A Summer Olympics game crammed with features and video game heroes.
The Summer Olympics of 2008 takes place in Beijing, China. Contenders from all around the world gather at this grand event to compete for gold medals, trophies, fame and glory. 16 events are planned across a wide array of competitions. In a true spirit of sportsmanship the contenders ready themselves for the ultimate test of speed, skill and power. Let the fun and games begin!
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is an official 2008 Summer Olympics game that pits the famous video gaming figures from Nintendo and Sega against one another. This is the first video game in which both Mario and Sonic are playable characters and as such it is a milestone indeed from a video game history perspective.
The game features 16 events and 16 different playable characters previously known from various Mario and Sonic games. Each character has different stats across four abilities; Speed, Power, Skill and Stamina. The characters are; Knuckles, Bowser, Vector, Wario, Mario, Amy, Luigi, Blaze, Sonic, Daisy, Shadow, Yoshi, Peach, Tails, Waluigi and Dr. Eggman. The characters are categorized in four character types either they’re Power Type, All-Around, Speed Type or Skill Type characters. Choosing whom to play may require more thinking than just picking your favorite one!
The events you will be competing in are the following; 100m, 400m, 400m Hurdles, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Javelin Throw, Hammer Throw, 100m Free Style, 10m Platform, Trampoline, Vault, Archery, Table Tennis, Fencing, Shooting and Cycling. There are also a few so-called Dream Events that are mini-game type renditions of various sports. These are Race, Canoe, Boxing, Long Jump, Table Tennis, Fencing, Shooting and Basketball.
The game starts with some events locked so you aren’t allowed access to all events right from the start. Events can be unlocked by completing special Circuits that basically are series of events in which you compete against three AI controlled opponents. These Circuits come in three variants; beginners, advanced and master players. There is also the option to compete in one single event – this is called the Single Match and you can choose one of the events you have unlocked in which you try to set a top record.
Other than these game modes you may also create Circuits of your own that include random events or the events that you choose. Then there’s the Mission Mode where you must complete specific missions. Each of the 16 characters has its own set of five missions and most of these missions are tricky – for example Dr. Eggman needs to jump at least 6 meters in Long Jump with a jump angle of at least 50 degrees and Bowser needs to hit the bullseye three times in a row in Archery.
All the 16 events play differently, so there’s quite a lot to learn the first few times you play. There are clear control instructions for each event visible during play. Some events are played with the stylus alone, while others use a combination of the stylus and the buttons on the DS, or only buttons. There microphone is also used – for example you can clap near the microphone before the Long Jump to work up the crowd, in the Hammer Throw event you can do victory cheers and in the Skeet Shooting event you can call the clay pigeons.
Some of the event specific control schemes are clunky though – rubbing the screen back and forth with the stylus to run in running competitions doesn’t feel right but at least it works. Swinging the hammer in Hammer Throw is very unresponsive – it pretty much feels broken. The Free Style swimming also feels a bit complex as it mixes rubbing the screen, tapping the screen and timing button pressings right.
Other events play great however such as the Cycling and Table Tennis. The Archery and Javelin Throw events are very fun and addicting and even has some real depth to it.
It’s also quite satisfying to see that you can adjust the rules for all the events. This will give you some room for customization and opens up for some event practicing. The other options in the game does not affect the game per se. These are sound volume settings and such. There is no way to adjust the difficulty of the AI opponents in the Circuits – and they do seem way too powerful in some events.
There is a bunch of achievements to accomplish in this game. There are 24 medals to be earned with each character, 16 trophies from the Circuits, 22 Emblems and 17 Crowns. Some emblems are awarded for bad behavior and you aren’t allowed to know what must be done to earn all these things. They just appear as empty slots in your Collection Room. You can also unlock stuff in the Gallery Mode by playing five different mini games. These mini games are all very simple and very addictive casual-type games. Playing these in five different difficulty levels will let you access Olympic trivia; information about Beijing 2008, information about ancient and modern Olympics and information about Olympic athletes. If you clear all five difficulties in one mini game you’ll unlock new music in the Jukebox. The Jukebox has music from the classic Sonic and Mario games. Very nice bonuses to an already packed title.
Needless to say there’s a whole lot of stuff do in this game if one were to unlock everything. Collecting awards and so on is a great motivation but some of these things are simply not worth the hassle. It easily becomes too overwhelming and can very well turn around on the player and instead work against all the motivation that the player may have to begin with.
The biggest problem that is persistent in this title is the fact that there are numerous scenes to go through before and after the actual game event. You will find yourself wishing that you could skip these sequences faster – or even better if they were more brief. As it appears now you are prompted with the scoreboard after each event and then there are those camera pans and replays on top of that. The game also seems to auto-save all the time for no apparent reason. Simply put there is a lot of screens and prompts skip even if you just want to replay the same event and practice in it.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games offers local multiplayer in both Multi-Card and Single-Card Play. The Single-Card Play allows for 6 different events (100m, Long Jump, Trampoline, Archery, Basket and Canoe) to be played with up to four players. The events are played simultaneously and when all contenders are done, scores are compared and a winner is declared.
In Multi-Card Play you can arrange a full-fledged Circuit with four players. The multiplayer features are very pleasing and meets most players demands.
The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Rankings is another prominent feature in this game. Whether you have beaten an Olympic or a World Record or not in the events you may hook up to the Wi-Fi ranking boards and check the results of other players world-wide in all the events. It seems however that some of the scores are hacks, as for example the Archery top spot is occupied by someone who has scored a full 120 points and done it in the time 000.000. It also seems that a whole bunch of people has scored the exact same time (the same millisecond!) in the running events, and that just seems odd. It is however nice to be able to compare scores with the rest of the world like this.
Visually the game maintains a great look. All the characters have smooth animations and it’s really a novelty in itself to see famous faces like Mario, Sonic, Tails and Luigi compete in various sports events. The game really captures the environments well and there’s a nice level of detail to be seen in the backgrounds – chao balloons, audience and confetti – it’s all there. It should also be mentioned that all events take place in entirely different places so you’ll get to see very much of the stadium and the dual screens are generous in showing you the action from different angles. The replays are also there to show you various TV-like camera angles and it works great!
The announcer voice is the one sound that definitely takes you into the stadium. In addition all the characters have their personal cheers, shouts and victory gestures and it’s well done. The music is good too and really gets you into the Olympic spirit. It’s just too bad that the classic Mario and Sonic songs are hidden away in the Jukebox as unlocks.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games delivers some frantic fun sports with very lovable characters. It’s really a winning concept. The different events will all require some time before you can figure them out properly but overall the game is an uplifting experience for as long as it lasts. The various characters could have had more differences to them, because as they appear now they only have different stats that are hardly noticeable which is a shame. It would have been a blast if all the characters would have had a special ability of some sort.
All in all, this is a huge game with lots of content and there’s surely something for everyone here.