Ever since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Mario, Sonic, and co. have been outperforming real Olympic athletes on Nintendo consoles in the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games series. However, by the time Rio 2016 released, it was clear the bi-yearly release schedule was resulting in rushed products. Skipping an Olympic Games for the first time since the series began with the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sega took their time making sure Tokyo 2020 had the effort it needed to be as fun as it could be. This effort definitely shows in each of the simple yet fun Olympic events and the story mode which compiles them into a simple narrative.
The main event here is, well, the variety of events on offer. Favorites from past installments like Soccer, Rugby Sevens, and Fencing make a return with some tweaked gameplay to freshen up the experience alongside some great new entries like Climbing and Skateboarding. These events vary in terms of complexity and depth, ranging from the button-mashing of 100m Sprint to the variety of tricks and timing in Surfing. This lets the game truly have events on offer for every kind of player, from the casuals getting together with friends to those looking to practice a variety of techniques to earn high scores. Every kind of player can also pick their controls; more casual players may like to use motion controls, while the skilled crowd will likely prefer the precision of only button inputs. Every event has preset Olympic records to break, incentivizing practice beyond what’s necessary to get the gold medal. It also tracks your records, further providing that desire to improve upon your old scores. The three Dream events drop realism for fun, taking place in the worlds of Mario and Sonic and featuring outlandish situations. In a first for the series, the computer opponents also set a high standard. While this means high scores and times to beat in events like Archery and 4×4 Relay, it means a practically impossible battle in events designed for player vs. player multiplayer like Boxing and Karate. The computer seems to always know the right option in these events, meaning that you have to exploit AI tendencies, get lucky, or just grab a friend for those events.
Alongside the traditional and Dream events, Tokyo 2020 introduces the Tokyo ‘64 events. Themed after the 1964 Olympic games, which were the last to take place in Tokyo, these feature a limited roster of Mario and Sonic characters with their designs from their first appearances. Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and Peach appear in all their 8-bit glory while Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Eggman have their 16-bit designs from the Sega Genesis classics. These events loosely animate the characters using existing assets from the classic games in an endearing retro setting. What really sets out with these events, however, is the sheer simplicity. Each of these events takes almost no time to explain, every character has the same stats, and the events are much briefer. This makes them amazingly easy to jump into with a crowd of gamers of any skill level and enjoy them; if the standard events had a range of complexity, these events sit in the middle of that scale at their most complex. There’s something to be said for these simple events; they’re a fun time with as few complex maneuvers in the way of it as possible.
Both types of events are toured in the game’s story mode. Dr. Eggman teams up with Bowser to trap Mario and Sonic in a retro video game console of their own making, but end up trapped inside it themselves. Luigi gathers others from the real world to try and help Mario and Sonic escape, while the duo tries to get enough gold medals in the ‘64 Olympic games to escape the console. The story is little more than an excuse to tie all the events into a progressive, easily-digestible sequence with some bonus mini games here and there, but it does its job nicely. It mainly consists of traveling from event to event while the story progresses, with little bits of trivia about the Olympics or the Mario and Sonic franchises scattered about the various locations. As an introduction to all the game has to offer, Story Mode does its job well, but lacks any sort of replay value. The real meat of this game is definitely the events themselves.
Overall, the only thing lacking in Tokyo 2020 is content. The events are as good as ever, and there’s plenty of them, but the game has little else to offer. It can provide lots of fun with friends or on your own, but after some time you may want to play something else for a while before returning to it. Nevertheless, it’s a great title to play with friends or family and has its fair share of single-player fun for players of all skill levels.