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Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review

/ Nov 7th, 2019 No Comments

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review

Right now you may be dealing with an actual fever rather than Olympic fever. However, the latest Mario & Sonic game hopes to change that!

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 features a ton of events split between the 2020 and 1964 Olympic Games. The majority of them are a joy to play, but a few are a bit wonky. In addition to the Olympic events, there is a robust story mode that take Mario & Sonic back to 1964.

Get into the Game

Olympic dreams are all about obtaining the Gold, but what limits would you go to ensure you got that illustrious medal? Would you focus on training, working out, and practicing? Or would you try to get a competitive edge no matter the cost?

The desire to get the Gold at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has driven Dr. Eggman to create a video game system, “Tokyo ‘64” with the intent of taking out Mario and Sonic from the competition. With the help of Bowser, Dr. Eggman hopes to trap Mario and Sonic in Tokyo at the 1964 Olympic Games. However, things don’t work out according to plan.

Rather than trapping Mario and Sonic in the video game system alone, Dr. Eggman, Bowser, and Toad get sucked in as well. While things seem hopeless for the heroes and villains, Luigi discovers the system and aims to bring them back. Sadly, like all of Luigi’s good intentions, helping isn’t so simple. 

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review
When Mario and Sonic find the Tokyo ’64 game system they are transported into the 1964 Olympic Games.

In order for Luigi to bring them back, he has to travel across the Tokyo 2020 games to enlist the help of allies. As he desperately searches for a way to save his brother and Sonic, they are trapped in 1964 forced to compete in the Olympic Games. Will Luigi figure out a way to help Mario and Sonic, or will they be trapped forever in “Tokyo ‘64”.

The story mode for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a way for the game to highlight the retro events set in Tokyo 1964. Its premise, albeit fantastical, gives a good reason why these 1964 events are present. There is a lot of love to bring both the 1964 and 2020 version of the Tokyo games to life, and the story mode is where you can appreciate that.

More than any of that, the story mode opens up the game to include minigames taking advantage of the Tokyo backdrop. Thanks to these minigames we get to race a Bullet Train and scale Tokyo Tower, which are absolutely delightful.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review
The story mode has a lot of charm.

While the high concept behind the story mode is interesting, the dialogue and pacing can drag. Since writing isn’t the core of either series, it can seem a bit incongruous to have pithy jokes and odd non-sequiturs come from these recognizable characters. Additionally, some of the dialogue is way to expository with complications to the story being telegraphed as a result. It doesn’t detract completely from what is fun about the story mode, but the dialogue mars it.

One benefit to the writing in the story mode is all the Olympic and Tokyo facts. It may seem like it’d be a negative, but learning more about the 2020 & 1964 games, and Tokyo’s landmarks is a treat.

Olympic Party

Although the story mode gives players a taste of the different events the game offers, many will prefer to dive straight into the events. Whether playing solo against the computer for practice, or against friends for dominance, you can start figuring out your favorite events right away. 

The game supports play with up to 4 players in the various events, and offers the ability to use standard controller inputs or joy-con controls (for support events). Most people will choose standard buttons, but giving the joy-con controls a spin is worth doing at least once. It makes for a unique experience like using one joy-con to do some sick kick flips in the skateboarding competition.

In terms of events, there are a lot to choose from with nearly 40 events split between the 2020 and 1964 games. As we said in our preview, the track & field events in both 3D and 2D are a highlight. The 100m dash, hurdles, and jumping events benefit from being iconic summer game events. Track & field are the bread and butter games because they are easy to pick up, and anyone can understand the controls.

While the track & field events are iconic summer game events, players may find themselves more intrigued by the less traditional events. Many events outside track & field make a return like boxing, rugby, soccer and gymnastics. New events like karate, surfing, skateboarding, and sports climbing make their appearance for the first time in the series.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review
Skateboarding is a new event introduced in the Tokyo 2020 games, but in Mario & Sonic the event is a mixed bag.

Hyper competitive bouts like karate, judo, boxing and fencing are big draws for the game. These events have a nuance to controls, and let players demonstrate their skill and competitive edge. Much like fighting games themselves these events have an electricity running through them as players try to land and avoid strikes.

Tokyo 2020 marks the debut of skateboarding and surfing as Olympic events. As a result, it is the first time they appear in Mario & Sonic. Surfing has a very zen like quality. As a character of your choice, you do your best to ride and crest waves performing tricks as you do. The controls fairly easy to understand, and the events is a lot of fun.

Skateboarding doesn’t fare as well. Much of that is probably due to the proliferation of skateboarding video games. The event is by no means bad, but the simplified controls and gameplay means it lacks the specificity and complexity fans of video game skateboarding come to expect. Since it is one of many events, it works for variety, but Vector doing an ollie doesn’t even have the same punch as when Snake and Raiden did one on Big Shell.

The drawback of including so many events is that there is a bit of unevenness. While events like the 100m dash, karate, trap shooting, table tennis among others are pitch perfect, other events like freestyle swimming, badminton, canoe/kayak suffer, and volleyball. 

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Review
Dream Racing brings back hover board fun to add some fantastical variety to the game.

The downside of these events come down to confusing controls and a lack of simplicity in initial understand. You can certainly get the hang after multiple playthroughs, but for the sake of party game fun these miss the mark.

Speaking of party game fun, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 features 3 Dream Events. These games have fanciful gameplay that provide a good contrast to the more grounded Olympic events. It is in the Dream Events where you can experience full 4 player action in Dream Shooting, Dream Racing, and Dream Karate.

Dream Shooting and Dream Karate are cool, but the real star of the Dream Events is Dream Racing. It brings back the intrigue of Sonic Riders, but with a smoother gameplay. Dream Racing provides a great 4 player event that adds the right balance for the party game vibe.

Overall

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a fun party game. The majority of the events are a lot of fun with a few exceptions that suffer from unclear controls. While the story mode is a little uneven, it takes chances, which is commendable. 

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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MARIO & SONIC AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES TOKYO 2020 REVIEW

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall78%

GAMEPLAY7.5

Since the game is based around a variety of different events, the quality can be a bit uneven. While some events play perfectly, others are a bit confusing even with a tutorial. Overall, the good events outweigh the bad.

GRAPHICS9

Both the 2020 and 1964 graphics look great with a lot of love and charm poured into the 1964 events.

SOUND8

Much like the visual aesthetics, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 features two soundtracks. The 2020 soundtrack is good, but the throwback 1964 soundtrack is fantastic.

STORY7

Mario and Sonic’s 1964 excursion won’t blow you away with razor sharp writing, but the premise does allow for some cool minigames and a good showcase for the events.