It might feel like a million years ago, but the Nintendo Switch has already seen one dose of Olympic-based fun with Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 releasing back in 2019. The game might not have been perfect but proved highly enjoyable as a party game with friends. One delayed Olympic event later and SEGA are back once more with Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game, another compilation of sports and events this time minus a blue hedgehog and moustached plumber.
That isn’t to say you should go expecting a more realistic take on the worldwide event though, the game sporting a more cartoony vibe with athletes donning everything from cowboy gear and ninja outfits to a full-on Sonic the Hedgehog suit. I really dig the style the game opts for giving everything far more character and just an overall fun and bouncy feel. Better still is the fact you’re able to create your own athletes using the game’s surprising in-depth creation feature. The options available – whether it be in noses, eyes, cheeks, hairstyles or body type – leave you spoilt for choice and easily able to create pretty much anyone you want. Clothing too is vast in range with more to unlock as you play the game.
As entertaining as it can be creating your own accurate or exaggerated version of yourself, of course, how much fun you’ll have with any Olympics game comes down to the quality of the events themselves.
The selection of sports on offer varies wildly in both quality and complexity some simple and sweet, others offering a surprising level of satisfying depth and the rest a mashup of needlessly complicated or clunky and unfun to play. Of course, that’s to be expected with most compilation titles but when you only have only 20 events total every underwhelming one stands out all the more.
The track and aquatic-based events while familiar still deliver on the fun each one short, easy to pick up and fun to play especially with others. Baseball meanwhile turns out to be a rather pleasant surprise offering an experience that hearkens back to SEGA’s arcade classics like the Virtua Tennis and Virtua Striker series. Tennis and beach volleyball too while nowhere near SEGA’s best adaptions of the sports (see Virtua Tennis or Beach Strikers for a truly excellent time), still prove enjoyable enough.
Football and rugby sevens are again very arcade-like and good fun but in my opinion, played better in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Then you have events that haven’t kept attention for long. BMX for example while decent the first time quickly loses steam with repeated plays not helped by the fact you only have one track to race on. Table tennis meanwhile is a struggle to get used to (even after five failed attempts).
Single-player options are few and far, the main option being to play events individually against increasingly tougher opponents and go for gold. The biggest problem when going against the AI though is the sharp difficulty spike. While round one will often be a cakewalk, two and onwards feel like your opponents are using some sort of cheat mode. As a result, it can be rather off-putting and demotivating losing over and over and having to settle for silver, bronze or worse yet again. You’ll find a fairer fight online against others and from the handful of times I tried this, the results were pretty great. Hopefully, the community for this game sticks around as jumping in and out of events is a rather smooth process.
If there’s one thing you can always rely on when it comes to an Olympic-themed video game, it’s that it’ll deliver a simple but fun multiplayer distraction. While that is certainly true here – the game allowing for up to eight online and even two local players to go online together – there is no option as far as I can see for four players to share the fun locally at all. It’s a particularly strange decision – especially since SEGA’s other Olympic effort, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 does in fact include such an option – and one that hurts its long-term appeal. As someone who comes to these sorts of games for a fun party-like experience, being limited to two at a time is a real bummer. On the bright side, the game does allow you to create your own combination of events in bundles, an improvement over Mario and Sonic’s individual one at a time option.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game falls short of SEGA’s plumber and hedgehog-starring effort, but still houses a decent number of surprisingly meaty and fun arcade-y events. With both a meaningful single-player option and four-player local missing in action though, your interest in the game may be over before the global event has even reached its end.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by SEGA