So, with the Summer Olympics just round the corner, the normal tat will be flooding Japan come this summer. It is still not rare for this Londoner to go on the tube and see someone with a London 2012 t-shirt, bag, or hat on.
But one piece of media floods every part of the world, the video game. Sports video games have taken mad leaps ahead with games like FIFA 20 focusing on extreme realism. Football Manager is now used by real clubs as a way to scout players. Olympics fans have two games to choose from: Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - The Official Video Game (which will be henceforth referred to as Tokyo 2020 to save me writing that out again), and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (or Mario & Sonic for short). There is also an arcade game and a phone game (Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - Arcade Edition and Sonic at the Olympic Games - Tokyo 2020 respectively), but I won't write about these here.
Let's start with Mario & Sonic. After every Winter and Summer Olympics from Beijing 2008-Rio 2016 had both a console (Wii/Wii U) or handheld (DS/3DS) version, apart from Sochi 2014 which just had a Wii U game, there was an absence for PyeongChang 2018. It's now back on the hybrid Nintendo Switch as one game. It features Mario and Sonic characters, but doesn't really feel like a game from either franchise. The problem lies with the fact that it doesn't feel like a proper sports title or Olympic game either, leaving it with a bit of an identity crisis.
There are a fair few amount of sports here, with the same twenty characters we've had since Vancouver 2010, although twelve sports have a guest only available in that sport. The existence of these characters are really the only callback to these games. There were far more Easter Eggs, even in Olympic events, in games like Vancouver 2010 and London 2012. The return of "Dream Events" should be a welcome edition, as in London 2012 they took us to Super Mario Galaxy and in Sochi 2014 Super Mario Sunshine, but here they fail to capture the essence of their host franchises.
Games also feel under-developed. In 100m there is no semi-final or heat (unlike in Rio 2016), just a single dash. There are three difficulty levels, but while there are achievements the unlockable goodies like costumes don't return. There is a "Story Mode" with an amusing pretence and funny dialogue, but this often feels dragged with more time in loading screens than actually doing the event. There are some retro events based on Tokyo 1964, and minigames in the Story Mode, but this doesn't save this game.
Luckily we have a second option: Tokyo 2020. But alas, this misses the mark. In the same way Mario & Sonic fails to capture the essence of... well... Mario and Sonic, this misses on being an Olympic video game. There are, after all, only a Summer Olympics once every four years, so it begs the question why they stick on a half-measure? The sports and disciplines of Artistic Swimming, Diving, Open Water Swimming, Water Polo, Archery, Badminton, Softball, 3x3 Basketball, Canoeing (both Slalom and Sprint), BMX Freestyle, Road Cycling, Mountain Biking, Track Cycling, Equestrian (Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping), Fencing, Field Hockey, Golf, Gymnastics (Artistic, Rhythmic, and Trampoline), Handball, Karate (both Kata and Kumite), Modern Pentathlon, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Skateboarding, Surfing, Taekwondo, Triathlon, Volleyball (team), Weightlifting, and Wrestling are absent.
While this is OK for a Mario and Sonic game, for a supposedly serious sports title this is bad. Even the sports that are in fail to take themselves seriously. Do we really need two separate titles to have 100m dashes where you press an extra button for a super dash once per game, or a football game where you get a super shot, etc. Why not have proper in-depth titles instead of a minigame collection? They could have at the very least included all NOCs as playable countries instead of just a select few. Or why not have the football format done properly with sixteen teams in a group stage, instead of having 3 games for a medal? This would require almost 0 extra effort on the part of the devs.
Some might say 340 games is a bit "over the top". But when half are the same (Men's and Women's 100m for example), and many sports (100m and 200m, say) would take very little time to made differently, with eight years since the last Olympic game of this sport, why not? Any other sports franchise is taken seriously. If FIFA tried to change the game to have "super shots" people would stop buying. Olympics fans shouldn't tolerate it.