After an earlier Mario and Sonic take on the formula, we can now finally enjoy Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game from Sega in the west. After an earlier release in Japan prior to the Games being moved to the summer of 2021, the game is out now for all major consoles – we tested it on a PlayStation 4 Pro
I’ve been fascinated with “Olympic Games” titles since even before they were fully licensed affairs – from Konami’s Hyper Sports to Epyx’ fun home computer titles like Summer Games and Winter Games in the 1980s to España – The Games ’92, there was always an appeal to these games that wasn’t unlike the Olympics itself.
I’m not even talking about the fact that the Olympic games bring together top athletes from all around the world for a wide variety of sports here – I’m talking more about the ability of the Olympics to instill an interest in people to watch sports they haven’t seen a minute of for the past four years, and be mesmerized by it. In the same vein, the videogame counterparts have always been a gateway to enjoy digital sports you can’t find anywhere else. For Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 that’s mostly true as well, although it doesn’t shy away from sports that have become quite mainstream in gaming either.
As a result, there’s a great deal of diversity to the collection of 20 different sports to choose from, and you’re not just engaging in 12 different track and field events with a few others tacked on for good measure. And despite this diversity, the game remains accessible, and is best enjoyed when you’re able to invite a few friends over for some local multiplayer gameplay. Where a lot of sports games veer towards the simulation end of the spectrum, this one goes past ‘arcade’ and goes for a party game vibe – both in terms of gameplay and audiovisual presentation.
No matter which event you choose, the controls are simple enough to learn, and well explained in an on-screen tutorial before you start – anyone joining in can immediately be competitive. That’s true for an event like the 100m sprint, which is an homage to the classic controlling-destroying antics of the 1980s with its rapid button-tapping, but also applies to new inclusions like boxing and basketball. Those are sports we’re seen reproduced in games like Knockout Kings, Fight Night, NBA 2K and NBA Live in great detail with plenty of nuances, but can be enjoyed in a simplified way here for Tokyo 2020.
For the most part, that works great in getting people on board and enjoying the events, though for some events it feels like they pushed it just a little too far. The brand new BMX event (at the Olympics for the first time ever, I believe) just doesn’t compare to even the likes of Dave Mirra BMX from 20 years ago with some awkward and non-responsive handling. Boxing also doesn’t feel like it does the sport justice, reducing it to a button masher with a block option rather than a ballet of careful moving and dodging as you look for an opening. It’s definitely still fun in multiplayer because of the thrills involved, but is lacking as a single player experience.
In general, the most straightforward of sports fare well – the ones where it’s about being the fastest, or jumping/throwing the furthest. Swimming is a nice combination of hammering your strokes in on the straight ends and timing your turns to perfection, and you’ll find similar mechanics in the other swimming and track and field events – often with extra nuances like a burst of speed you earn by performing well.
Outside of those rather traditional events, you’ll find competent versions of sports like tennis, basketball and even soccer included. They’re all arcade-inspired, so expect hints of Virtua Tennis, NBA Jam and Super Sidekicks here, but that’s what makes them fun as well. With climbing, baseball, beach volleyball and even judo included, there’s something here for everyone. Some events are a little on the short side and have too much padding surrounding them, but in the context of a multi-sport session this was never an issue.
The party game feel of the game also carries over to the presentation side of things, with cartoony visuals for all of the events and even the ability to play dressed up as an astronaut or Sonic the Hedgehog. The dressing up bit took a bit of the appeal out of going for records, like one did in the Hyper Sports era, but definitely adds to the fun of a multiplayer session, especially with younger players. And with all the restrictions surrounding actually being at the Olympics this year, Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – The Official Video Game is a great way to enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of your own living room.