Review: Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games

When the first Mario and Sonic title hit in 2007, it was a major deal. Two video game rivals competing in a shared title! Unfortunately, once the novelty of seeing Nintendo and SEGA’s mascots together wore off, what players were left with was a so-so mini-game compilation with the best moments being the Dream Events and remixed music tracks from both series. In 2009 the series returned with Mario and Sonic competing in the Winter Olympics, and while it wasn’t a huge improvement over the first game, it was a better title thanks to improved controls, more characters and more events. Now the Mario and Sonic universes go head to head in a third Olympics, is this time just more of the same or is the third try a charm? Read on to find out!

Graphics

Theres no way around it, the Wii is an old console and the graphics are dated. In my opinion, Wii graphics peaked with Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the latest Zelda game. Mario and Sonic 2012 does not match those titles, but it doesn’t dip to the craptastic levels of some Wii shovelware. Visuals sit at an unexciting, but happy, medium. The best the game has going for it are the colors. As both franchises are known for their vibrant use of colors, seeing the two together is a very eye pleasing experience, despite being in standard definition. Dream Events return Mario and Sonic to past games, and as such some locations receive graphical upgrades. However, given that Sonic Generations just released in stunning HD, seeing Dream Event locations like Seaside Hill is not very exciting.

Music

One of the strongest points of the game is the music. The 2012 Olympics theme is suitably epic, and does a good job in combining the spirit of both franchises. Olympic event tunes are upbeat and catchy. while not reaching the heights of original Mario and Sonic tunes, they suit the events they accompany and clearly show that work has been put into them. Given the amount of events, it’s nice to see each one having a unique theme. I can only imagine how annoying it would be to hear the same few themes played across multiple events.

Music is at its best when it’s from past Mario and Sonic games. Dream Events feature awesome remixes, such as Crazy Gadget and Grand Metropolis on the Sonic side. Additional Mario and Sonic music can be unlocked, and like Sonic Generations, can be assigned to specific events. Some tunes are new remixes, some are not, and many of the tunes are carried over from past Olympic titles. Still, this recycling does not detract given the Wii’s inability to do custom soundtracks in the same way as the 360 does. I’d prefer to hear 2007’s Super Mario Bros. 3 remix again rather than not hear it at all.

Gameplay

When you boot up the game you’re presented with a welcome letter from Omochao (get used to them, he sends you a lot of mail) and the ability to play a Single Match from the Olympic and Dream events, London Party mode (covered in the next section), Bonus Mode (where all the goodies reside) and Records. I first dived into Single Match mode, and was happy to see every event and character unlocked from the get-go. My favorite character is Eggman, so the last thing I want to see is him locked, unable to be played as until the latter half of the game. A majority of the events are repeats of those found in the 2007 Olympic game, but consider this game an upgrade to the original title.

Event controls have been revamped, so the level of control is far better than before. All event controls range between passing to great, with nothing dipping to levels of Wiimote throwing frustration. New events include soccer, badminton, and equestrian. The best of the events are ones that allow for multiple players to play at the same time like soccer, badminton, volleyball and table tennis. Events in which players take turns are less exciting, but can still be fun. Perhaps the weakest events are the ones in which the players are largely invisible. What is the fun in sharp shooting as a Mario or Sonic character when the character is only seen taking his or her stance? At that point you might as well be playing Wii Play.

As with past Mario and Sonic titles, Dream Events are the best of the bunch. Which makes me wonder, why is it that by the third game the developer has yet to shift focus to the part of the game that gets the most praise? Seeing Mario and Sonic characters interacting in recognizable environments has yet to get old, yet we only get five events and locations per franchise. Why not give us twenty Dream Events this time? Why not have the regular events taking place in locations like Sonic’s Marble Zone or Super Mario Sunshine’s Isle Delfino? It would make even the least exciting events fun to look at.

