Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 review: A crossover that is fun in bursts

Being the sixth installment of the series, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 does not hit anything out of the park, though that’s not to say it’s a title to avoid.

Title: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Developer: Sega Sports R&D
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release date: November 5, 2019

The Mario & Sonic games have always seemed to slip under the radar in the mainstream. They always felt like an extended novelty of a Mario Party game. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. I personally liked these games and thought they were loads of fun— as long as I had people to play it with. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is inspired by the upcoming summer 2020 Olympic games. And while everyone looks forward to the Olympics, previous games in the series were subpar.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 offers events you can jump into either alone or with friends via Quick Match. Unless they also have their own Switch console and game, you can hop into Local Play and do just that. You can play online with others in ranked or free matches. The free matches are where you can play unranked or make private lobbies for friends. The meat of the game lies in the plethora of events that are easy enough to understand and long enough to be interesting.

You have your typical Olympic events like the 100m dash, 110m hurdles, 4 x 100 relay racing, javelin throwing, and then some. There are a total of 34 events, 21 of them being conventional sporting events, 3 dream events, and 10 Tokyo 1964 events. These 1964 events are your conventional events with a coat of 2D, 16-to-8-bit paint. Keep in mind that 2D events cannot be played online. Check out the whole list of events here.

It seems like a lot given that these are most likely to be repeated either for competing for better scores or when you finally gain a better understanding on how controls work for each game. I was able to burn through all of them within a few hours. While many of them were short, the games were still fun enough to mix it up with others in succession. Some are definitely much more fun and smoother than others, however (particularly the dream events).

Nintendo

Many of the games can be played with two Joy-Cons per person, a single Joy-Con, a pro controller, or the Joy-Con played sideways. The superior choice is to play without motion controls, but that defeats the point of immersing yourself in these Olympic games. Using both Joy-Cons or a single one is where it’s at, despite the frustrations in certain games.

Speaking of these frustrations, there are some events that could use some slight tweaking, such as dream racing, sport climbing, boxing, and horseback riding. The motion controls didn’t seem to respond so well when partaking in them. Those are probably the more interesting events to witness others playing. The different body movements and funny gestures add to the overall entertainment of the game.

Mario & Sonic also has a single-player story mode. Of course, Eggman and Bowser team up to try and defeat Mario and Sonic. Dr. Eggman created this handheld gaming system that sucks whoever plays it into the game it’s playing, essentially deleting them out of the world they’re currently in. It backfires and now he, Sonic, Mario, and Bowser are stuck in the game.

They’re stuck in a retro-styled Tokyo 1964 Summer Olympics games as their respective 8-bit and 16-bit selves. This is why there is a heavy emphasis on a handful of Olympic events being presented in a 2D fashion. It’s a neat touch and adds some kind of new aspect to the Mario & Sonic series, but these games can only be played up to two players and have no option for motion controls.

Nintendo

Playing through it unlocks exclusive mini-games that can be played via the Game Room in the My Data section. You can also unlock some fun trivia and guest characters for specific events. This somewhat seeps into a gripe I have with the game. The current roster of the 20 characters we have isn’t bad.

The aforementioned guest characters are only playable for one game. For example, Rouge the Bat can only be played while playing Sport Climbing. Diddy Kong can only be played in Rugby Sevens. While I won’t spoil who the other ten characters are, it is disappointing that they can’t be unlocked to be playable in every other event.

Speaking about the omission of characters, there are only eight playable characters in the 2D events. Mario, Bowser, Luigi, Peach, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Eggman are the only playable characters in those events. I can understand how there aren’t any original sprites for the more modern characters, but it seems like a huge missed opportunity to turn the other 12 original roster characters into 8-bit and 16-bit sprites according to their games.

Another missed opportunity for this game is the inability to group events into categories like decathlons and such, or even your own grouped events for that matter. Each game is played individually followed by the pedestal scene if a human-controlled player wins a top 3 spot, followed by the options to play the game again, select a character, select another event, or go to the main menu.

Nintendo

Luckily, loading times aren’t an issue transitioning to either, but it would be a huge quality of life addition to select a bunch of games or have them randomized before going into them. It cuts the downtime and has you playing longer. It just seems tedious to select a character each time you play a new event because each event can last up to 10 seconds or a few minutes. It sometimes takes that long just for everyone to choose a character and read the tutorials for the games.

Lastly, and this might be a personal gripe I have with the game, but the main theme is so repetitive. It sounds nice for about the first two times it loops, but since you go from game to game in the menus, it’s unavoidable. Continuously hearing it over and over gets more repetitive and annoying. Eventually, I had to either play the game in low volume or turn the music off in the game altogether. The menus could definitely stand to have more variety in the music.

Overall, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 isn’t a bad game. Don’t expect to have hours of fun on it if you play it consistently though (unless you’re going for those challenges; then have at it). If you have a few friends over and whip this game out, that’s where I personally feel you can get the most out of it.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Sega

7.5

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a lot of fun— if you have people to play it with. Most of the events are simple to jump into. Party games with motion controls make local play all the more fun. The inability to play certain games with more than two people and the omission of certain characters from all events can take away from the variety, but it’s a solid game at its core. If you can see yourself playing it with people often, I would suggest it’s a good purchase. If not, you might want to wait for a price cut.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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