Everyone likes a good rivalry. It doesn’t matter what form the rivalry takes. It can be something as simple as two sports teams going at it, two blockbuster movies trying to outrank each other or even fast food places trying out similar new items. People crave competition and rooting for their favorites. There’s no bigger video game rivalry than Mario and Sonic. It’s true their rivalry isn’t as cutthroat as it once was, however, seeing these two go head to head is still an experience. They continue their Olympic focus competition in this latest game, but will this title reach gold medal status?
Mario and Sonic are having a nice chat about the Tokyo Olympics when they receive a letter with a retro video game system. This is not just any video game system, but it’s the one and only Tokyo 64. The letter and game system were sent by Dr. Eggman as a trap. The goal was to trap Mario and Sonic in the game system forever, but the plan was ruined. Due to wacky shenanigans, Bowser and Dr. Eggman also get trapped in the Tokyo 64. Luigi and Tails witness this horror and search throughout all of Tokyo and its Olympic events to seek a way to free their friends. Eventually, it is discovered that Mario and Sonic must win enough gold medals to free themselves.
The story is crafted into 20 chapters and will take a few hours to fully complete. You must control Mario and Sonic in a retro based video game world. The Mario characters are 8-bit style whereas the Sonic characters are in their 16-bit glory. On the outside of the Tokyo 64 world, players control a 3D team pair of Luigi and Tails. This creates a healthy balance of playing as the main characters but giving their sidekicks their time to shine as well. Luigi and Tails will recruit others in their quest to save their buddies.
Character Unlocks and Character Interactions
These recruited characters become your companions and you unlock them to play as. However, there is a weird limitation on certain characters. For example, fan-favorite Rosalina can only be played during the surfing mini-game. So even though there are some fan-favorite characters, not being able to use them in the exact mini-games you want is a serious disappointment. There is no clear indication of why this choice was made. Fans of Jet, Rouge, Toadette, and Rosalina are just some of the examples that will be bugged by this decision. Not having them in the full roster is a huge misstep and brings the roster choice picks into question.
On a more positive note, seeing these characters interact with each other is a pure delight. The story would not be as enjoyable if it wasn’t for the character interactions. Lots of jokes are thrown around, but nothing feels too tacked on. Certain character pairings are just perfection. For example, Dr. Eggman and Bowser perfectly play off each other. If you had zero prior knowledge of either series you would believe they were made to be dynamic bad buddies. Seeing Tails understand Yoshi’s gibberish was an unexpected joy and made the story so much more enjoyable. The characters from the two series mesh well together and you will anticipate the next interaction.
Throughout your course of playing the story, you will compete in all of the basic Olympic sports such as swimming, archery, 100-meter dash and so forth. If you are having a difficult time with any mini-game, the game will let you skip that event and progress you in the story. These are not the only mini-games in the story, however. The game contains ten original mini-games evenly split across both the retro and modern world.
The retro world has mini-games that focus on chasing after Bowser/Dr. Eggman, taking down Dr. Eggman as a boss and sneaking around throughout a museum. These mini-games do not only look like their retro inspiration, but they play as them as well. For instance, the boss fight against Dr. Eggman is a throwback to a classic fight. The mini-game where Sonic chases after Dr. Eggman in a car feels like chasing after the Chaos emeralds in past Sonic games.
The modern world mini-games are more original. All of these games were made nicely in 3D graphics. The locations of this set of mini-games are usually based on Tokyo places or landmarks. For instance, the Shibuya Scramble Search mini-game uses the famous Shibuya business center. These mini-games range from climbing a tower, playing Where’s Waldo (but in Toad form), to beating up a bunch of Shy Guys as Tails. Both sets of story-based mini-games are a breath of fresh air as only doing Olympic style mini-games would get boring after a while.
The gameplay is pretty simple in this title which allows for a wide range of people to have the ability to play. Most of the mini-games are short, therefore landing the proper button commands is extremely important. Certain games like Badminton can be played in singles or doubles and you can even increase the win points needed to win (for nonstory mode plays). Each character has a stats perk associated with them. Some characters are better at running fast, using super moves or good at counters. No stat felt overpowered in any mini-game, but it’s nice to have a little more thought in your character selection.
Players simply compete in Olympic type events and follow the on-screen button commands. Some events are easier than others. For instance, the 100-meter dash is simple enough for anyone to play. However, new sports such as surfing or skateboarding take some time to get used to. Learning new tricks for each of those sports take some trial and error, but once pulled off, it’s very rewarding. Players who are looking for more in-depth mini-games may seek out these particular mini-games over others. Enjoy over 20 mini-games in both modern and retro style. Classic favorites like hurdles, the long jump and swimming make a return.