Anyway, putting wishes aside and shifting focus back to what we actually get: Dream Events include long jump, rafting, discus, uneven bars, hurdles, equestrian, sprint, trampoline, spacewalk and fencing. For Sonic, games referenced are Sonic Adventure (Windy Valley), Sonic Adventure 2 (Crazy Gadget) and Sonic Heroes (Seaside Hill, Bingo Highway and Grand Metropolis) with the best being fencing in Seaside Hill and trampoline in Crazy Gadget. A note to SEGA: STOP repeating Sonic Heroes stages. After All-Stars Racing, Generations and now this, it is getting very old. My guess is, given the Wii platform, SEGA wanted to stick to Gamecube and Wii Sonic titles. But how about a Sonic Colors Dream Event? The locations of Mario’s events are much more varied, though like Sonic they do not dip into the 8-bit or 16-bit era. Hurdles in Mario Galaxy and Long Jump in Yoshi’s Story are the best on the Mario side.

London Party

Perhaps the game’s biggest miss is a lack of a story mode. Half the fun of seeing Mario and Sonic together is knowing how they met up, games like Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Super Smash Bros. Brawl give the gamers a bit of a story, so why can’t Mario and Sonic? Thankfully, London Party mode tries to fill that gap, and turns out to be the best aspect of the game! Toad and Cream host an event in which four players run about the streets of London, in a top down Bomberman-like view, and encounter mini-games as well as Olympic and Dream events and rival battles. Players even encounter obscure characters like Shy Guy and Orbot and Cubot. Winners are awarded stickers, and the first to fill their sticker book wins. The mode plays out as easy as I described it, and thanks to the simplicity the mode is perfect for newbies to dive right in, while still offering a challenge to seasoned players.

Mini-games are either full 3D or 2D, and feature classic Mario and Sonic elements in the cartoonified London setting. The mini-games are the closest the Olympic series comes to replicating Mario and Sonic platforming in a party game setting. There are also trivia challenges that ask Mario, Sonic and Olympic related questions. Both quizzes and mini-games are encountered via roaming about the streets of London. Standard Olympic and Dream events occur when Big Ben chimes. London Party mode really does a great job in packaging together the diverse character roster, the London setting and the Olympic games and is far better than a straight up event after event mode. Should the series continue outside of the Olympics, London Party mode should serve as the template for Mario and Sonic Party.

Unlockables

Bonus items include music, Mii clothing parts and costumes which are unlocked via an addicting scratch card system. Completing any event, in either single player mode or London Party mode, rewards players with scratch cards. Each scratch card can be scratched only twice, and if both scratches reveal the same item, that item is yours. Cards that turn out to be duds are saved and can be traded in for the same goodies that winning cards reward, but players need multiple dud cards to unlock items, thus making both winning cards and losing cards useful.

Music includes the previously mentioned tunes from past Mario and Sonic titles. Mii clothing parts are the usual boots, gloves and cat ears. The full-body costumes allow your Mii to dress up as characters from both series, and this does not end with just the characters from the playable roster. Miis can be dressed up as more obscure characters including Sonic Unleashed’s Chip and Sonic Battle’s Emerl as well as Big, Charmy, Jet and just about every character not represented in the main roster.

Conclusion

Overall, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is the best game yet in the series. Controls are improved, and London Party mode pretty much saves the game from being “Mario and Sonic 2007 version 2”. However, the lack of expansion in the Dream Events section and the fact that the Wii is showing its age holds the game back. If you owned and hated the 2007 game, you should probably ignore this. If you owned and liked the 2007 game, pick this one up. It’s a good upgrade. And if you’ve only played the Winter title, and enjoyed it, or never owned a Mario and Sonic Olympics title before and want to, this is the one to get. Grab three friends, jump into London Party mode and enjoy.

Positives

  • London Party mode is a lot of fun
  • Unlockable music
  • Tons of Mii costumes, some of obscure characters
  • Dream Events
  • Improved original Olympic events

Negatives

  • Dated graphics
  • Same old character roster
  • Repeated Olympic events from 2007
  • Needs more Dream Events
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