REVIEW: Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

November 12, 2019
REVIEW: Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

The Nintendo Wii has given us a lot of new franchises. The new management system popularized by Nintendo has allowed some titles to simply shine through. Some great social games were made as well as some hardcore titles that simply failed to survive the transition to future consoles (Wii U) or to gain a casual audience. However, titles such as Wii Sports, Wii Party, Mario Party have paved the way for more complete titles, one of which is definitely the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise.

The franchise that began its life on the Wii console continued to expand on every subsequent Nintendo system, whether it was a handheld or home console. With the Olympics being held every four years, the development team had plenty of time to come up with something new, different and interesting to a new audience each time, and they have often succeeded. Twelve years after the franchise's first title, the new one, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, a game that promotes the Tokyo Olympics which are going to be held next summer, has arrived on Nintendo Switch.

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In the game, characters from the Sonic and Mario franchises that only get together at the Olympics are together again in Tokyo. However, something goes wrong and all the characters except for Luigi are trapped in a retro console. It is up to you to rescue one character at a time through various activities in order to get them to compete at the Olympics.

The best thing about the game is practically at the beginning of the Story mode, and that is the Olympic activities done in retro style. Everyone who grew up with the NES certainly remembers the Track & Field game, and it's just fantastic to see the return of some of the sports from that game in this title, of course, visually improved to fit into the Olympics-themed Mario & Sonic.

Even the mechanics are similar to the NES games; for some games, they are absolutely identical. One can say that this is either a perfect move that makes you feel really nostalgic or maybe a lazy move because it doesn't add any depth to the gameplay or at least something a little more complicated than the 2D display itself. Still, everything that happens in the Story mode works much better in that 2D environment than in 3D, from the narration and character interaction to the more engaging sports and story development.

The 3D or the current environment of the Mario & Sonic game looks pretty artificial, the dialogues are forced and kind of pointless. It's all very cringy, to say the least. In a 2D environment, everything is somehow fluid, beautiful, well-made and, after all, nice.

The development team is targeting this retro feel with this one and is also trying to subtly remind the audience that Nintendo Online exists with the NES and SNES game library and that with the help of this they can also recall some of the old, wonderful and timeless titles, Track & Field included.

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A set of more than twenty games can be complicated for realization in terms of optimizing and creating some perfect gameplay loop, simple controls, and addictive mechanics. This is why some games are made simple and work perfectly. They are well-planned and well-made, simple but very fun to play, especially with friends. Still, there are a few there is no point to play because they're practically mechanical.

Games like Surfing and Skateboarding are virtually automatic games, where you control everything with a single button, or rather, the game “guides you” while you choose when to jump, do a trick or something. Skateboarding is more sterile because of the environment, while Surfing can be interesting most of all because of the wonderful waves and everything you can see. Again, not much, but at least the water is relaxing compared to concrete, isn’t it?

Other games, from many that are offered here, are just a lazy copy of past games from the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise, they are literally copy-paste when it comes to their looks, models, animations and movements. Boxing is a great example because it looks like a lazy copy-paste, making it totally uninteresting to anyone who has played previous titles in this sub-franchise.

On the other hand, new sports like Judo and Karate look pretty interesting. The mechanics are satisfying and require good timing, focus and you have to pay close attention to the opponent’s movement if you want to win. Other games are fun when played with friends, while some are not because you are simply pressing a button or trying to do something in a shorter time than the loading screen takes time to load. Certain "mini-games", if I may call them like that, take literally less than a minute, while loading may take longer.

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The sum of many different types of games may seem interesting at first glance, but in over twenty games, there are certainly about ten that are totally uninteresting, too short to actually enjoy playing them or terribly executed. What makes this game worthwhile are sports such as football, karate, skateboarding, which is practically a mix of Mario Kart and Sonic Running, which are really interesting and make the money you spent on the game pay off.

The most interesting are the ones that make you invest your time in simply learning the mechanics in order to be better, and then as you break records you get the feeling that you are actually achieving something. Generally speaking, there are definitely more high-quality games in the game than those that are a waste of time. It's just a painstaking job to go through all of them, master some weird mechanics, and make a list of what's most interesting to you and what you can continue playing.

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The good thing is that, if you don't play the story mode, you can choose the sport you want to play solo, online or locally, and you don't have to bother with the other games unless you choose a random pick of the game to play. When it comes to game modes, it's nice to note that absolutely all games are playable in an online environment, which is a huge plus for this title, given that the number of "online" games in Mario & Sonic games so far equals four. Online modes work surprisingly well. I didn't have any problems with online duels, except for the bad mechanics for the activities I expected the most from (table tennis, for example).

When it comes to its graphics, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is not a game that is supposed to impress you with its graphics, nor should it be, in my opinion. Nothing can come near to Luigi's Mansion 3 that amazed the gaming community a few weeks ago. Still, the graphics serve a purpose and for some activities look much better than I expected. Still graphically the least demanding activities look the best, and these are definitely retro 2D activities.

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Final impressions

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a pre-ambitious game with a lot of mini-games. Most of them look fantastic and have good controls, while some are pretty bad in comparison to what was expected. This is a game where you both love and hate the mechanics. You love activities that you can play online, alone or with friends and family locally, while simply hate the fact that some sports are so degraded. However, this title offers a lot if you are looking for simple, easy fun, which is what all players, not just Nintendo Switch owners, are looking for. I give this game 7/10.