Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Neil Flynn 05.11.2019

Review for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Nintendo Switch

If there is anything that Super Smash Bros Ultimate has proved, it is that crossovers between large franchises can whet the appetite of any video gaming fan. The Mario & Sonic franchise is nothing new, in fact this Tokyo rendition is the sixth entry in the series now. The idea at first was absolutely ground-breaking, as two absolute behemoths in gaming could put their differences aside after everything that happened between them in the '90s. However, with every subsequent release the effect of seeing Mario and Sonic together somewhat wanes, and the novelty of having the crossover is not as special and innovative as it initially was. As bizarre as it might be to some, it is safe to say that the target audience itself will know nothing of the bitter rivalry that Mario and Sonic once had, after all it is almost 18 years ago that Sonic made his first debut on a Nintendo console. How times have changed. With all of this in mind what substance does Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 have, if one puts aside the novelty of it all?

To recognise the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the series pays homage to the last time Tokyo held the Olympics in 1964. The unique hook here is having a retro 8/16-bit styled mode, similar to old classics such as Track and Field. The developer, SEGA, has also included this niche hook into the main story mode, which sees the villainous Dr. Eggman trap Mario, Sonic, Toad, and inadvertently (thanks to Luigi), himself and Bowser into a video game system known as the Tokyo 64. The story splits its focus between the retro style of 1964, including the aforementioned characters, and the modern style of 2020 with Luigi and Tails against Bowser Jr. and Eggman Nega.

Screenshot for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Nintendo Switch

The story mode is rather frustrating, full of slow, static screen, non-skippable chats between all the characters, which have been used as padding to elongate the story mode, followed by an Olympic event, and aimless free movement around a 'world' map of Tokyo. Scattered around the world map are several trivia spots which can feature fun little facts from the history of the Olympic, as well as little titbits of trivia for the Mario & Sonic series respectively. At the same time the world map is full of mindless NPCs, normally comprising of Toads or Chao's, which often only say short one-liners and are only there to fill the environment.

The crux of the story mode is to rescue the heroes, and villains from the Tokyo 64, and bring them back to the modern day. To do this all the characters go on a wild goose chase, hunting medals, as they possess the power to break the spell of being confined in the Tokyo 64. Both Luigi and Tails are made to look totally inept during the story mode, as both seem to be petrified of Bowser Jr. who just seems to apparently bully them throughout to get his way. It does feel laborious and chore-like to trudge through the story mode, which rarely poses a moment of flair or whit in its writing - luckily, that won't be the main reason why people will buy this.

Screenshot for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Nintendo Switch

Story mode aside, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020's real strength lies in its multiplayer mode, where there are over 30 events to play, including a number of retro events and special games to be enjoyed as well. Previous entries would see certain characters having defined character stats and abilities, however to try and rebalance the game, Tokyo 2020 instead declassifies character stats in favour of character specialties, which sees certain characters pose a particular affinity for different parts of the event. For example, in the 100m dash, Sonic's perk is to 'run fast,' but Bowser is good at 'super moves.' It makes selecting characters a little more straightforward as it means there will be no squabbling about who will be the best performing character per event, thus speeding up the selection process. Events can be played with buttons, or via motion control, utilising a single Joycon or a dual Joycon set up.

To really amp up multiplayer modes, it is recommended to use motion controls, mainly as it throws back to the initial memories of waggling Wii-motes in the original Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. There is lots of fun to be had with the number of Olympic events on show, although there are times where it feels that certain button presses or motion controls aren't being detected leading to frustrating play-throughs. This was really noticed on trying to activate super-moves during certain events, but despite multiple attempts during the review process, it just wasn't executing, particularly with the motion controls setup. Almost all events are about precisely timed button presses, button combinations, or just pure luck of the draw. Therefore, it makes many events feel very similar challenges, but with just a different backdrop.

Screenshot for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Nintendo Switch

There is little need for character control movement, with the exception for a few sports where it is required, meaning that the vast majority of the time it is down to a combination and input of buttons. Events such as the Triple Jump require a rapid button press of A followed by X,X,Y, while Gymnastics require a faster button combo more reminiscent of trying to pull off a fatality in a Mortal Kombat. On the other hand, sports such as Archery take good use of the motion controls using a similar approach of simulating the draw of an arrow by pulling one Joycon back while holding the other in front of it. For the vast majority of the events it would be difficult to call it a game of skill, but despite this, against local human opponents while using motion controls it can be pretty fun even if some moves don't come off.

The audio and visual department feels like a standard affair - it is polished graphically but no real different to other titles such as Mario Tennis Aces, Luigi's Mansion, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Mario Odyssey, although it should be noted that this is developed by SEGA, not Nintendo. It doesn't look ugly by any means; it is bright, colourful and visually appealing, but expect no massive difference from what has been done before it. The 1964 mode looks fantastic - it is awesome to see 8-bit Mario next to 16-bit Sonic, it is even more humorous to see Dr. Eggman's classic running animation. The beeps, bops and chimes are all reminiscent of the game franchises that make up this title, and the 1964 version has a commentator that once again brings back nostalgic vibes.

Screenshot for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is an all-around solid good title that would be a fantastic gift for young children. Unfortunately, the story mode is very hit-and-miss. At times there are a few subtle nods and references that long term fans will appreciate, but the rest of it plods along with a number of mundane character conversations and backtracking that needs to be done. The events themselves are well presented but there is a lack of gameplay editing options such as customising game times or number of opponents in a random quick play run. Playing against other human opponents provides joyful play sessions, but these are over far too quickly, and playing solo doesn't provide enough variety in the challenges on offer due to the repetitive nature of the events.

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Sport

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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