[Review] Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – Nintendo Switch

Written by Lachlan Bruce
  • Developer: Sega
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Release Date: 05/11/2019
  • Price: $59.99 / £49.99
  • Review code provided by SEGA

The Console Wars

In the early days of console gaming, Nintendo and Sega dominated the space with their much beloved household systems. That time is often referred to as the “Console Wars”, and those of us still alive to tell the tales of those dark times will generally hold reverence to two generals. Nintendo was led by the Italian plumber Mario, while the Sega army had the blue hedgehog Sonic leading the charge.

We all know who ended up coming out on top in those trying times, yet people are still somewhat fascinated by the Mario versus Sonic debate, at least where their earlier games are concerned. Seeing a game starring both of these iconic characters though seemed like an unlikely venture outside of Smash Bros., though a few years ago, the two camps entered into some friendly competition with the first Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. The game was harshly criticised for its somewhat lacklustre collection of minigames, yet the series has persisted, with the latest offering coming to the Nintendo Switch. The big question is, have these games improved? Let’s find out.

Minigames galore

So what is Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Essentially, it is a minigame collection starring characters from both the Mario and Sonic gaming universes. There is a rather short story mode, but all of the action lies with its collection of Olympic-related games.

These games range in complexity, from just tapping a button to run in the 100m sprint, to playing a full game of rugby sevens that has a complex rule system and uses most of the buttons on the controller. There are a handful of gems in there that are a lot of fun to play, but for the most part, the games are rather forgettable.

One upside to the simplistic minigames is that it makes the bulk of these games very accessible, meaning that this collection could be a fun family title for a younger audience. Speaking of simple minigames, the collection is split up between two categories; games in a modern 3D aesthetic, and games in retro 2D sprites based on the games the characters come from. The 2D games, though a cool addition due to the art style, are made up of some of the simplest and least fun minigames of the lot.

Unfortunately there is no way to set up an event of your own. Setting up a bunch of minigames to battle out with your friends and family to see who could win the most gold medals would have been a great addition, but unfortunately your only real option is the select each minigame individually and keep track yourself.

Video game character inception

The story mode is told in a visual novel-style, with the character models talking atop of a static background. You don’t really see any action or cutscenes, besides a few in the 2D gaming space, and the story itself is rather dull.

Eggman has created a video game device designed to trap whoever uses it in the system forever. The idea is to trap Sonic and Mario in the system, though unfortunately he and Bowser also get whisked away inside the console. The only way out is for Mario and Sonic to gather up as many gold medals in the game as they can.

Outside of the game, Luigi is stuck holding onto the console, and seeks out people to help him get everyone out of the game. Nobody seems that concerned though, instead just wanting to compete in the Olympics rather than help their friends.

Sights and sounds

The audio design is largely forgettable, which is unfortunate. The sound effects are what you would expect, but musically is where the game is truly lacking. With two series coming together, both of which are known for their incredible and iconic soundtracks, you would expect a rather high quality of music. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 ended up feeling like a disappointment in this area, which certainly was a surprise.

Thankfully the visuals are on point. Throwing two series together that have very different art styles should clash in an awkward mess, but somehow it just works here. Maybe it has something to do with the entire concept being weird in the first place, but the distinctly different character designs work well together in the context of this game. Even the sprite-based sections, which mixes the Mario series NES look with Sonic’s Mega Drive/Genesis aesthetic is a joy to see.

Final thoughts

Minigame collections are often filled with a few gems you will always enjoy playing, along with a lot of simplistic fodder that are barely enjoyable. Unfortunately, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is no exception, and beyond its lacklustre story mode, there is little else to this package to sink your teeth into.

That said, the game does have its moments. The Mario and Sonic charm is there, and the handful of quality games really are a lot of fun to play. It’s just a shame that the promising parts are brought down by a lot of mindless bloat.

Pros

  • Charming characters
  • Great visual design
  • A handful of great minigames

Cons

  • Most of the minigames are dull
  • Lacklustre soundtrack
  • Lacking in modes

Verdict
A minigame collection based on iconic characters with a lot of promise, that unfortunately falls short of being good. Its fun moments are enjoyable, but overall the whole package will leave you wanting.
2.5/5

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