Following cues from the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games video games, this latest ‘realistic’ interpretation doubles down on the fun. As well as competing in a diverse range of Olympic events, you can choose to wear almost whatever outfit you can think of. Also gone are the realistic graphics, as SEGA have this time opted for much more deformed character models. All-in-all, it helps Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game feel less like a precise sports simulator, and more like a brilliant alternative to a local multiplayer party game.
But first, has a year made any difference due to the delay of the Olympics itself? Well, perhaps frustratingly for SEGA and the development team, Tokyo 2020 released in July 2019 for Japanese gamers. It’s been in a releasable state for Western gamers for two years now; we’ve just had to wait whilst the world itself has been on pause.
There are 18 different sports on offer, and they cover a broad spectrum of disciplines. There are those that you would expect such as the 100m, 110m hurdles, 100m freestyle swimming, boxing and tennis. There are some new additions also, much like the real-world Olympics introducing new sports such as sport climbing and BMX racing. Then, there are those that shouldn’t have been included, like football.
I’m sorry to single out the football event, but it’s not like there is a shortage of football games already out there. The one in Tokyo 2020 is just bad: keepers don’t parry the ball, it just tends to bounce off them and fall straight down, there are no bookings – and believe me, I tried – and AI defenders have a nasty habit of hoofing the ball out for a corner rather than downfield.
Naturally though, there are some big omissions as well. There is no shooting discipline, only two field events (long jump and hammer throw) and no surfing or skateboarding; events also making their debut in the delayed Olympics.
But despite the complex nature of some of the sports on offer here – such as rugby sevens, baseball or sport climbing – each event has been designed with a pick-up-and-play attitude. Very few buttons are required to get the basic understanding of each individual event, and yet more complex strategies are also available.
How you go about learning about these advanced strategies though is a bit backwards. At the start of each event, a loading screen will appear and if it is your first time, a tip window will be locked. In order to unlock the tip – and gain the knowledge of the new strategy – you will need to win the events a few times. It doesn’t lock out the button prompt, as some can be applied across multiple disciplines – eg. holding LT before starting a race can give you a boosted start – it just doesn’t tell you how to perform best at each event from the very beginning.
Tokyo 2020 has several ways in which you can partake in the fun; as well as offering a doubles mode for tennis and table tennis you can play any sport locally and online. Ranked Games will have a choice of three events to join in on that change every 30 minutes, but you can choose an individual event to play online too, picked from the main Olympic Games mode.
Then there are Medleys which group certain events together. Pre-set ones exist such as Track and Field or Ball Type Medleys, but you can also create your own. In these multi-disciplined events, you will be pitted against a rival and awarded points based on performance in each event. Score more points than your rival at the end of a Medley to be crowned the victor.
However, if you don’t have anyone sat next to you to play against, individual events can still be fun against the surprisingly difficult AI. Each sport follows the same format of Qualifier, Semi-final and Final – progress to the final and win to have a shiny gold medal added next to the sport the next time you’re browsing through them on the main screen.
Winning the gold also unlocks a further challenge in Practice mode where you can face-off against a top athlete. Sometimes winning the gold medal can be difficult enough; these top athletes will really test you beyond the gold.
Complete any event in any position and you will earn points. Points are your currency to purchase outfits to adorn your avatar, and they range from the practical such as judo outfits and boxing shorts, to the ridiculous including work overalls, space suits, pirate and cowboy outfits and business suits. There is even a Sonic onesie, but sadly no Mario. These outfits can be complemented by a variety of hats, and your chosen outfits can be assigned per discipline; business suit for beach volleyball, leather jacket and skinny jeans for BMXing.
And for disciplines that require an AI partner or team, you can completely customise them all as well, and there is a handy feature to copy your outfit to the rest of the team.
With the majority of sports on offer in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game proving to be fun and easily accessible, it makes this latest Olympic Games game an easy recommendation for those looking for a party game to be enjoyed with friends. It might not quite have the charm of the Mario and Sonic Olympic Games variants, but it still manages to borrow a lot of what makes those games fun by toning down a bit of the emphasis on sports simulation.
Make your way to the podium in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One