. If you can place first in an event, you get a gold medal, and the object is to try to win all four gold medals.
The graphics and sounds are less than average. The backgrounds look very plain in all the events and the sprites are pretty small with choppy and stiff animation, especially in the Figure Skating event. The music is unmemorable and the sounds consist of a lot of beeps that get annoying very quickly. Again the Figure Skating event is the worst example; the song is especially painful to listen to and will make your ears bleed.
The main problem is this game just doesn't do the original game justice, only offering half the events found in the Atari and c64 versions and allowing only two players, while those ports let up to eight compete. Even on its own the gameplay is poorly done. None of the events are anything more than above average, with feh gameplay and issues with the controls. The Bobsled controls fine, while the Hot Dog and Speed Skating are a little stiff but still workable. The worst event is Figure Skating; it's frustrating trying to get the skater to do anything other than fall to the ice. There's no challenge here becuase when you play the one player mode, you're the only entrant in three of the events, meaning you're going to get the gold no matter what you do. You only face the computer in the Speed Skating event, and with a little practice you'll have no trouble getting first place. The two player mode does add a little excitement, but not much. Plus there's no sense of accomplishment in the end. Should you go through all four events, it just goes right back to the main menu. You don't even get a closing ceremony for your efforts.
Overall Pony Canyon butchers another classic like they did with Super Pitfall and the result is a very poor sports title. Acclaim could have done a much better job bringing Winter Games to the NES, as evidenced by Milton Bradley's ports of California Games and World Games. Instead we're left with a stripped down version of the Commodore 64 hit that just pales in comparison. Even if you never played the C64 version, you’ll still find the NES Winter Games to be a very disappointing sports game that doesn't even deserve the bronze. Fans of Epyx games will want to stay far away from this one. Play the C64 and Atari versions instead and put this failure on ice.
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