Legions of console gamers have vigorously anticipated the day that Nintendo and Sega would mingle their franchises together and create a legendary mash-up game. After two decades of staunch rivalry, the two companies finally merged efforts in 2007 to release Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games on the Wii. While this game offers extraordinary appeal to casual gamers, the masses that have been patiently waiting for this moment will be disappointed.
The meshing of the Mario and Sonic universes is visually stunning and decadently vibrant. The bold color schemes of both worlds merge seamlessly. All in-game animations are lightning quick and the frame-rate holds steady. Most of the work seems to have gone into the exceptional graphics because there is no real driving force behind this game.
The entirety of the game-play mechanics is based on quickness and memorization. Since this game primarily employs the mini-game format, competition is based on the accumulation of points through a series of brief events. Divided into four sections, there are a total of twenty categories of battle. The four basic classifications are Power, All-Around, Speed, and Skill. The infamous Nintendo characters featured include Mario, Wario, Luigi, Waluigi, Yoshi, Peach, Daisy and Bowser while the notorious Sega cast showcases Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Blaze, Dr. Eggman, Amy, Vector, and Shadow.
While the mini-game system should lend well to the Olympic concept, it does not balance the mundane quality of the real-life games being included with any level of imagination. Instead, famous Nintendo and Sega characters that used to be endowed with superhuman abilities now compete in events based only on physical attributes. Their former superpowers are reduced to being mere power-ups and attribute boosters. The standard contests include the Javelin, Long Jump and the 100 Meter Dash.
The winning technique in every game is based on accuracy on some level. This can be especially frustrating since the specificity required exceeds the capacity of the Wii-mote. Also, racing games still require seemingly irrelevant displays to be lined up perfectly in order to achieve victory. Most of the events have nothing in common with their real-life counterparts and do not even attempt to simulate them. Instead, meticulous aim and perfect timing define the elements of winning.
An overwhelming majority of the instructions on screen are too vague to provide any sort of actual guidance. Stark penalties will be constantly applied to players who cannot follow rules that are impossible to keep track of. The game lacks complexity on all levels.
The most entertainment that Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games delivers is in the realm of aesthetic and nostalgic amusement. The soundtrack is prominently comprised of throwback music from both franchises. Players will enjoy the excellent quality character designs and infinite subtle details of individualization. A plethora of hidden content waits to be unlocked by players that can answer obscure trivia questionnaires. However, the real question is wondering why Nintendo and Sega made their first crossover so blatantly superficial after two decades of built-in hype.