*A review copy was provided by Nintendo*
The Mario & Sonic series of Olympic Games is a series I’ve never delved into, which is kind of strange. I always enjoy offshoot sports titles involving both characters, from Mario Hoops to , so these two coming together for a medley of Olympic events sounds like something I could get into. After spending a good bit of time with the game, however, I’d rather stick to their solo sports outings.
Upon starting the game you are greeted to a lengthy opening followed by the menu system. Since I wanted to dabble around in some events before diving into the meat of the game, I chose “football” because soccer is always fun. I selected the event, and was greeted to one of the strangest design choices ever: the game recommends a handful of characters for you to play as in the event.
At this point I thought to myself “well this must just be for younger gamers and I can choose whoever I want.” Alas, this wasn’t true. Instead of being able to select from the colorful cast of characters available in the game, you are restricted to about 5 characters to choose from per event, and they are pre-determined. Every event in the game is like this, which honestly makes no sense to me. The only reason for this that I can think of is that less animation is required, but if I want to do a boxing match between Mario and Tails I should be able to, and the fact that I cannot is absurd.
The game features 14 events to choose from, ranging from BMX to the Long Jump. Some of the events rely on buttons, others on the touch screen with the stylus. As you can imagine, the stylus controlled events always feel a little bit off compared to the button controlled ones, but for the most part the controls work well. Before every event there is a brief tutorial on what to do and how to control it, which is nice as it can be a bit confusing switching between all these events.
As far as the events themselves go, some are much better than others. BMX and “Football” were probably the most entertaining of the events, but they still feel a bit shallow. There isn’t a whole lot of strategy involved in either event, and the simplistic controls of the events don’t allow for any real depth in their respective fields. Some events that you think would be fun, like Boxing, are just boring button mashers where you move on a 2D plane the entire time.
On the selection screen of an event, you can press “X” to switch to the “Plus Events”, which adds more fun elements from Mario games to spice up the scene. I enjoyed these, even if most of them did feel a bit subdued in terms of what they could have been.
After a while though, I found myself extremely bored with the paltry selection of available characters per event and the lacklusterness of the events themselves and moved on to the “Road to Rio”, which is the story portion of the game. I suppose I should use the term “story” lightly, as there really isn’t a whole lot of story involved. Your Mii character arrives in Rio for the Olympics and you must choose a team: Team Mario or Team Sonic. After this, you practice events and then compete in them, trying to win the gold medal.
You earn currency, which is apples, and you can use these to buy new suits to give your character an advantage. Your character levels up, and this is determines what suits you can and cannot use. It’s all pretty basic, and outside of a little story that happens between the characters, doesn’t feel much different from the Quick Play events.
What could have easily been the saving grace of the game, Versus Mode, once again fails to impress on any level due to one reason: no online multiplayer. The game does offer single-card multiplayer so you can play with others in the same room, but the omission of online multiplayer in essentially a sports game is ridiculous and unacceptable in 2016. I’m not even asking for robust online features, just a simple Quick Game of “Football” or BMX with others around the world (I mean, this is the Olympics where the whole world is represented) would have breathed some life into this game.
The final game mode is “Pocket Marathon”, where you walk with your 3DS in your pocket. Since I have a New 3DS XL, and it’s not exactly made for fitting in your pocket (never mind walking 42.195 km with it), I decided to skip this mode.
Honestly, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for the 3DS is not a terrible game, but it’s not good either. It’s just kind of….there. Nothing about the game is really satisfying, nothing about the game stands out, and poor and lazy design choices make it feel much more like a cash-grab than a full fledged experience. Hopefully the Wii U version has some more polish and features, because the 3DS version falls very flat and doesn’t even earn a bronze medal.