Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

The Olympics, Again

Mini-game collections are not a rare “commodity” on Nintendo systems — specifically, the Wii. While its innovation allows for nearly unlimited new gameplay mechanics and exciting game ideas, it seems that one of the most frequent ways that developers take advantage of the hardware is via mini-games.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games screenshot

Now, being a self-proclaimed “hard-core” gamer, I’m no real fan of mini-games. Sure, they’re fun for a while, but who wants to shell out fifty bucks for them, really? I’d far rather spend my hard-earned money on a game that’s really got some depth to it. Yet, despite my previous bias, I was surprisingly happy with the title Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games for the Nintendo DS.

Actually, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games has already been released on the Nintendo Wii, so there’s a good chance that you may already know about the basic premise of this game. If not, however, I’ll quickly explain it: the idea here is basically that well-known mascots from both the Mario and Sonic franchises have gotten together and are competing in a slew of Olympic games — incidentally, all of them are derived from the summer Olympics, seeing as this game is supposedly playing off the upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing.

You’re going to start out by selecting a team — there are sixteen characters in all to pick from, so creating your team is both an important aspect of the game and also one that contributes somewhat to the title’s replay value. Each character is ranked in three categories: speed, strength, and skill. Your challenge is to find the right balance among team members to make sure that you can excel at the events that the game provides you with. For example, during a race, a speedy character is going to be helpful, whereas a character with skill might help out more in an event such as fencing.

Of course, the “main attraction,” so to speak, of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is the events — these are the mini-games, which are based off actual Olympic sports. The control scheme is taken care of mostly with the DS touch screen and stylus, and for the most part it works pretty well and intuitively. For example, to compete in a race, you’re just going to slide the stylus as quickly as you can toward the finish line — in some of the shooting challenges, you’ll just tap the screen. Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games earns some points for the fact that actions you execute in the game make sense. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when a Wii or DS mini-game compilation has you making motions or symbols on the screen that just don’t correspond with what your character is doing. This title eliminates this problem, and as a result makes it generally more fun to play.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games screenshot

In terms of actual events, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is pretty impressive. There are 16 events in all, and while this may not seem like much, each of them are unique and fun and can easily hold their own against other mini-games in titles on the market right now. Events that you’ll partake in range from races (track events) to basic field events to trampoline bouncing and even to crazier events like fencing. There are also some bonus events that you can unlock as you progress further and further into the game, and these are also surprisingly fun. There’s also a mission aspect to the game that has you completing different “missions” for each character, which real fans of this game are certainly going to want to complete.

Of course, the risk you always run with a mini-game collection is that some or even a lot of the games aren’t all fun, and sadly, that’s not a problem that Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is immune to. Actually, there aren’t a whole lot of bad games — maybe just one or two, in my opinion — but none of the mini-games really stand out as being exceptionally fun. It’s not like Mario Party where you may power on the disc every once in a while just to play a specific game or two that you really love. Instead, you can appreciate each game for what it offers, but that’s no real reason to really keep you coming back and playing. Naturally, this significantly hurts the game’s replayability, but there’s still reason to consider investing in this title.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games screenshot

What’s that, you ask? Well, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games has a fairly interesting — though not overwhelming — multiplayer mode, both locally and online. All of the events can be played with a friend or three, and playing against live human opponents is infinitely more fun than playing against computers.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games screenshot

The game sports download play, which is nice. Unfortunately, not all events are available via download play — you’ll need to find friends with their own copy of the game to play the full-fledged game multiplayer. The games are easy enough to pick up and play, and friends who’ve never even heard about the game can still have fun playing multiplayer with you. And while there’s no actual online competition via the Nintendo WiFi Connection, you can send your event data to the online servers and see how you stack up against the best Olympians around the world. It’s not as neat a feature as full-fledged online competition, which would have really been awesome considering the game’s Olympic theme, but at least it’s something, and the online leader board actually works quite well for this type of game.

Graphically, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games does not fail to impress. It’s one of the nicer looking games on the system, and it’s particularly impressive how smooth and crisp the game is when you take into account that this game is, after all, running on a fairly weak handheld system. The music is another story, however — it’s pretty standard video game music, if you know what I mean. That is to say, it’s boring, forgettable, and doesn’t much contribute to the overall quality of the game. Tell me, whatever happened to Fire Emblem-caliber music in a video game?!

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games does suffer from a few significant flaws, however. First off is one that may seem petty until you’ve actually played the game: this title takes a real toll on the well-being of your DS. Seriously. It’s worse than Elite Beat Agents, actually (which had you tapping, rubbing, and spinning constantly), because most of the events are just going to have you rub the DS as fast as you can. I’m the type of person who cringes to think that my 130 dollar investment is being destroyed as I try to have fun, so this is a significant issue for me. Secondly is the fact that this title just isn’t all that exciting, because a nearly identical version was released a few months ago. Sure, it’s different from the Wii version, but really only in terms of the controls. I personally would have really liked some fleshed-out DS-specific content rather than the sort of filler that the DS version got as it’s “exclusives,” but there was no such luck.

If you’re the type of person who loves to play mini-games, particularly enjoyed the first Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, or are a casual gamer who’s looking for a fun, albeit easy and short-lived title, then you should definitely consider picking up a copy of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. If you don’t meet any of those criteria, however, then you may want to pass on this title and instead look for another game to spend your cash on — might I suggest the new Advance Wars?

Wow! For a DS game, this title is top-notch. There are few games out there with better 3D visuals than Mario and Sonic. 3.1 Control
They work pretty well and make sense for the games, but the fact that they also tear up your touch screen is really annoying. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Nothing bad but nothing particularly good, as seems to be the trend these days. 3.2

Play Value
Missions and online rankings definitely help, but once you’ve exhausted the title’s possibilities, you likely won’t come back to it.

3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Four unique playing styles. The competition takes on a new dimension with the special strengths and abilities of each character. For example: Sonic and Yoshi (Speed), Mario and Amy (All-around), Peach and Tails (Technical), Bowser and Knuckles (Power).
  • Three game modes: In Single Match mode, players can try out each event individually, or compete for the highest overall score across multiple events in Circuit mode. In Mission mode, there are challenges created specifically for each character.
  • Multiplayer challenges for four players. Players can join in the fun simultaneously via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on the DS.
  • Exclusive unlockable events. Familiar items from the worlds of Mario and Sonic enhance exclusive events for the DS, including Dream Basketball, Dream Boxing, Dream Cycling, and more.
  • Enhanced Touch Screen controls. Players can get their favorite character from Team Mario or Team Sonic to run faster, jump higher, and compete like true champions with intuitive Touch Screen controls.

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