A Bronze At Best

HIGH The retro inspired 1964 Tokyo Games.

LOW The modern minigames throughout the story mode.

WTF Why wasn’t Big the Cat invited!?!

The Summer Olympic games are less than a year away, which can only mean one thing – everyone’s favorite gaming mascots, Mario and Sonic, are back to flex their muscles on the Olympic stage.

After skipping the previous winter Olympics, Mario, Sonic, their friends and rivals are back to compete in over 30 events in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Included are things like track and field, swimming, badminton, table tennis, and even new Olympic sports like surfing and karate. Most are short and sweet – perfect for quick sessions and multiplayer bouts.

The sessions that are brief, like the track events or even the surfing competition, are the highlights – press one or two buttons, move the control stick, complete the event. This provides an arcade-like feel and is a blast to play with a friend or two.

Events with more complex controls, like gymnastics or discus, are less enjoyable as Mario & Sonic 2020‘s lack of a finely-tuned control scheme becomes more evident as more buttons are required. I beat these events to get them out of the way, then quickly moved on to other sports.

Sadly, team events like rugby and soccer are forgettable as well. Team sports have been minimized and simplified here, both in time limit and controls, but offer little excitement outside of seeing Mario and Sonic on the pitch — it just made me long for a devoted Mario and Sonic soccer title.

Outside of Olympic events, Mario & Sonic 2020 also includes three dream events – racing, shooting, and karate.

Racing sees players jump on hoverboards and zoom down a track while completing tricks. Shooting asks players to run around a Tokyo-inspired location aiming for targets while racking up the highest score, and karate is a four-player free-for-all. Each of these events are okay, but none really excel at what they do. Players looking for a challenge in these flavors would be better off playing Sonic Riders, Splatoon, or Smash Bros.

While each of the 30-plus events can be played at any time, Mario & Sonic 2020 also provides a story mode used to introduce some retro-inspired action.

As the narrative goes, Mario and Sonic are taking in the sights of the Tokyo 2020 Games when they run across Dr. Eggman and Bowser. Eggman wants Sonic to play his brand-new game machine, “Tokyo ’64”, but the console teleports Sonic and Mario directly into the game, thus trapping the heroes forever. However, the ’64 malfunctions and Eggman and Bowser are swept in as well. Luigi and Tails find out that their friends have gone missing (but so has the system) so the two set out across Tokyo to retrieve the console and save their friends.

Players will travel around a simplified map of Tokyo, visiting various Olympic locations – once at each site, Luigi and Tails will challenge others from the Mario and Sonic pantheons to earn medals and gain passes to other venues. Characters like Peach, Amy, and even Wario and Vector will join the squad.

Inside the ’64 console, players will be treated to an 8-bit inspired 1964 Tokyo — that year was the last time the Summer Olympics were in the city. Mario and Bowser look just like their 8-bit NES counterparts, while Sonic and Eggman resemble their 16-bit Genesis origins. In order to escape, players must earn gold medals by winning events from the 1964 Olympic Games including high diving, hurdles, and rowing, as well as seven others.

The retro-inspired ’64 events are stripped down, require simple button presses, and feel like old-school arcade button mashers.  While not all great (looking at you, volleyball!) the ’64 events are the highpoint, and an entire game with the modern events in this style would have been delightful. Hopefully they return in future installments.

Just how much replay value is in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will probably depend on how much a player enjoys the Olympics. There’s not much the game does poorly, but there’s not much that really stands out, either. Mario & Sonic 2020 is good enough to qualify, but it won’t be bringing home more than a bronze.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by and published by Sega. It is currently available on Nintendo Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. About 1 hour of play was spent in local multiplayer modes. Multiple online games were attempted, but I was unable to find a match prior to the game’s release.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Everyone 10+ and contains Cartoon Violence.  From the ESRB website: This is a collection of sports-themed games in which players compete with Mario, Sonic, and their friends at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Players engage in a variety of conventional sporting events (e.g., canoe, equestrian, table tennis) as well as cartoony mini-games. In some combat sporting events (e.g., karate, fencing, boxing), players punch, kick, and lunge at opponents to score points and/or knock them down; the action is highlighted by punching sounds, colorful impact indicators, and cries of pain. A handful of mini-games involve brawling/beating up a set number of characters; piloting a plane to shoot down waves of enemy ships; shooting enemy robots with bows from a third-person perspective.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All information, including the dialogue during the story, is delivered solely through text. Each character is onscreen and their name also appears above the speech bubble when they are speaking. Characters do make little sound effects when talking – these are not subtitled but do not impact gameplay or the story. Text size and color cannot be changed. The game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable, but certain events allow players to pick standard controls or motion controls. Controls vary for each of the events – the left control stick and A button are the two most commonly used, but numerous events utilized all the face buttons and even the L and R triggers. Input descriptions and on-screen visuals appear when playing an event for the first time. Controller configurations can also be accessed for each game at any time while playing.

Brian Theisen
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