Also On: Xbox One, Switch
As I made sure to mention in my review of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 for the Nintendo Switch, I?m a long time fan of Olympic-style videogames and of the Olympic Games themselves. Sega?s latest Mario & Sonic outing unfortunately didn?t quite earn a gold medal due to a couple of reasons summed up in that review, but Sega?s multiplatform official Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 does come closer!
We?re only a month away from the opening ceremonies of the actual Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (not Tokyo 2021 because, ya know, the Covid-19 pandemic delay), so the release of the also delayed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game is well timed. While it is controversial that Japan is still even holding the event, albeit modified and closed to most in-person spectators, it made sense for SEGA to hold onto what is their second officially licensed Tokyo 2020 title to coincide with the real thing. So here we are.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 sports 18 unique events across many disciplines, from classics such as 100m track, hammer throw and long jump, to newer events including BMX and sport climbing. There?s a nice variety all-around with single and team-based sports which take place on the track, in the pool, on the field and court and elsewhere. There?s a lack of gymnastics events, which is usually difficult to translate into a fast-paced arcade-style game (see Mario & Sonic Tokyo 2020), so that?s somewhat understandable. Overall there?s more than enough well-designed events to play, replay and perfect in the search for a gold medal — or at least a podium finish.
There?s no story or campaign in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, although beyond practicing and working towards earning medals, there is some progression for those looking for that type of experience. In an effort to medal players will have to go through qualifiers, semi-finals and finals against the CPU. Generally the qualifiers and most of the semis are a pushover once you understand basic mechanics for each event, but once you hit the finals? look out, the difficulty and CPU difficulty ramps up considerably. Most events have surprisingly deep gameplay mechanics that are essentially required to become familiar with in order to finish in the top 3. It?s definitely part of the process for games like this (and the real Olympic Games of course): practice, practice, practice? and then practice some more. Events that seem impossible to dominate at first — and there are more than a few here — definitely get easier with repeated play and refinement. Since there’s a good chance that players will restart or retry events fairly often, load times are thankfully also nice and quick.
Speaking of gameplay, yes, there?s various forms of button mashing and setting angles and moving sticks all around (sometimes simultaneously), though most of the gameplay becomes intuitive enough after a few rounds. There are subtle controller vibrations for example that assist with timing of when to start or boost or jump, etc. Sometimes good luck or having just one well-timed action can mean first or last in a race, so victory is never guaranteed. There are also enough gameplay tips to get players comfortable fairly quickly.
I?m assuming that the development team had some more time to polish up the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 experience because of the delayed release and I believe it shows. Playing the PS4 version via backwards compatibility on a PS5, and for a game costing less than full priced title (~$40), Tokyo 2020 is a surprisingly good looking title. The character editor is quite full featured and inclusive, and the venues themselves, most modeled after the actual Japanese locations, are nicely rendered. There are plenty of real/fantasy outfits and accessories to earn and unlock as well, including a kinda creepy Sonic the Hedgehog suit and the new Olympic mascot Miraitowa. The style of the game overall skews a bit big-headed and cartoon-like although the animation breaches that uncanny valley sometimes. Thanks to a bit of motion blur and depth of field effects, the replays almost look real on occasion at the right angle. Unlike the real Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this year, the venues are absolutely packed with spectators who appropriately react to the occasion, especially when a gold medal is on the line.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 supports 2 players locally but up to 8 in an online session with the ability to join a public room or create/join private rooms. From there athletes can jump into a quick match or a pre-configured/custom medley of events, providing a nice amount of variety. The game also includes a ranking mode with a rotating selection of events that players can tackle and try to inch up the leaderboards and earn records and medals. Nearly every single or multiplayer mode or event that players partake in will earn them points which can be used to unlock costumes and accessories, along with opportunities to earn titles, challenges and more as well.
One curious omission in the game is the complete lack of national anthems for any countries represented in Tokyo 2020. I’m not sure if it’s a licensing issue or what, but I don’t recall any Olympic style game not including them before. Hearing a generic anthem while receiving the gold medal just isn’t quite the same.
While not every event is a winner in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the experience is a fun one that is easy enough to pick up and play for family and friends yet still competitive enough to hook players into upping their skills and going for the gold. If you’re a fan of the genre or the Olympics themselves, certainly consider checking it out.
Note: SEGA provided us with a Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 PS4 code for review purposes.