Nagano Winter Olympics '98 feels like it was thrown together at the last minute. Graphically inept, with glaring gameplay problems, Nagano '98 should be avoided at all costs.
To start with, the downhill races are garbage. Skiing, snowboarding, bobsledding, the luge - they're all essentially unplayable. The non-rail racers (skiing, snowboarding) are horrible to look at. Each time you tap the D-pad, even just to make a slight change in heading, the entire view jumps. It's like every time you blink the whole world is bumped over three feet. Plus, there is absolutely no sensation of speed. It's so slow in fact, if it weren't for the speedometer, you'd think there was an acceleration key you weren't pressing. Despite this sluggishness, however, it's still difficult to make the gates. They're so two-dimensional that gauging their depth is nearly impossible, and control is so awkward that the simplest rotation is thoroughly vexing.
The problem with the rail racers is that there just isn't anything to do. Once you're up to speed and in the bobsled or luge, all you do is follow the track. You don't even steer around corners. All you do is push the D-pad left or right to avoid flipping over or losing speed by hugging the near wall too tight. And again, crude graphics and a poor frame rate make this oversimplified experience a drag to look at too.
Unlike the N64 version, the PlayStation one doesn't offer a snowboarding half-pipe, so there's only one freestyle competition. It's odd enough that it still bears mention. As might be expected, aerial freestyle skiing is a combo-driven event. Rather than memorizing various combos and linking them together yourself, though, you select your tricks in advance. It's a design that doesn't allow for much freedom or creative control. During play, the required series of key presses appears onscreen in a little window, and you enter them from right off the screen. There's no real timing involved either; you just enter the code as fast as you can.
There are a few events that aren't entirely abysmal. Ski jumping is pretty standard, with your basic press-and-hold power-up for the jump and a one-button landing. A nice touch is the wind meter, and on higher difficulty levels, it's useful to keep from being blown over. It would have been nice if they'd included the skier angle meter from the N64 version for an added dimension to gameplay - lean forward to gain speed at the expense of altitude, lean back for the opposite, and be careful not to overdo either or you'll crash. The little-known and less-understood sport of curling is actually the most tactically interesting event offered in the package (go figure). It's testament to the lameness of Nagano Winter Olympics that its best game is a bizarre form of ice-shuffleboard involving brooms and walking real slow.
Ultimately, Nagano Winter Olympics '98 feels unfinished. Though the controls are different for each competition, and different engines are employed throughout, the same lackluster 16-bit-looking graphics plague the whole lot of 'em with a distinct fuzziness and lack of detail. Athletes are choppy, and views change with all the smoothness of a Dexedrine-addicted gaffer filling in for the lead cameraman on his first day on the job. Even if you actually liked this game, replay value would be almost nil, since each race offers a whopping one track. That shouldn't be a problem, however, since the initial exposure should fend off 95 percent of gamers within the first ten minutes.