Title: Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game
Release Date: June 22, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
After significant delays, and if things still go as planned, the eagerly awaited 2020 Summer Olympics will commence on July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. As a timely release to ride this anticipation, Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game arrives. It’s worth noting that the game did release in Japan back in July of 2019, with the global launch held off until now. Much like the last few video game adaptations of the historical events, Sega once again leads the helm. Although some improvements have been made for this release, the publisher doesn’t quite rise to the occasion to earn a medal. Instead, they go home with an “at least you tried.”
The biggest problem is that Tokyo 2020 doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, floating somewhere between a sports simulator and an arcade button masher and not quite committing to either approach. There is a mix of play styles and mechanics, with some attempt to recreate the experience of the sport and others resort to mildly interesting but jarring mini-games.
The control scheme varies too, opting for casual control gimmicks for some events, while others attempt to barely resemble a serious sports video game. It’s all over the place. While the experience can offer some entertainment initially, the gameplay variety runs thin rather quickly due to a lack of depth and direction.
Tokyo 2020 features 18 events based on the actual lineup, and yes, baseball has indeed returned to the 2020 Summer Olympics. Baseball, basketball, rugby, and soccer (or football, if you will) basically play like watered-down versions of established sports video game templates. For example, with a basketball event, you are basically playing a barebones version of NBA 2K, where Tokyo 2020 tries to resemble the core mechanics, but nothing more compelling beyond that. The baseball event has some nuance, but it’s not comparable to an official MLB release.
Similarly, tennis also feels functional, albeit surface level, which is strange considering how Sega Superstars Tennis was a pretty fun game. It goes back to the same problem of Tokyo 2020 sitting indecisively between being a sports simulator and an arcade-style game. There’s table tennis too, and considering there are virtually very few table tennis video games in existence, this one is actually welcome. Volleyball provides a similar experience, but honestly, the aforementioned kind of all play the same.
The two combat sports featured probably provide the most entertainment, especially from a multiplayer standpoint. The judo event has a neat little rock/paper/scissor approach which can be quite fun, where pacing and timing are key. The boxing event features an interesting control scheme where punches are delivered using analog sticks, with the type of punch determined by how the sticks are flicked. The play mechanics and control scheme work effectively for these sports, but as a fighting game experience, this is as basic as it gets.
The other track and field style events have a bit more of an arcade flair, most of them involving button mashing and meter-based mini-games. These resemble a more Sega arcade-style approach, but in execution, they are not quite on the same level as what the publisher was once known for, with legendary hits like 1996’s DecAthlete (or Athlete Kings). Similarly, aquatic sports also use an arcade-style approach, mixing button mashing with a strange rhythm mechanic, which can be interesting. Still, these events don’t feel all that much fun and engaging either.
The events featured here are a mixed bag in their execution, and while some are more enjoyable than others, none have long-term replay value. There’s this strange hint system where playing certain events unlocks new tips. These aren’t exactly tips. Instead, they are just basic play mechanics and controls deliberately held back from the player. Imagine if someday the instruction manual became DLC, and that’s basically what this system feels like.
While Tokyo 2020 does its best to capture the presentation and excitement of the real thing, the core graphics engine is rather underwhelming, featuring basic texture mapping and lumpy character models. Thankfully, the various suits and outfits can be quite fun, and once you wear a mascot costume, you’ll never go back. Not sure what the Olympics rulebook has to say about it.
Although there are plenty of multiplayer options and features, both online and off, you can’t help but feel that most of these events kind of all play the same. Many events share the same mechanics with some minor differences and feature the same special move system. Despite 18 different events, they all feel like half-baked mini-games, like they were part of some shovelware collection for the Nintendo Wii.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is a functional and serviceable sports video game at best. While it features various events, the play mechanics and controls are too basic, so there isn’t much long-term replay value. The biggest problem here is that the experience sits somewhere between a sports simulator and an arcade game, and it doesn’t succeed with either approach. If you own a Nintendo Switch, pick up Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 instead.
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