The 2D events are all done in the 8 to 16-bit style, accompanied by all sound effects, animation and graphic designs from that area. There are only ten events in this mode compared to the main event mode. There’s still a nice range of events ranging from the 100-meter dash, the vault, kayaking, shooting, judo, and even volleyball. The biggest letdowns in this mode are the number of people who can play at a time and the selection of characters. Only eight characters can be played here. The main Mario and Sonic characters are your only options. People who want to play as Shadow and other characters in the 2D mode are out of luck.
Dream events are back in this game. This time Racing, Shooting, and Karate are the three dream event mini-games. These mini-games do not feel as well done compared to the other sets of mini-games included in this game. Dream Racing is perhaps the best one around but still feels like a watered-down version of a Sonic Riders level. You race down a track and collect rings and items to use in a classic Mario Kart fashion. Dream Karate has you plummeting your enemies into the floor. Change enough floor tiles to your symbol to win. This mini-game feels like a classic Mario Party mini-game, but it lacks the triumphant feeling when you win. Lastly, Dream Shooting has you moving around an area to shoot targets down. Gyro controls are the only way to play this so non-gryo fans will dislike this dream event.
The game supports motion or button only controls, but keep in mind not every mini-game is available for motion controls. The same can be said about dual joycon setups or the use of a single joycon. Motion controls for this title do not feel as nice as the past Wii games. Each mini-game will highlight what is available or not, so no need to memorize which games are locked to what control setups. Still being able to use single joycons for instant multiplayer is a real treat. Each mini-game will list the buttons used for the mini-game and give the player the option to practice.
Everything looks well made from the modern-day world to the retro game world. Each world is played to its own strengths. Beautiful cel-shaded models with wonderful animations inhabited the 3D with ease. The retro world is a throwback love letter to old fans. Not just in looks, but sound effects as well. Hear chiptune-like sound effects and events commented by an old school announcer. Classic animation styles of that era are also present in this world. Both worlds complement each other nicely, but the retro world steals the spotlight. The retro world is like a sprite comic come to life. This design choice could have easily gone wrong, but the execution is nailed remarkably.
Everything feels of high quality. A lot of thought was put into every facet of design in this game. Each character has their own unique win and lost animation. Facial expressions are easily understood and are striking to look at. The music is often upbeat, but not too overbearing to distract your focus.
Online play is very smooth and easy to use. Players can create rooms for their friends to join and compete in various mini-games. There are worldwide and friend rankings, some events are based on score whereas others are based off on time. Lag does not seem to be a major issue and with most mini-games being over quickly the problem of lag rarely appears. If players do not want to play a ranked match, free play is available as an option. Free play adds less stress and is just meant for a quick fun match.
Multiplayer and Replay Value
Multiplayer is the foundation of this game. From online to in-person there is a ton of score-chasing and one-upping to be done. The majority of mini-games are quick and easy for nearly everyone to manage. Whether it’s online or local multiplayer play, you will quickly notice how fast you are booted right back to the menu after completing an event. This may not seem like the biggest concern at first, but when you play so many minigames back to back it becomes a dreadful annoyance. This could have easily been avoided by creating a playlist of a certain number of mini-games. Perhaps even adding a small tournament mode would have solved that issue. The game also fails to keep track of every player’s personal win record against each other. It’s not something that is needed, but small touches like that really amp up the competitiveness against each other.
Aside from playing with others, players can collect trivia facts about Mario and Sonic characters, Tokyo and the 1964 & 2020 Tokyo Olympic facts. These are often scattered around each location you go to, some are hidden quite well too. Trivia facts are an unexpected collectible, but the facts about Tokyo and its past/current Olympics were highly interesting. Younger players will most likely not appreciate these facts as much but will enjoy seeing random tidbits about their favorite Mario and Sonic characters. The game also supports its own achievements in the form of Challenges. There’s 77 total which ranges from breaking records to completing certain story objectives. Each mini-game has three difficulties and players can reach for the gold in all difficulties for each mini-game if they desire to do so.
Story mode and presentation are outstanding in this title. The story mode is a fun way to ease people into learning the mini-games and certain character pair-ups make for a more satisfying experience. New mini-games such as surfing and skateboarding are fantastic additions. Online play is quick and easy, but the lack of making a playlist hurts the flow of your matchups. Certain characters being locked to certain events is a real perplexing move as there is no clear reason why they are locked. Players looking for more depth in the mini-games may find the game lacking in that area. The story, while enjoyable, is most likely not enough for non-competitive single-players. While it’s not exactly a gold medal winner, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is still an enjoyable ride. One that is especially more enjoyable when played with family or friends.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 gets a 7/10.