Release Date: November 6, 2007
It was the face-off of the '90s: Mario versus Sonic. The two mascots from the main gaming companies of the time, Nintendo and Sega, were always compared to one another. Debates would be had as to who was the better mascot. Lines were drawn, and sides were taken. It was never imaginable that the two would ever be in the same game. However, the magic of the Olympics has played up the rivalry of these companies to bring together the two most beloved mascots — and all of their friends — in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games for a match-up of epic proportions. Is this the ultimate showdown gamers have been waiting for since the 16-bit generation?
With the world anticipating the 2008 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Beijing, China, it's inevitable that an obligatory Olympics video game would be released to promote awareness of the event. Slap on some well-known characters from the Mario and Sonic franchises to push the sales, and the title should appeal to casual, old-school and new gamers alike. There are a total of 16 playable characters — eight from each franchise — to use in a variety of Olympic events like the 100-meter dash, long jump and pole vault. Every character is divided into a different category of speed, skill, all-around ability or power, with each having its own unique statistics. You can also opt to use your own Mii, which has average statistics.
The events are divided into Mario Kart-esque circuits. Get a trophy in the circuit, and you can move onto the next, and eventually unlock new, more difficult circuits. Events include archery, fencing, gymnastics, rowing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, and track and field. Unfortunately, each of these is plagued with its own unique motion control scheme. For events like the 100-meter dash, you have to swing the Wiimote up and down to gain, and keep, your speed. In events like the long jump, you'll shake the controllers until a certain point and then it will lock your speed. From there, you have to lift the Wiimote at the right moment to jump far. But be careful, though — lift it too high and you'll simply fail. It's discrepancies like this that start to make the title extremely frustrating.
Going along the same lines of unique controls, in swimming events, different characters have different swimming strokes. For example, one character might do the doggy paddle, while another will use the breaststroke, causing you to use different motions with the controls to swim. While this is great and all, the motion controls still feel like more effort than they're worth. You'll be shaking your arms like crazy, and you'll no doubt get tired, so consecutive swimming events are probably out of the question.
What makes this even worse is the fact that each character is pre-disposed to be bad at certain events. You will not see the power characters like Bowser doing well at the 100-meter dash, no matter how quickly you wave those controllers. Yoshi will simply doggy paddle while other characters are doing the butterfly stroke. However, this is balanced out by being able to bet on one event per circuit, doubling your points for that event. You can try to play up a character advantages, but you're still a victim to their disadvantages.
Aside from the circuits, you also have the mission mode, in which each character has a set of six missions for you to complete. These are interesting diversions, such as the event where you play as Mario and try to beat Sonic in a race, but when compared to other Wii titles that I've tried, this game requires very intense controller movements in order to achieve the desired results.
Mario & Sonic is ripe with multiplayer opportunities. You can have friends join in on the circuits, and to encourage more players, you don't even need the Nunchuk attachment to play. However, when you play through the circuits with friends, you're unable to earn trophies, which won't let you progress and can serve as a deterrent to co-op play. While I definitely wouldn't force my friends to suffer through these tedious events, a game like this would almost require some support from friends to survive the frustration, so alas, you'll be advancing through this game all by yourself.
For those who can bear the controls, the replay value is pretty ramped up. You can play the circuits in three different difficulty levels, and there are four circuits per difficulty level. You can also collect medals throughout the game by completing tasks, sort of like the Xbox 360 Achievements. Most of the tasks involve earning trophies with certain characters or beating a character's mission mode, but there are also some odd objectives, such as one that requires you to commit a foul in the 100-meter dash. Regardless, while these medals serve as nothing more than bragging rights, it gives gamers a reason to keep playing after they've unlocked all the circuits. Mario & Sonic also features online leaderboards, so you can compare your event rankings against those of players worldwide.
It seems the developers didn't spend a lot of time on the visuals for Mario & Sonic. The intro sequence shows off the Wii's prowess, but once you dive into the game, the characters are bland, and the environments are dead. The characters never change outfits for the various events in which they participate — at least Peach isn't doing all this in her usual dress — and the stadium doesn't look as packed as it should for the Olympics.
Moreover, the voice acting is not the best ever, although the bigger issue is that a character's catchphrase is brutally repeated over and over. Also, with this game being the flagship collaboration between the biggest two mascots, you'd think there would be some overt throwback tunes in the soundtrack to emphasize the nostalgia factor, but instead, we get some slightly bouncy elevator music.
It may have been officially licensed by the International Olympic Committee and serves the purpose of hyping the upcoming Olympiad, but Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games was not what fans wanted in the first Mario-Sonic crossover game. The Olympics are essentially episodic, so although it makes sense that this title boils down to a collection of mini-games, the uneven quality of the events makes Mario & Sonic difficult to enjoy. The controls are hit-and-miss, and although you can play with a friend, you won't be able to progress through the circuits together, which makes it a moot point. If you really need to get your Mario-versus-Sonic fix, you should skip Mario & Sonic and patiently wait for Super Smash Bros Brawl.
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