Thanks to the addition of a new story campaign and throwback 1964 mode, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 aims to bring the long running sports crossover series to the Switch generation with style and grace. While longtime fans of Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog have spent decades dreaming of a full action platforming crossover between the two franchises, many have been able to content themselves with the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series.
The sports crossover series dates back to 2007, and has earned praise for its crossover elements, as well as a degree of derision for its simplistic gameplay and lack of depth. Nevertheless, for fans of the iconic mascots looking for a crossover between the two franchises, the Mario & Sonic games are consistent must-play events.
The latest entry in the series, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, looks to reinvent the series with a brand new story mode and the much-hyped Tokyo 1964 mode, which hearkens back to the NES era with old-school sprites and timing-based minigames. Both new additions tap into Sega's recent penchant towards nostalgia, as evidenced by the recent release of the Sega Genesis Mini plug-and-play console.
Part of the game's story mode is set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which marked the last time the summer-based global sports competition was held in the country. The setup is simple, but effective, what some might call a jolly contrivance: Bowser and Eggman team up to trap Mario and Sonic in a retro video game console, but instead, they all (along with several supporting characters, including Peach, Knuckles, and Tails) get sent stuck in the past and must work together to find their way back to the future.
Minigames set in the past look like they could have been ripped straight from the NES, and, indeed, the retro Mario sprites are taken directly from the original Super Mario Bros title. Meanwhile, Sonic and his team are based on their original appearance on Sega Genesis. We got to play the high dive event, which consisted of a series of timed button presses. These old-school minigames are much less involved than the modern events, but they're still a fun distraction, especially when played in multiplayer, which has always been the series' main appeal.
For solo players, Story is the way to go. Set both in the past and present day, the story mode remains mostly secret to the public at large, but we did confirm it contains many unique, one-off events. We were able to play a rugby-themed modern level that pitted Luigi against Metal Sonic in a surprisingly intense boss battle, as well as a retro side-scrolling boat chase between Mario and Bowser. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has the potential to be the best entry in the series. If every story mode event is as tense and engaging as the Metal Sonic boss fight, and if the retro events remain silly fun throughout, then the series has a bright future in store on the Nintendo Switch.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 releases on November 5 on Nintendo Switch.