Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - The Official Video Game

Platform(s): Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: June 22, 2021


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PS4 Review - 'Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game'

by Cody Medellin on June 23, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

A fun-filled sports action game where you can create your own avatar and compete in Olympic Games events with people around the world.

Buy Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game

For the most part, games about the Olympics, whether they're directly licensed or Olympics-adjacent, don't catch the attention of most players. Few people want to engage in virtual swim or track meets, and the other sports in the package fail to keep people engaged for long. There are some exceptions, most notably the Mario & Sonic series of Olympic games, which are treated as a sports-themed alternative to Mario Party. Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is the latest attempt by Sega to make an Olympics game that stirs up interest in the event and is as well regarded as the Mario & Sonic series and Konami's 8-bit-era Track & Field games.

Before starting your Olympic journey, you'll be tasked with creating a character, and this is where you discover that the game has gone with a more stylized cartoon look. With rounded digits and a rounded general look overall, the best comparison is that everyone looks like they came from the Xbox Avatar creation system. There are a decent number of options, so you can create some good-looking characters.

The game features 20 different events, each covering different disciplines and all of them featuring intergender play. Five of the events involve track and field. The 100m Dash requires mashing the X button as quickly as possible, while the 110m Hurdles has the same requirement but adds in an upward flick of the left analog stick to jump. Hammer Throw involves holding down both L1 and R1 while rotating the right analog stick — and then letting go of the shoulder buttons at the correct spot in the arc to execute the throw. Long Jump entails mashing the X button to run and flicking the left analog stick at an angle to initiate the jump. The 4x100m Relay is where things get tricky, as it requires mashing the X button to run and an upward flick of the left analog stick to pass the baton — while staying in the pink area of the gauge to maintain speed. The focus on precise button-mashing as opposed to furious button-mashing makes the 4x100m Relay the most difficult one in the batch of track and field events.

There are two water-specific events, both of the swimming variety. The 100m Freestyle works like a rhythm game, where you need to flick down either the left or right analog stick just as the arrow reaches a specific spot in the arc. Due to the precise timing, expect to put in lots of practice in this event if you want a podium placement. By comparison, the 200m Individual Medley lets you have a variety of analog stick motions that don't require precision, but you need to pace yourself to maintain stamina. Unless you go full tilt, draining the stamina meter takes loads of time, and the more freestyle nature of the analog stick movements make this one a little easier to consistently win.

There are two events that fall under the combat sports banner, and this is where the game starts to lean into a more arcade feel rather than a simulation one. Boxing takes on a control scheme similar to the PS2 Hajime no Ippo or Knockout Kings 2002, where each analog stick controls the respective arm of your character and the stick movements control what kind of punch you'll throw. The R1 button initiates a block, and the triggers let you side-step the opponent. What makes it fall under the arcade banner, aside from the fact that stamina isn't a factor, is the presence of a super meter. The meter is split into three stages and is filled up via punches; it's unleashed with a combination of the L1 button and a right analog stick direction. It isn't a guaranteed knockout blow, but it is flashy and brings the opponent one step closer to a knockdown. The game has no energy meter for either fighter, so you're at the mercy of an invisible system that determines whether a hit knocks you down. Considering that there hasn't been a boxing game on the PS4 unless you're willing to step into VR, this might be a reason for boxing-starved fans to consider the game, despite its simplicity here.

By comparison, Judo is clearer in terms of player status, so it's easy to understand how you win or lose. Players can move toward or away from each other, and they can only initiate a collar or a sleeve grab. Both can be countered if you hit another grab at the same time, but if you catch the opponent in a grab or vice versa, you'll be engaged in a short session of button-mashing to get a marker over a blue or red mark, where blue indicates a half-point and red indicates a full point — enough to win the match. Failing to get the marker over the desired mark results in a failed throw, but both participants lose stamina as a result. Getting caught in a grab with a depleted stamina meter results in an instant throw and loss. The special meter is used to either initiate unblockable throws or counter out of an opponent's grab and into your own grab. The matches are quick but frantic, and they're easy enough to figure out, so Judo is probably going to be one of the more popular events in the game.

Tennis events can be played in both singles and doubles variants, making them count as four events, according to Sega. If you're expecting regular tennis to emulate Sega's own Virtua Tennis, then you'll be disappointed because the game only offers up the basics. You get to build up a special shot, but that's about it. Likewise, Table Tennis features the same special shot mechanic, but you'll use the right analog stick to hit the ball instead of a face button. Both function well enough to provide an enjoyable experience, but don't expect it to be a replacement for your favorite dedicated title.

