Since its late 2007 debut, you could say it’s been an expectation for Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog to join universes and traditionally compete against one another in the Olympic Games and Winter Olympic Games, since spanning over multiple video games on various home consoles and handhelds, coinciding with the real-life Olympic events for the world to watch. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics were no exception for these famous videogame mascots, with a Nintendo Switch game released November 2019. However, in a first for the series, a mobile companion title was released alongside the Tokyo Games in May of 2020 but only featuring characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog series. So how does a Sonic-only Olympic Games title hold up compared to the normal games? Surprisingly addictive, even with some issues along the way.
Sonic at the Olympic Games – Tokyo 2020 begins with Dr. Eggman scheming to take over Tokyo during the Olympics for world domination. Naturally, it’s up to Sonic and friends to take him down whilst competing in the games, whether that be against friends or any of Eggman’s minions to stop you on your way. The game is spreads across multiple stages in seven areas all based on real-life places in Japan (Such as Asakusa, Nihonbashi, Yokohama and more) with various Olympic events to take part in each stage, such as archery, sport climbing, diving and plenty more to discover. There are roughly up to 20+ stages in each area, with a boss fight or two in each one eventually awaiting you for battle. These boss fights are usually tougher than the average stage so it’s best to pay close attention for victory. I did discover that if you are unable to win a boss fight multiple times in a row, you are allowed the option to skip and move on, however you won’t have a gold medal. It’s a nice alternative for if you’re truly struggling and want to come back later to do which I appreciate. It doesn’t punish the player entirely and I like that.
All stages simply require you to tap or move your finger on the screen for controls, depending on what you are participating in. My favourite stage by far was Trampoline. Having to flick my finger in the direction the on-screen arrows prompts you to do for a ‘perfect’ jump was insanely addictive. It’s extremely fun and satisfying that I even went for 1st place in the worldwide rankings on multiple occasions! While most are fun such as sport climbing and diving being other examples, some are utterly awful.
Badminton is just plain bad, and I never ever got a good sense of how to play this one even with instructions on what to do. Despite tapping and hitting the shuttlecock as good as I could, somehow, I’d ‘miss’ at times and the CPU would get a perfect shot and instantly result in a loss for myself.
Javelin also wasn’t terribly fun either, with the Shadow the Hedgehog boss fight towards the end requiring you to have perfect precision and a great eye in order to get the gold. These two could have had more time to be worked on but more so badminton than anything else. I even felt discouraged to keep playing on whenever a stage in each area was a badminton challenge. These two may be awful, but the rest are fun and should not stop you from trying the game out. Winning stages also earn you collectables, such as badges, titles and flag stamps that you can show off to players you connect with on your profile, if you’re into that sort of thing. Connecting with people allows you to show off scores with one another and pit against each other for worldwide rankings, which is great for testing your skill with others around the world.
While Sonic is initially the only playable character to partake in a sporting event, once completed you are then able to pick another character to replay the stage, given if you have progressed further enough in the story to have unlocked other characters and by also earning TP (Technical Points, I’m assuming) and spirits after each stage is completed. TP and spirits are used to help unlock characters in events specific only to them, where as Sonic is available in every stage and participates in all sports. It’s a great way to play more of what you love and to earn more collectables for replay value and earning TP and spirits felt fair and enjoyable. I didn’t feel as if I needed to grind unnecessarily for hours on end to unlock others and this gave me more incentive to keep on playing.
I’m mostly happy regarding the roster of characters to select, however some fan-favourites appear in story-related text-based cut scenes that aren’t playable at all and this just sucks. Cream the Rabbit is in the game but she’s not playable, yet Zavok and Zazz are, two of my personally most annoying zeti to encounter from 2013’s Sonic Lost World. I’m not sure why Cream gets sidelined hard because it’s no secret she is a liked character within the fandom, but it’s quite annoying when boring characters like the zeti keep making appearances in the series. As a huge Sonic fan, I hope this gets changed in future games, allowing for more fan-favourites to be around again, whether that be mobile or home console Sonic games. Take it from me Sonic Team; the zeti are boring and Zavok in particular poses no threat whatsoever. Ditch them – you’ll thank me later.
Characters also have individual stats special to them that may help them stand out better in certain events. Sonic may be more suitable for hurdles given his insane speed, but when it comes to BMX, Silver the Hedgehog may be preferable as he has better handling than Sonic. Mix and match with characters to see who feels better in certain events to win your way to the end. I like this as it, again, gives more replay value and it is fun to pick other characters aside from just Sonic himself. You can also activate a special attack called SP in stages that and help you win and be victorious, such as shooting a straight arrow in archery or successive force to a goal in table tennis. SP accumulates depending on the stage and helps if you’re struggling for that gold medal, which I wholeheartedly loved for the harder stages because things do get difficult as you progress.
It’s noteworthy about Sonic at the Olympic Games – Tokyo 2020 that while this game is a free-to-start download, upon halfway completing the first area the game requires a pass to be bought with real money in order to continue gameplay. This may seem off-putting at first but when you realise that at a price of $14.99 AUS (according to the Australian iTunes App Store) to unlock everything else with zero pop up adds, very quick and speedy loading times and no annoying, egregious micro-transactions being shoved in your face from time to time (there are micro-transactions in this game but are really not necessary at all), I personally don’t think this is too bad a deal. Honestly, if more mobile games had an upfront, reasonable (and I cannot stress that enough, *reasonable*) paywall that did not have these annoying features, I would probably enjoy mobile gaming just that little bit more. I think for what it’s worth, in this instance it is justifiable. As of writing this review, a sale is happening for the in-game shop since its launch so if you’re thinking of giving the game a try, the premium pass is cheaper than normal.
For a mobile game, I really, really enjoyed it and had a fun time for hours on end. The game stages are fun (albeit badminton and javelin’s awful gameplay), has a friendly-user interface to navigate from stage to stage and an absolutely jammin’ soundtrack full of new tracks remixes of previous Sonic tunes you’ll recognise if you’re a hardcore Sonic fan like me.
Sonic at the Olympic Games – Tokyo 2020 is a nice surprise in ever-growing world of mobile gaming. Even if the real Tokyo 2020 games have been postponed (now beginning in July 2021 due to COVID-19) and no Mario characters make an appearance, these reasons should not stop you from kicking back and giving this fun title a try.
Sonic at the Olympic Games is available on iOS, Android, Fire iOS.