Review – Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

I’m still puzzled that two years after the Switch’s release, the console hasn’t received a proper sequel or equivalent to what is easily the single most popular game Nintendo has ever conceived: Wii Sports. Especially since the Switch is actually selling like hot cakes, unlike the Wii U. I’ve said it time and time again, the first somewhat polished game to actually offer something moderately like Wii Sports for the console would end up being a hit. I thought that Konami’s Hyper Sports R, initially unveiled at E3 2018, would be the one to take the larger piece of the marketshare pie. However, we haven’t heard anything from that game ever since. Will Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 be the one to take the lead, and in true Sonic fashion, tell the competition that “they’re too slow”?

2019100115072100-4E3C1F870D1997912EA61E1657E1AE11

Surf’s up, duuuuudes…

You may have read my thoughts about Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 when I played it at E3 2019. I had the chance to play a few minigames, such as surfing, karate, and skateboarding for around fifteen minutes. It was just enough to grasp how easy the controls are and how fun the game is when you’re playing locally with other people. I can basically say that the full version of the game is exactly that as well, but much larger. It comes with some even better minigames, some more disappointing minigames, and a story mode that can best be described as filler to justify a meatier price tag.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is basically a sum of its minigames. It’s not a lot more than that, and that’s fine. It’s extremely easy to pick up and play any of the minigames included within it. Whether they’re attempts at recreating actual Olympic sports or the Dream Events, which are some heftier minigames that throw realism and sportsmanship out the window in favor of some good old chaotic multiplayer fun.

2019100600041800-4E3C1F870D1997912EA61E1657E1AE11

They needed to add Duel of the Fates to make this minigame sound epic.

First, let’s talk about some of the better minigames. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has some fantastic highlights that impressed me a lot. Rugby sevens is, by far, my favorite sport included in this package. Even though I’m not a big fan of sevens (XV all the way, baby), I am amazed with the simple controls and actual recreations of proper rugby rules, such as passing sideways, scrums, conversions, and so on. This is no hyperbole, this is probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing a video game version of rugby. I know the bar isn’t exactly high, but I never imagined a game with Mario and Sonic would end up featuring the best virtual rugby experience out there.

Surfing is also one of the best games in the collection. Mind you, it’s not very complex, because there’s not a lot you can do in a surfing game. But I am impressed with the fact that what was once sold as a full-priced game back in the day (Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer, remember that one?) is now a fraction of a Mario & Sonic minigame compilation. It even has some neat inclusions, such as decent motion controls as I’ve previously mentioned in my E3 impressions. Karate and fencing are also among my favorites.

2019102312573800-4E3C1F870D1997912EA61E1657E1AE11

If you were looking for a good story… you won’t find it here.

The Dream Events are also pretty good. They aren’t truly sports events, but more of a handful of more elaborate minigames. These include anti-grav racing and a third-person arena shooter in which the objective is to destroy as many targets as possible, and not the opposition (even though you can, and should, shoot at them in order to stun them). This shooting minigame also impressed me due to its great implementation of motion controls to make aiming even more precise.

Now it’s time to talk about the underwhelming modes and minigames included in here, and sadly, there’s a handful. The most disappointing minigame ended up being skateboarding. I don’t know how, but it felt like the controls got worse ever since the E3 demo. The controls don’t feel responsive at all. A shame, considering how desperate we are for anything that remotely resembles a good skateboarding game in this day and age.

2019100115500300-4E3C1F870D1997912EA61E1657E1AE11

Those four truly symoblize sportsmanship.

The retro-styled minigames themed after the 1964 Olympics aren’t really a disappointment, as I expected little from them, but they do very little to make you want to play them more than once. They are beyond simplistic, often lasting for just a few seconds. The story mode, while an honorable attempt at making this game feel a bit meatier, ends up feeling like filler. The writing, as to be expected, isn’t very good and the chapters are nothing more than the same minigames you can play at any given time in the main menu. The only difference is that we’re occasionally greeted with some animated cutscenes. At the very least, Sega had the neat idea of adding some bits of trivia about the previous Olympic games throughout the story mode. As previously mentioned, it’s not a bad mode per se, but it’s nothing more than just filler. One playthrough and you won’t bother with it ever again.

Technically speaking, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 gets the job done. It runs beautifully on the Switch, with an excellent framerate and really good lighting effects, even if the character models have barely changed ever since the Gamecube days. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I guess. It’s almost impossible to feel disappointed with the visuals, as the game is so damn charming. The same can’t be said about the sound design. Even though it’s not bad, it won’t impress you in any way. It has a few neat tunes here and there, but that’s it. There are also a few small voice clips for each character, but you’ll barely pay attention to what they’re saying.

2019102313062600-4E3C1F870D1997912EA61E1657E1AE11

The rugby sevens mini-game is ridiculously good.

Back at E3 2019, I said that Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 had the potential of becoming the Wii Sports that the Switch so desperately needs. I still stand by that statement. It’s a collection of simple, family-friendly minigames that are easy and quick to learn, with some of them being a lot more polished than I could have ever expected. Then again, another chunk of that collection ended up disappointing me as well. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is as good as the sum of its parts, and thankfully enough, its pros outweigh its cons.

 

Graphics: 8.5

It’s cute, colorful, and it boasts a high and consistent framerate. It won’t impress anyone who has ever played a Mario sports title since the Gamecube era, but it does what it aims to do so well that you can’t help but appreciate it regardless.

Gameplay: 7.5

There are some neat motion control ideas in some minigames, as well as some really simple and intuitive control schemes for others. A sizeable chunk of them suffer from having the complete opposite, however, with the skateboarding minigame being the most dull.

Sound: 6.5

There’s nothing inherently bad with the soundtrack, but it isn’t memorable either. The voice clips are short and repetitive as well. It does what it has to do and that’s pretty much it.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It all depends on which sport you want to play, and how. Some minigames like surfing, rugby, and dream shooting are absolute highlights. Others, like skateboarding and pretty much the entirety of the story mode, are disappointing.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was provided by the publisher.

Advertisements