Preview | Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 — Final Preview
The Tokyo Olympic games are nearly upon us, and with that, so is a new Mario & Sonic title. We’ve been previewing the game all month long, checking out the Tokyo 1964 Events, the Story Mode, and the Dream Events. For our final preview, we’re spotlighting the main events of the game. There are 22 main events, most of them returning from previous titles. There are also four events making their appearance for the first time. For fans of the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games titles, this will likely feel right at home. Many events offer motion controls for those wanting to be active, and as an alternative, every event offers traditional controls too. Here’s what to expect for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020’s main events.
While not every event returns, like BMX and Beach Volleyball, the variety here is pretty solid. The athletic events take up the majority of the list, including 100m Dash, 100m Freestyle, 110m Hurdles, 4 x 100m Relay, Triple Jump, Javelin Throw, and the Discus Throw. All of these events will play similar to how they’ve played before, as they’re all returning events. They can all be played with buttons or motion controls, with the exception of the Discus Throw. Even if you’re using a pro controller, motion controls are still required for throwing the discus. In that event, it feels like the joy-cons have the advantage, as the pro controller motions didn’t track well.
Aside from the discus throw, all the other athletic events control fine regardless of controller type. Running events will often start by holding down a shoulder button to charge, pressing A for a running start. If it’s a jumping event, players must time their jumps to maintain speed. Perfect jumps will give better performance, and pressing the A button when landing will often grant a burst of speed. Sometimes a marker will appear on the ground for a potential boost opportunity. Others will allow special moves to get that extra advantage in the event.
After the athletic events, all the other events are sort of in their own category. For example, you’ll have Archery, which players can do with two joy-cons or with traditional buttons. The aiming mechanic with the motion controls feels a bit off, but it’s still manageable. Using a pro controller gave me better results with my aiming though. Fencing on the other hand works surprisingly well with the motion controls. Parrying attacks feels a bit easier to do, and the sabre thrust can go high or low.
Gymnastics takes a lot of cues from the athletic events, as repeatedly pressing A will build up speed. The player character will move through phases in slow motion, prompting commands before aiming for a perfect landing. The Swimming event also takes a few elements of the athletic events, though character choice determines the controls here. Each character will have their own style of swimming, so it’s best to know their controls individually. There are five styles: front crawl, running swim, butterfly, breaststroke, and the crocodile swim. Mastering the swimming technique and combining it with the super swim ability will earn victory easily.
Boxing is one of my favorite events, mostly since there haven’t been dedicated boxing games for a while. Using either buttons or motion controls, players will fight till they get a knockout or a TKO. Defense is important, but so is a solid offense, and building up your special attack will help greatly. It’s easy to just let loose, unlike the new Karate event, which takes a bit more strategy. It took a little to understand how it works, but once you understand the controls, it can move quickly. Unlike Boxing, Karate is points based, much like Fencing, so you’ll need to stay on your toes. Interestingly enough, super moves in Karate don’t build up much unless the fight is very evenly matched.
Another new event is the Sport Climbing, which has players perform rock climbing with a select character. Players will have the option to use either dual joy-cons or traditional buttons, which I personally prefer the latter. Using two joysticks to aim for the next hold and using the shoulder buttons just feels easier. If players grab a star hold, then they can unleash a special climb which allows them to reach greater heights. Players can also charge their leaps, allowing them to reach higher holds. A fun little presentation quirk for this event is that Lakitu will bring you back if you fall, referencing the Mario Kart series.
Surfing and Skateboarding are two new events that actually feel surprisingly similar. Both have players able to do tricks from jumping with the right timing. They also have a combo system for consecutive tricks, building a higher score. The main difference is that surfing requires a bit of luck due to the waves. Every wave is different, and you’ll have more opportunities with bigger waves than smaller ones. Both events offer traditional controls or a single joy-con for motion controls. Either option works pretty well, so this will likely fall under player preference. While the skate park is fairly small, it does bring back some of those old Tony Hawk Pro Skater vibes. Skateboarding also has the benefit of building speed when landing with a button press.
Badminton is surprisingly one of the harder events, as it’s difficult to actually score. Likewise, it’s also difficult to lose, resulting in long rallies between players. On the other hand, Table Tennis has a faster pace and can be easier to score. Using motion controls in these events will feel similar to swing mode in Mario Tennis Aces. Using buttons instead will offer easier reaction times. Both events have tricky or powerful super moves based on character types, so it’s best to know what you’re getting into. Playing doubles Badminton lets both characters perform flashy team shots to help even the odds as well.
Football (Soccer) and Rugby Sevens are both returning events that play somewhat similarly. The rules may be different, but both involve teams of four select characters to compete. Football adds an additional support robot for the goalie, and Rugby Sevens adds three robots to fill the rest of the team. Football isn’t quite Super Mario Strikers, but it has some interesting mechanics. The Team Super specifically is interesting, involving passing to each teammate during a super charge to make a devastating shot. Rugby Sevens does super moves differently, depending on if the player is defending or on offense. Defenders will do a powerful tackle while offense will do a charging move toward the goal. Both these events last a bit longer, giving more time to build a competitive spirit.
The Canoe event has players pick two characters to form their team. Charging up at the start of a race ends up in a timing contest as teammates have to time their paddles. Perfect timing will give more distance with each paddle, though toward the end of the race, timing gets thrown out the window. Motion controls work well enough, though the traditional controls make it pretty easy with using the analog stick. It’s a bit surprising that there aren’t more water based Olympic games this year.
Finally, the Equestrian event allows players to ride a horse through an obstacle course. Pressing the A button will sprint and build up speed, which some jumps will need. Timing the jump with markings on the ground will help to recover stamina too. Performing a super ability has the horse run faster for a set time, so best to avoid turning areas. Players can only use it once, so it should the trump card for setting a new record. Regardless of the mechanics of this event, it’s just fun to see Bowser riding a horse again. Despite that, I would say technique characters have an advantage here as they have tighter turns.
All of the characters fall into specific categories that gives them a specific trait in each event. Speed, power, technique and all-around each have five characters, not counting the guest characters. Speed characters will run, climb and overall perform faster in most events. Power characters will have more stamina, jump higher, attach harder, or even specialize in super moves. Technique characters will have easier super starts, tighter turns, faster recoveries and good defense. All-around characters obviously balance between the other three categories equally. This is how earlier Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games would do it as opposed to different stats.
As mentioned before, there are guest characters for specific events. These are characters that players will encounter in the story mode, where defeating them will unlock them in a single event. This could be like Rouge in the Sport Climbing event, Diddy Kong in Rugby Sevens, or Wendy O. Koopa for Swimming. Unfortunately, only twelve events use guest characters, leaving ten events without one at all. It’s also worth mentioning that some guest characters from previous games don’t return. These characters include Sticks, Wave, Nabbit, and Dry Bowser. Why they aren’t just playable in all events is unknown, but it’s nice to have extra variety in some events at least.
Overall, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 gives plenty to do. Combining the 22 main events with the Dream Events, Tokyo 1964 and Story events, there’s essentially 45 different mini-games. The game is all set to launch next week on November 5th, and it’ll release exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. We’ll also have our review ready on that day as well, so stay tuned!