Game Over Online ~ ESPN International Winter Sports 2002

GameOver Game Reviews - ESPN International Winter Sports 2002 (c) Konami, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher ESPN International Winter Sports 2002 (c) Konami
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Monday, May 6th, 2002 at 12:59 PM


Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

As I write this article right now, it actually snowed in mid-April, but I've resolved to believe that the days of driving up to your nearest hill to snowboard or ski are finally coming to an end. ESPN International Winter Sports 2002 (IWS 2K2) is one such last gasp before the rather mild winter weather blows over. Konami has been developing titles under the ESPN name on the GBA so it's nice to see they have all the flashy ESPN television presentation is included in the game itself.

Undoubtedly, being released in the midst of a Winter Olympic year, comparisons will be made between IWS 2K2 and the officially licensed Salt Lake 2002. While the latter may have aimed to be more realistic due to it’s licensing, its execution led it to become a fairly prosaic gaming affair. As it turns out, IWS 2K2 has much more of a game flavor to it. Most multi-event games rely on repetitious dexterity tests of your fingers to simulate athletic actions like skiing. Konami, one of the pioneers of console gaming, has really done a great job to provide a variety of different dexterity challenges in an interesting collection of athletic events. Two of these events stand out the most.

The first is the addition of the figure skating event. Most multi-event games are driven by time-based challenges or score-based challenges. Although the scores and times you compete against here are static, meaning there is simply a high-score table for the solo player to compete against, figure skating actually involves some artistic technique. Here, Konami took a page from its canonical rhythm and dance game, Dance Dance Revolution. You pick the choice between three tunes, and a series of arrows that you must press in tandem with the music floats up to the top. Unlike Dance Dance Revolution, the steps aren't intimately intertwined with the music itself and the three pieces of music are quite bland. The concept though, is by far one of the most interesting I've seen. It's not every day you get to play figure skating in a winter sports game.

The other interesting event is half-pipe snowboarding. The developers make you tap against a moving slider. The later you wait for the slider, the more complex of a trick you will perform. If you wait too long, the slider will expire and you'll miss the opportunity to perform a trick. Tricks are a series of directional button combinations that you have to pull off before you jump off the half-pipe. It's an innovative and interesting twist to snowboarding. Timing is also key because if you don't pull off the directions flawlessly, you miss the trick, but if you pull it off smoothly and at the right time, you'll be rewarded with a pre-rendered animation.

One event that was painfully missing from the official GBA Winter Olympics title was speed skating. The short track speed skating event in IWS 2K2 is not unlike regular athletic games. You smash two directional buttons together until you win. And unlike Salt Lake 2002, you actually know what buttons are used in each event as the controls are displayed to you before you start the event. With a total of ten unique events and half of them almost completely different from the others, this saved a lot of time from going back to the manual. Another trump over the official Olympics game is the fact that all the skiing events are displayed in behind-the-back third person view. Although the runs usually make the tracks feature fairly abrupt turns, it's a much more enjoyable experience in IWS 2K2. Other events like biathlon retain the traditional overhead view but even here, the shooting portion of the game gives much needed variety to make the finger dexterity part less monotonous.

Overall, I think this game is a steal when it comes to winter sports. It's simply one of the best collections of winter event games available for the GBA, with great emphasis on the word 'game' because this is what Konami does best. This isn't a simulation but as a corpus, it has more events, better gameplay, and you can play with a friend over one GBA cartridge too. I wasn't expecting much from winter sport games released this year. I thought they would be titles that would cash-in from the recent Olympic bonanza, but I was pleasantly surprised by IWS 2K2. This is less detailed than the ones that went to the mainstream consoles but its saving grace is the sheer variety of events. Figure skating, for example, never really makes it into these multi-event console games and now you can enjoy it anywhere on your GBA sans any real-life biased judges.

 

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Rating
80%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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