This year marks the arrival of the Olympic Games at Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. With that in mind, Mario and Sonic are getting together again for more fun and games with the Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games title.
Whilst the Nintendo Wii U version is not seeing a release until later in the year, those wishing to pit Sonic against Mario, can do so with the Nintendo 3DS version. This new edition of the now regular Mario & Sonic series comes with some clever ideas that make for a more interesting experience.
One of these ideas is the Pocket Marathon mode where the player’s Mii character is made to race a marathon. It’s all very straightforward and it doesn’t even require much input from the player. Basically a marathon is chosen and then it’s only necessary to check in occasionally to continue the race by using steps. These steps are earned by leaving the Nintendo 3DS system on sleep mode and carrying the system when out and about. Visiting the mode’s main hub page and achieving certain running milestones will result in earning items used in other modes. It’s such a simple concept and yet it works really well because it gives an incentive for checking in regularly on the game. It works in the same way that Nintendo got players to put their devices in sleep mode whilst on the move, so that they could earn coins to unlock new content in the various StreepPass Mii Plaza mini-games.
The other modes available revolve around playing the various Olympic events. Those that just want to play one or more specific events can do so with the Quick Play mode. Anyone interested in something more substantial can start the Road to Rio story mode. In the story mode, the player is asked to pick either Sonic or Mario’s team. The main difference being that each team gets a special ability and the story changes slightly.
It’s clear from the first in-game day that there is a flow to the story mode. There is a main event held each in-game day and it is necessary to qualify for it by winning the preliminary event first. However, to make it more interesting it is necessary to train at gyms found all over the hub map. Although limited, it is a nice touch to give the Mii character freedom to move about the surprisingly nice neighbourhoods of each of the Rio areas being used for the upcoming Olympic Games.
Each completed training session results in earning points and eventually levelling up. This is a key part of being successful in the main events because the higher the level, the better equipment that the Mii can use. This equipment is sold by the business savvy Yoshi who accepts fruit earned from training sessions and other modes. What is even better is that each piece of equipment will improve certain stats. So it’s handy to keep an eye on which stats each each item of clothing improves and make efficient use of them to do better in each event. For example, an outfit that improves speed related stats comes in handy for running events.
There are a lot of events to choose from and each of them makes use of the Nintendo 3DS handhelds’s unique features in some way. It’s commendable to see a developer that not only remembers such unique features exist, but manages to make good use of them. Events like synchronized swimming make use of the system’s gyro sensor to move the console in the direction that appears on-screen are fun to play. It feels like just about every feature on the system is put to good use. Although they feel simple, it doesn’t make the events any less fun and it’s enjoyable to learn the controls and continue to improve scores or times for each of the events. The controls themselves work really well which is quite impressive considering how each event makes use of them in a different way.
Perhaps one of the main disappointments with the events is how easy it usually is to beat the AI opponents. More so once getting to grips with the controls for the event. It feels like it would have made it better if at least some of the later events in the story mode were more challenging. This being said, there are additional Plus events found in the Quick Play mode or by challenging certain characters on the story mode hub. These events are like remixed versions of the normal events with some unusual new requirements thrown in for good measure. For example, the table tennis event involves earning points by hitting sections of the table. The points accrued on the section of table hit before winning a point are then earned. It’s rather entertaining to get to grips with the unusual rules for each of these remixed events and they are a welcome addition.
The only downside to the story mode is how it can become a routine far too easily. There isn’t much to do on the hub besides training for the events and then proceeding to winning them. Even the flimsy story involving the rivalry between the Mario and Sonic teams doesn’t inspire much. However, beating characters in the Plus events within the story mode means unlocking them as playable characters in other modes.
What is fantastic is that the game not only supports local play, but it also makes it possible to play with others using only one game cart. It’s odd that there aren’t as many games that do support local play. It’s only natural for a game based on Olympic games to do so, but it is still a nice addition that will make it more rewarding to play against human opponents compared to the fairly easy AI.
Although the visuals do look somewhat basic, it is still nice to see just how colourful everything is from the menus to the neighbourhoods used for the main hub in story mode. It’s fun to spot all the different characters from the Sonic and Mario universes and fans will surely enjoy seeing some of the not so well known ones make an appearance. Even the use of Brazilian Portuguese words for places like the gym (ginásio) or even the names of Rio de Janeiro neighbourhoods shows that the team did their research during development.
In fact, it’s surprising to see just how most features in the game have a meaningful impact on other areas. There is a certain flow that makes it surprisingly enjoyable to get through the story mode. Although not exactly the most challenging of titles out there, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is easily one of the better outings for the series in a long time.