Even though I do not understand the draw to these types of games as a whole, that does not mean I do not or cannot appreciate them when they are fun, and the fact that Mario and Sonic are in the same game always warrants checking out. The Mario Party series was always one of my favorites growing up and watching that franchise develop over the years to become the fine-tuned games they are today has been pretty amazing. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 actually remind me a lot of Mario Party, if you stripped out the board game, progression, final score, and kept it to mini-games only.
At E3 this year, fellow TechRaptor video guy Nick Maillet and I had the chance to play the game in a closed-door setting. While we were given a strict 15-minute demo, we got the chance try out the skateboarding, surfing, and karate events. The Sega rep running the demo insisted that we play with the motion controls only, which surprisingly had a very natural feeling to it even though the joycons are super tiny and weigh nothing.
Unfortunately, my biggest gripe with the motion controls was that there was no consistency with it. For example, when playing the skateboarding game, the controller asks you to flick your wrist upwards to perform tricks when at the end of the vert ramp. However, while playing Nick and I could never quite land anything on purpose. On one run Nick would barely get anything done while I was a god of skateboarding, then the next round I would have trouble doing the simplest vert tricks while Nick was doing infinite boardslides.
This was consistent throughout most of the demo and when I asked about the motion controls, the Sega representatives stated that “it was still being worked on” and there would be nothing to worry about. I will have to likely side with them on this one, but hopefully, it gets ironed out by the time of launch.
The gameplay of Sonic and Mario is interesting. While I did find it rather engaging, the game modes themselves were all rather short. We were not informed if there is a single player mode with difficulty tiers that allow you to progress through the game like Mario Kart or something along those lines, and the game had a lot of awkward downtime in-between game events. Maybe I am not used to downtime since I tend to play a lot of FPS titles, but there was an element of awkwardness that I just can’t shake.
I do not think this game is bad in the slightest; I actually had a good time playing it. I am just having trouble figuring out who Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is exactly for. It could be for everyone, or it could just be a fun little novelty to have that you take out every so often when someone who doesn’t necessarily play games wants to try the switch out.
Graphically the game is beautiful and its cartoony style really helps bring everything to life. But what I did not expect from seeing the trailer reveal was the secret retro mode that was not to be selected in the game’s menus. One thing I noticed from the demo and the trailer was a bit with 16-bit graphics. When I asked the Sega rep about this I was met with a “you’ll find out soon” answer, so only time will tell what that was. Either way, it could be a cool inclusion to a game that has a pretty great visual aesthetic to it.
Again, I am not sitting here attempting to rip this game to pieces. I enjoy Nintendo and Sega and I think their games are fun, even though I’m not totally their target gamer anymore. That being said, simply because I personally feel that way it does not mean I cannot look at something objectively. While I had fun with the game (controller issues aside), I have not been able to set aside the fact that this game just doesn’t have the polish you would get from something with Mario in the title. But with all demos were still a ways off from the final release and hopefully, things can get fixed. For now though, Mario and Sonic aren’t seeing any gold medals.
In the video below, Nick and Andrew sat down and talked a bit about the game, who its for, and why its the best way to spend quality family time at the airport.