It’s no secret that I am OBSESSED with the Olympics. Like, really obsessed with the Olympics. So, I love that Nintendo releases a Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games for each time the Olympics comes around. Next year the Olympics are headed to Tokyo, and I’m incredibly excited!
We don’t have to wait until next summer to enjoy the games! Because Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was just released today! My kids have been playing the game for a couple of weeks now since we were given an early copy. Maddie, my daughter, wanted to write up the review herself!
So… I present… Maddie’s review of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020!
Mario and Sonic have been rivals even from the start of their respective franchises. Almost everyone can recognize the mustachioed, heroic red plumber, as well as the speedy, snarky blue hedgehog. Things changed in 2008 when a game came out for the Wii; Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (specifically, the Olympics held in Beijing, 2008).
From then on out, a series of party games released to celebrate not only the Olympic culture and its action-packed events, but also to celebrate the life of Mario, Sonic, and their respective worlds.
Now, there is a new addition to this line of energetic party games, and that’s the 2020 release of this series, taking place in none other than Tokyo, Japan. This game is quite amazing, and I’ve been anticipating it, so I am deeply honored to be given the opportunity to share my thoughts with those all around the world.
As it is with many games available on the Nintendo Switch, the graphics look phenomenal. The world looks so lively with crowds of Shy Guys, Chao, Toads, and more; as it should be. After all, the Olympics are taking place here – how could the streets not be packed?
If you didn’t already know, this game’s main gimmick is the fact that it actually features two Olympic games, both of which have taken place (and are yet to take place) in Tokyo, Japan. Years 1964 and 2020, respectively. Each has a unique feel to them, which I find extremely appealing.
While I grew up with the Wii’s 3-Dimensional gameplay and have never truly grown up with a pixelated game, The fact that all the events played during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics have a retro, pixelated look, is a very good touch, and it’s bound to provoke nostalgia in someone.
Using the original sprites for Mario, Sonic, and all of the other characters, and watching them compete in a (nearly) completely pixelated environment is very charming, and it also makes sense. Japan is the home of Nintendo and Sega, the two of them would obviously want to pay tribute to the past; especially when they had the perfect chance to do so in this game, and they nailed it splendidly.
Moving on to the future in the regular, 3-D world of the 2020 Games. The graphics here are no slouch, either. The models are very well-made, and the backgrounds are extremely beautiful to look at. The sun is almost shining down on your characters, bringing out a Summer vibe; which is exactly when the Olympics are taking place.
The animations made for each of the characters reflect their individual personalities, and they are all full of energy. Especially when there are cutscenes used with the 3-D models (as an example, the opening sequence), everyone seems so alive and ready to play, almost inviting you to stand up and play along with them. Of course, with the option to use motion controls, you almost can.
Music and Atmosphere
More often than not, a good game comes with a good soundtrack. Whether new or retro, this statement stands strong, and Mario & Sonic at the 2020 Olympics delivers with both styles. The 8-bit songs are all chiptune, and the events each come with their own sound effects. They sound like they could’ve come from games during the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Even the announcer’s voice has been filtered to sound like it belonged to a game during the 1990s. As modern as Nintendo and Sega have become, it’s wonderful to know they not only haven’t forgotten about their past, but they also know how to recreate it.
Of course, the soundtrack in the 2020 world is superb as well. Making use of a combination of traditional Japanese instruments, digitally-made music, orchestral performances, and even some vocalization in a few tracks. As soon as I booted up the game, I knew I would be constantly gushing over the music to my friends. I only wish there was a jukebox mode. The London edition had a jukebox mode. You could also switch the music that played during specific events.
The gorgeous graphics combined with the sensational soundtrack create a great atmosphere within the game. When exploring the overworld in the story mode, the areas the events take place in feel like actual gymnasiums, arenas, and more.
You even visit some Japanese tourist attractions, which I find to be pretty neat. The graphics and music make you feel like you’re actually exploring these areas, and taking part in the Olympics yourself.
As you may know, Mario & Sonic at the 2020 Olympics has a story mode. If you don’t have anyone to play with at the time, you can load up the singleplayer story mode. I won’t spoil much about the story, but you’ll find yourself swapping between the 1964 and 2020 worlds. You will also be participating in new events and old.
When participating in an event, you can choose whether to use a single controller in one hand, both controllers in each hand, or simply buttons only. In my personal opinion, motion controls (single and double controllers) are not for the faint of heart. It only took one match in the Boxing event to get me winded.
The events themselves are very fun to play, with controls that are simple and easy to learn. The Discus event is the only one with (buttons only) controls I had trouble figuring out. It is alright, however, as I understand not all of the events can be the best.
Aside from the events themselves, you’ll find yourself encountering several minigames throughout the story mode. Some are loose adaptations of events, while others have their own original identity. There are minigames in both the 1964 and 2020 world, but all of them are entertaining and they help move the story along by adding a little extra spice in between regular events.
Speaking of the events in the story mode, the story itself actually has good reasons to keep you playing the game. Once it has one motivation, such as “oh it’s just for fun,” an event or two later, the intentions will switch up, keeping the player engaged and wanting to continue with the story.
During the story mode, you also may encounter collectible trophies that have trivial facts attached to them; some about the Olympics themselves and its events, and others about the characters you meet and compete against. It is a nice touch that adds slight educational value to the game, and I believe players could learn a lot about the importance of not only the Olympics but also of the past of Nintendo and Sega.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a party game without the ability to play with others locally, or even online. While I haven’t tried the online feature yet, I have played most of the events with my brother and a few friends.
The multiplayer mode is great all-around; really the only trouble I have is my brother and I fight over Tails. If I could add another feature, I would like to add more characters. I would add characters that are not just from the Mario and Sonic franchises.
Since this game was taking place in Japan, the birthplace of Nintendo and Sega, I thought Nintendo and Sega would bring guest characters from their other games to participate in the events. The 8-bit world of the 1964 Olympics was a bit of a better approach in my opinion. But it still would have been nice to see Kirby try to hold the bows used in the Archery event. Of course, this is not too much of a problem, and multiplayer is as competitive as it should be. There are some events that offer teams, though, such as Rugby Sevens and Football (Soccer).
I will conclude by saying that I highly enjoyed playing Mario & Sonic at the 2020 Olympics. Since I’ve grown up with the Wii, my brother and I would play the London version a lot. Once the Wii U came out, I also enjoyed the Sochi and Rio editions.
I can’t wait to see what games will be next in the series, and how much fun it will bring the whole world; just like the Olympics themselves.
Lastly, I found the events to be very accurate to their real-life counterparts. My mom, being the Olympics-binger in our family (I have recently joined the bandwagon), has confirmed this to be true, and I agree.
I believe this accuracy was to help bring the player in, and to show them what it is really like to be at the Olympics, to be surrounded by a roaring crowd, to win a gold medal in front of millions of eyes. While no one may be watching over your shoulder as you play, doesn’t it feel nice to think that heroes Mario and Sonic, know you have the skills to surpass them in Olympic events?
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com