All of the above are traditional events that have been seen in prior Olympics games, and the rest of the events in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will garner the most attention. Two of those events are individual ones that feel like they were thrown in to appeal to the X-Games crowd. BMX has you racing alongside others on a track that's filled with ramps and bumps. Aside from having to slow down on curves, you're mashing the X button as quickly as possible while occasionally hitting the Square button to get big air. Sessions last longer than the track and field events, but it isn't something you'll go back to. Conversely, Competitive Climbing has some of the best controls in the title, as you'll use analog sticks to aim for grabbable rocks while trying to reach the top faster than your opponent. Unlike most of the events thus far, it feels like you need real skill to win, especially since you have a high chance of failing to grab a rock and automatically losing. Like Judo, this is another one that'll see constant rotation among players.

The last five events are team based and are rather atypical for an Olympics game unless you've been playing the Mario & Sonic series. Beach Volleyball, Football (Soccer for the American audience), and Rugby Sevens make their debut in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Both Basketball and Baseball also make an appearance, and while their mechanics are familiar to sports fans, the ability to shorten the quarters and innings, respectively, will throw off anyone expecting to spend a long time on these events. Both Beach Volleyball and Rugby Sevens are almost perfect as-is, with the former being easy to control and the latter being a great way to check out the sport without investing in a dedicated title.

However, both Football and Basketball suffer from the inability to manually switch out who you're controlling. Since that's done automatically, you'll often find yourself going in the wrong direction on defense when the switch happens. Both Football and Baseball also suffer from terrible AI, where we've seen more than a few football matches where players score a goal on their own net while just about every pitch in baseball is a guaranteed strike if it isn't hit. Like most of the events here, it can work for the inexperienced players, but anyone with a basic understanding of the related sports games will be disappointed.

That is quite a varied list of events, with a "something for everyone" vibe rather than sticking with a traditional set of events that may play too similarly to one another. It would've been nice to see some of the events from the Mario & Sonic series make it over to the mainline title, especially since the PS4 has not seen an Olympics title until now. Stuff like Archery or Gymnastics would be nice additions for those who crave the classics, while adding Skateboarding and Surfing would help, since those are also new events in this year's games.

If you're playing the game solo, then you don't have too much to look forward to. Practice mode lets you get a feel for how each event goes, so it works well for quick games. The main Olympics mode has you going through several different playlists, selecting an event that you'll play for a few rounds from the quarterfinals to the semifinals to the finals. Get a gold medal, and you'll return to Practice mode to beat a fictional champion of the sport. You only get one shot at the champion, and losing means having to get another gold medal to try again. It works, but it isn't too exciting once you get the hang of each event and beat each champion almost effortlessly.

Multiplayer is the focus of the title, and it's a little more robust than expected. The main Olympics mode can be played with one other person locally without any restrictions. That second player has the option to create their own athlete or take a randomly generated one, but it's great to be able to play every event with another player in tow and still have it count for medals. All of those events can be played online with up to eight players, and you can let the second local player join in. It would've been nice to see local play support four players, but this'll do in the meantime. There's a constantly rotating list of events in ranked play that are available at set times, so it feels more authentic to the actual games, where a bunch of events are occurring concurrently. While you can wait for your event to pop up before joining, it encourages you to do decently at all events if you want to play without restrictions. Sadly, we can't report on the online performance, since we never found anyone to play with during our review period. It might be improved once the game is actually released, but considering that the game came out close to two years ago in Japan, we can take it as a sign that the online population will be quite small.

No matter which mode and event you play in, you're always scoring points. People spend the most points on the costumes, which can get rather silly. Running a 100m Dash as a cowboy or playing Rugby in a Super Sentai-like outfit is odd, but it is in line with the game's cartoon look and feeling less stiff than previous entries. You can also apply those costumes to every event, and you can even dress up other team members. The points can also be spent on bumping up your athlete's stats, but this is problematic because there's no way to do that on an existing athlete. Instead, you need to save your character, create a new one, and apply the new stats package there. It's clunky since most people are going to create the character they want the first time out and not bother with stat increases if it requires all that work.

Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is fine. It would've been nice to get some of the events from the Mario & Sonic series ported over to make this feel more robust compared to Sega's older Olympics titles, but what's here plays well enough if you don't mind some quirks — especially with the team games. The focus on multiplayer is warranted, since that's how the general public will approach it, but it would've been nice if there were more for the solo player to do. If you're looking for a party game and not a serious multi-discipline sports simulation, this isn't a bad choice.

Score: 7.0/10

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