Gold Medalist Review—Closer to Bronze


In the 1980s, one of the more popular genres of video games was Olympic sports. In retrospect, it’s hard to see why, other than that the Olympics were just far more popular than today because of the Cold War, but also perhaps because they were one of the few types of mini-game collections back then. Usually it was a different game for each sport, though most featured some type of button (or keyboard) mashing.

Gold Medalist is one of those ’80s Olympic games, based on the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, and it features nine different types of games. Most are track and field events—jumping, running, hurdling, throwing things—but there are also boxing and swimming and one gymnastics event, the horizontal bar.

List of events. Sadly, no sumo wrestling.

List of events. Sadly, no sumo wrestling.

Since this is an arcade game, rather than competing in all the sports freely, you insert your virtual coin and get to select one of the events out of the nine. If you do well enough there (coming close to a bronze medal), you can then pick another event to participate in. If not, well, game over. Or you can always insert another coin to continue. Some events give you three chances to earn a medal (the ones where you take turns with the computer), while the ones featuring direct competition only give you one chance. The save and load save state feature is very handy in this game, letting you do events over and over without going through the medal ceremony and rigmarole at the beginning.

The real catch is that it’s not at all clear just how you play these events. There aren’t any instructions, nor is the option to change the controls any help, as it just says “Button A,” “Button B,” and “Button C.” If you let the game run at the opening credits, in attract mode, eventually it will start showing some of the events and which buttons to press, but they don’t seem to be in the same order on the screen as on the PSP.

One of the more enjoyable events

One of the more enjoyable events

So, there is a lot of trial and error involved. The two jumping events were simple enough to figure out; you simply mash O (which is mapped as Button B) then hit Square (Button C) to jump and rotate your body. The horizontal bar event sort of works the same way, as you hit buttons to twirl around the bar and then at the right time hit the Square button to let go, and hit it again to land. The discus, too, is mostly a matter of the right timing, but you need to hold the Square button down to change the angle you throw it at as well.

So half the games I figured out. The rest, well, I actually had to ask SNK over on Facebook how to play them. I got info on the swimming event, at least. Apparently you need to button mash, but then occasionally hit another button to breathe (though which button I’m not sure, because SNK said O, but it seems to be Square). I still can’t quite figure out how to swim quickly.

The track events, like the 100-meter dash and 400-meter, also seem to require something that I don’t understand, as I tap the buttons as fast as possible yet trail far behind the computer runners. Also adding to the complication, it’s very hard to do the hurdle event; I believe you need to hit a button to jump while hitting the other buttons to run. In the arcades, where you could use two hands, this was probably easily doable, but it’s pretty hard on a modern controller or the PSP.

Not one of the more enjoyable events. I run slower in this than I do in real life.

Not one of the more enjoyable events. I run slower in this than I do in real life.

Boxing here is not like a typical fighting game, instead using the same mechanics as most of the other events. Rather than simply throwing punches, you need to tap a button to increase the power bar, and then when it’s close to full, tap X or Square to either jab or throw a haymaker. Alas, usually the opponent dodges out of the way. I’m not entirely sure I’m doing it right.

Because this is a late ’80s game, the graphics hold up quite well, except the opening title that apparently uses digitized people—that always looks ugly. But the actual in-game graphics are very nice, with detailed and well animated sprites. Perhaps a bit too detailed—the athletes on the winning podium either have something in their pocket or are very happy about winning a medal.

The national anthem of the country that wins the gold medal is played, as well as some digitized speech. The music playing during the events can get a little annoying.

Use Force? Evidently it's the Jedi Olympics.

Use Force? Evidently it's the Jedi Olympics.

I have a weakness for games like this. I have fond childhood memories of pounding away on my friend’s Apple II keyboard for a decathlon game (which did not please his mother, as those computers weren’t cheap back then). And the jumping events and the discus are quite fun.

But frankly, trial and error should not be required to play a game you’ve purchased. Was it really that hard to type up a little document explaining how to play and include it within the game itself or in a software manual? I guess you could consider it a puzzle game, where the puzzle is figuring out how to play, but some things are obtuse, like having to breathe while swimming, or pressing the button to land in the horizontal bar event.

Still, in the four events I figured out well enough to get medals in, I had more enjoyment than with some whole mini-game collections with far more games. So there is fun to be found here; you just have to work at it.


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6 Responses to “Gold Medalist Review—Closer to Bronze”
  1. Freelance says:

    The old Olympics games were awesome along with other games like California Games. Unfortunately, it’s not as much if you’re playing just by yourself.

  2. G1M2 says:

    The controls that are listed on the SNK page on Facebook are for the Japanese PSP version of SNK Arcade Classics Volume 0. The Japanese PSP default button settings are different than the North American PSP – since in Japan the standard is that O = Accept and X = Cancel. In North America, those buttons are flip-flopped.

    Let me know if you guys want additional instructions for the different events!!

  3. candycabngfl says:

    Great reviews here thanks for the site and the time you put in to it ::-)

    Being an old guy now days at 40 I have a soft spot for the old arcade hardware. I remember this game well along with the EPYX Summer & Winter Games franchise we played to death on the C64. lol Those games used to eat joysticks in record time but were always a lot of fun.

    The pinnacle of arcade sports games of that era has to be “Hyper Sports” by Konami with its insane button mashing and timed button presses in between that was always a rewarding experience if you could pull it off. Even if you were dog tired with bleeding stumps after playing for 10 minutes it was still great fun :-)

  4. Observer says:

    Used to love games like this. Still do. Track and Field (arcade and Gameboy) were my favourites!

  5. manmanmanman says:

    look at the 3rd screen shot. at the bottom i see the word POW. think i might reply POW.

  6. manmanmanman says:

    i ment re-play, not reply, sorry

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