A few months ago I wrote a review of Konami’s Nagano Winter Olympics 98. Still, I am haunted by the mundane graphics and just plain God-awful gameplay. Fortunately though, I tested out Sega’s answer, Winter Heat. For me, it did a good job at cleaning out the rotten aftertaste that Nagano put in my mouth.
Winter Heat is the sequel to one of the Saturn’s better, and most underrated, sports games ever released: Decathlete. Decathlete was itself was Sega’s answer to Konami’s Track and Field way back in 1986.
Winter Heat follows up to Decathlete’s character selection, offering eight different characters from all over the world to take part in 11 different events: speed skiing, ski jumping, downhill racing, Speed Skating (both short and long track), slalom racing, ski aerials, 2-man bobsled, snowboarding, skeleton (cross between bobsled and bodyboard surfing), and cross-country skiing.
One thing that Decathlete specialized in was exceptional graphics. It sported a powerful Super VGA graphic engine running at 60 frames per second (similar to Virtua Fighter 2). Sad to say, Winter Heat’s engine isn’t up to Decathlete’s high quality. But fortunately, it still smokes Nagano’s pitiful engine. Whereas Nagano’s bobsled event coughs up frames left and right, Heat streams by at a constant 30 fps. Anyone who thinks the Saturn can’t compete with the PlayStation or N64 in terms of graphics should take a second look at this.
Also, control is far better than before. Nagano had absolutely pitiful control. After all, I wouldn’t consider alternate pressing of the L and R buttons to be a challenge. Sure, Winter Heat has that pound the button routine, but at least it continues Decathlete’s successful pacing control.
Excessive pounding on the buttons can tire your character out, so strategy must be considered in order to maintain a good pace. I’ve always liked this control idea, and I still do with the newest release.
It’s a shame that the Saturn is part of a dying breed. Call me Saturn-biased (which I will admit I am), but I was very impressed with Winter Heat. Anyone who has suffered as I did when playing Nagano should give this game a try. You won’t regret it.
Even better with Saturn’s fortunes on the rocks, it should be available real cheap. So look for it.