Winter Gold is an Olympic-style sports game developed by Norwegian company Funcom and published by Nintendo in 1996. While it is not that well known it is interesting because it was one of the few games to utilise the Super FX chip to provide extended 3D graphics capabilities, in the same way that Star Fox, Doom, Vortex and Stunt Race FX did.
Winter Gold has six different events that you can play: downhill skiing, snowboarding, Hot Dog, bobsled, aerial skiing, and luge, and players can compete in three different locations: Salt Lake City, Lillehammer, and Albertville (and a fourth, unlockable location that becomes available after you’ve come first in each event in each city). The game has three modes of play: Practice, Competition and Circuit and can be played single-player, or with up to eight different players participating in competition mode.
At the beginning you must add at least one player before you can start; choose a name, outfit colours, and country represented, then you can start playing.
The game is presented almost as though it is constructed of Full-Motion Video (FMV), with dancers and contestants moving in the background while menu and intermission screens play out, but these are obviously made of polygons and not video. The events themselves are all third-person viewpoint and some of them (like downhill) almost feel like they are ‘on-rails’ (although I did read that the developers tried hard to avoid this).
Graphically, while I do like the almost rotoscoped style of the visuals, I think that the gameplay suffers a bit as the result of this approach. It sometimes feels like you’re not really controlling the contestant properly. While that doesn’t happen in all the events, there does seem to be a detachment from the controls at times, which makes the game frustrating. I also think that some of the events are too similar to each other for their own good (Hot Dog and Aerial Skiing are similar, and Bobsled and luge are too). A bit more variety in the events wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Personally I would rather play something like Epyx‘s classic Winter Games than this. Mostly because the events and the controls are much better – you actually feel like you’re participating in Winter Games, rather than watching something unfold, like in Winter Gold.
While Winter Gold is not a bad effort, it’s not great either. The presentation is very good in this, but the gameplay and events are a little lacklustre. If you’re a big fan of winter sports games, or want to see all the Super FX games on the SNES, then Winter Gold is worth a play. Otherwise I’d probably give it a miss.
More: Winter Gold on Wikipedia