It's been 4 years but Nintendo's and Sega's star players are at it again in another Olympic-sized package so let's head to the games.
Ever since I played Track & Field on NES when I was a kid, I've had a fondness for video games based on a variety of Olympic sports. Sure, very few of these kinds of games can actually be considered good by any standards but I still enjoy playing them because I love variety and diving into a dozen or so bite-sized sports always scratches that itch.
Mario and Sonic have been competing at the Olympics steadily ever since their Wii debut 12 years ago. However, they didn't have a game to celebrate the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games for some strange reason as the last events that they attended were at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. I've enjoyed the series a lot since its debut and I'm very happy that it's back so allow me to describe how this latest package of sports holds up.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 contains 24 main events that are all rather different which, needless to say, is a lot. On top of that, you can play 10 retro-inspired events via the Tokyo 1964 selection which made me quite excited. Although this is a ton of games, of course not all of them are top quality so you can count on at least a few of them to be disappointing. Therefore, I'm going to discuss some stand-out events then some less-than-stellar ones so you know generally what to expect.
The best events are the Dream mini-games which definitely won't be at the actual Olympics. Dream Racing has you ride a hoverboard within an elaborate course, Dream Shooting is like laser tag but with targets that grant you points, and Dream Karate is a very fun and chaotic arena brawler. Besides those, I enjoyed performing tricks in the Surfing and Skateboarding events even though they're very simple and chucking stuff in Javelin Throw and Discus Throw is fun, too. Riding a horse in Equestrian can be pretty tricky yet satisfying and the same can be said for Gymnastics where you have to time moves perfectly. Finally, Badminton and Table tennis offer basic yet fulfilling competitive fun and I also thoroughly had a good time in the retro-style 10m Platform diving and Vault events.
Of course, there are standard events that are well-handled yet aren't particularly special such as 100m dash, Archery, Triple Jump, Swimming, and 110m Hurdles but I'd like to highlight some of the more frustrating games. For starters, the 3 fighting events in the form of Boxing, Karate, and Fencing are all very irritating to play as you can try to strategize but most of the time, the player who just mashes buttons will win as you can get easily stunned. Next, Football (AKA Soccer) is barebones while Rugby Sevens is just a chaotic mess that the AI players seem to have mastered even on the lowest difficulty setting. I even found the Canoe event to be annoying as you have to perfectly time each stroke with your partner yet you don't get any useful prompts.
There are a few other events that I'm on the fence about such as Sport Climbing which is unique yet difficult to control and 4 x 100m Relay which is fairly standard stuff but you get the general idea. Anyway, you can play as 10 characters from Mario's world and 10 from Sonic's and the amount of detail put into the visuals really pops to create a consistent fun-filled atmosphere. I love watching Toads operate the cameras plus seeing Luigi break dance whenever he gets a gold medal always made me laugh. The stadiums and event locations are full of colour and are carefully crafted to make each game feel alive and the music is quite catchy, too.
Believe it or not, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 actually contains a Story Mode where you traverse Tokyo on a quest to rescue your friends from a retro game console. It alternates between the modern and old-school worlds as you progress and there are tons of funny dialogue sequences as well as hidden trivia facts scattered about. The best part about Story Mode is that it contains 10 bonus unlockable mini-games which add a decent amount of value to the overall package. However, the campaign itself gets very dry rather quickly because there are so many dialogue scenes that it's absurd. Plus, you can't skip any of them so you can imagine how tedious it is to tap A for minutes only to compete in an event that takes 30 seconds to finish.
Last but not least, you can challenge others via a few comprehensive multiplayer modes. First, up to 4 local chums can compete in Quick Match where you select individual events. I must admit; I'm disappointed that they don't allow you to set up tournaments because playing short mini-games and navigating through menus in between the action gets pretty monotonous. There's Local Play mode as well if you and your friends have multiple Switch consoles and unlike the previous Mario & Sonic game, this one has online multiplayer. That's right; up to 8 players can battle each other online in ranked matches which is a very cool addition.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 offers varied family-friendly fun. With so many sports and mini-games to enjoy, it's easy to find something to like about this star-studded package.
- + Jam-packed with loads of sports, mini-games, and retro-inspired events
- + Fun-filled atmosphere throughout
- + Mostly comprehensive multiplayer modes
- - Some of the sports simply aren't fun and some are rather imbalanced
- - Story mode is pretty monotonous
- - No way to set up tournaments