Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Sports
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: Nov. 5, 2019 (US), Nov. 8, 2019 (EU)


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Switch Review - 'Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 5, 2019 @ 1:00 p.m. PST

The latest in the beloved Mario and Sonic crossover series. Players can experience the Olympic Games events together, using the Joy-Con on the Nintendo Switch.

Buy Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

People often forget that the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series exists, which is odd because it's one of the most successful spin-offs of either franchise. Like clockwork, the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Summer Games have earned their own title. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 features everyone's favorite plumber and hedgehog once again participating in the age-old competition.

If you've never played the previous titles in the franchise, the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series is basically a minigame collection. Each minigame takes on a variety of Olympic sports and contextualizes them into simple and competitive multiplayer games. You can play the games stand-alone or as part of a greater tournament. It supports both AI and human opponents, and you can even play against people online.

The events are based on classic Olympic events. A number of the sports have appeared in prior Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games titles, including archery, boxing, track and field, and more. There are also a number of new events, such as karate, skateboarding, and sports climbing. Overall, there are over 30 events, but some have a few twists in store.

The basic gameplay is designed to be played with only a few buttons and the d-pad. Most of the games can be played with a single Joy-Con, which makes Mario & Sonic a good fit for the Switch's much-advertised "break it apart and give each player a controller" gameplay. There's some complexity, but don't expect too much. You generally have to win at various button-mashing or timing minigames to get the gold medal.

New to the game are the 8-bit events, which are classic events that have been reimagined in the NES style (Sonic characters use their Genesis sprites). These games have a smaller roster and tend to play more simply, hearkening back to similar kinds of games on the NES. They're neat distractions and aren't that simpler than the main events. The smaller character roster is slightly disappointing; it would've been neat to see certain characters reimagined in the 8- and 16-bit styles.

Returning from earlier games are Dream Events, which are effectively "souped-up" versions of existing events that take place in Mario- or Sonic-themed levels. For example, Dream Racing takes place in a Sonic Riders-inspired fantastical landscape that's full of big jumps, cool tricks and long grinds. Dream Karate has you competing to knock down enemies and claim the area rather than just simply fighting. Dream Shooting is a competitive multiplayer shooter where the goal is to hit as many targets as possible before your opponents can.

My biggest takeaway from the game is that the "Olympics" part doesn't really add anything to the game. I know it's for the marketing, but I think the Dream Events are a far better fit for the over-the-top Mario and Sonic casts than the more mundane Olympic events. It's a minor thing, but the brief emphasis on wackiness drives home the fact that these characters thrive best in silly situations, rather than Dr. Eggman beating Sonic in a footrace.

At its core, Mario & Sonic is a fun minigame collection. None of the games will blow away players, but the games are well designed and easy to pick up and play. It's clear that some were designed with the idea that players would use the motion-sensitive controllers, but they also seem to work well with regular push-button controls. I never got frustrated with the various minigames, but they don't bring anything particularly new to the genre, either.

The game's value is in the amount of time you'll spend playing it with friends. Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 does offer a story mode in which the heroes are thrust into a time-traveling adventure caused by Dr. Eggman and Bowser. It's mostly an excuse to travel through the various events and take on AI opponents, and there's some amusing dialogue thrown in. There is a ton of Olympic trivia that you can access, but it's nothing you couldn't easily find online. It's a nice add-on for younger players or those who really want to play by themselves, but that's not where the game's value lies.

One nice feature of the update to the Switch is that this is easily the best-looking game in the franchise to date. The characters are well animated and colorful, and it's just a fun game to watch in motion. There's a bit of silliness and a lot of amusing quirks in various character animations. I gravitated toward the "abnormal" characters like Dr. Eggman or Waluigi because they had some of the best animations. The music is relatively solid but not too memorable, and that's pretty disappointing for a franchise that contains two of the greatest soundtrack origins in video game history.

At the end of the day, that is what will determine whether Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is right for you. Are you looking for a Wii-style minigame collection to play at parties or with friends? If so, this title fits the bill exactly. If you're looking for a challenging single-player experience, you still won't find that here. In many ways, Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is as straightforward of an update as you can get. Its primary purpose was to bring Olympic-style events to the Switch for the first time. If that's what you're looking for, then you'll be happy with this Mario & Sonic outing.

Score: 8.0/10

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