Different Mario & Sonic Olympics games tend to have their own draws. The original Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games introduced Dream Events that pulled elements from the characters’ source games. The best entry, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, had Adventure Tours on the Nintendo DS and the full Olympic Games on the Nintendo Wii. With Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the new draw is going “old school.” It contains 10 Tokyo 1964 retro events that use NES and Genesis sprites and more rudimentary versions of events in a way that harks back to a simpler time.
First, all 10 of these Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 retro events have their own gameplay and objectives, so people will be performing different actions to succeed. Some do fall into certain “types,” though. Both 10m Platform (Diving) and Gymnastics – Vault are the sorts where you will be shown button prompts and need to complete them as quickly as possible to successfully execute an action. 100m and 400m Hurdles are both button mashers. Kayak Single (K-1) 1000m, Long Jump, and Shooting – Trap are both about precisely timing things. Then, there are some that do sort of their own thing, like Judo, Marathon, and Volleyball. If you are going through them piecemeal, one or two people can go through each minigame one at a time.
As one might guess, some of these games are better at really feeling like older games than others. Button presses are uncomplicated, tasking you with objectives that seem manageable and come down to timing and knowing the face of your controller. Events like 100m, 400m Hurdles, Long Jump, and Shooting – Trap might give people flashbacks to Track & Field’s 100 Meter Dash, 110 Meter Hurdles, Long Jump, and Skeet Shooting. Volleyball here straight up borrows controlls from the NES’ Volleyball, with the A button used to pass, serve, and set and the B button used for to block or for a quick set. (The only difference is, spiking involves pressing B to jump, then A to spike.) While such games weren’t released outside of Japan, the Judo minigame is akin to a title like Moero!! Judo Warriors. When someone looks at them and starts to play, muscle memory for certain titles might come back.
The character designs all call back to early entries in the series. Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Bowser maintain their looks from the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Eggman look as they did in, say, Sonic & Knuckles. But, it’s about more than these playable characters looking “right.” The ambiance is maintained in the crowd. The backgrounds look like they would fit in a Sega Genesis game. The Animal Friends Sonic and his allies are among the audience members, with some of the blue birds looking a lot like they’re visiting from Flicky. Likewise, Goombas, Red Koopa Troopas, Shy Guys, and Toads are visiting from Super Mario Bros. It keeps the illusion alive. (There is also an optional analog TV effect.)
The Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 soundtrack also keeps up the illusion of this possibly being some long-lost sports game. Chiptunes are exclusively used for this portion of the game. Even the minigame selection menu has a retro version of the normal menu theme specifically for this section.
It can make Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 feel a bit familiar. The Tokyo 1964 events use chiptunes, classic art, familiar events, and simple control schemes to mimic sports game experiences from older consoles. All that’s left is for people to go through them one at a time, either alone or with one other person, to test their skills.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will come to the Nintendo Switch on November 5, 2019 in North America and November 8, 2019 in Europe.