Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog are two of the biggest icons in gaming history and, for a long time, had been rivals too. As the gaming landscape changed, Sega and Nintendo stopped working against one another and started to build a more collaborative relationship and eventually a game featuring both of these franchises coming together was possible.
But as much as Mario and Sonic meeting one another was highly anticipated, I don’t think anybody could have predicted that they’d first meet on the fields of the 2008 Beijing Olympics – but that’s what happened. I remember when I first saw some screen shots in a magazine and I genuinely thought that it was a joke. It was so absurd that I didn’t believe it could be real – but of course it was.
Essentially, the whole game is based around using the Wii Remote to play Olympic games as characters from both the Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog series. They’re mostly pretty realistic and have very few fantastical elements. Using the Wii Remote so much actually gets a bit tiring sometimes – it also is a bit annoying where certain movements don’t work properly. Sometimes no matter how hard I waggle, my character won’t run fast enough.
The controls in generally aren’t that great. Sometimes I just shake the Wii Remote to make them move (like in running or swimming) and other times I swipe it downwards to throw (e.g. a javelin) or upwards to jump (e.g. long jump). It doesn’t feel like there’s any skill or technique to these things – sometimes it works and you win, sometimes it doesn’t and you lose. The skeet event felt ridiculously hard to get right as well.
Some events make use of the more interesting elements of the Mario & Sonic universes. My favourite of these is Dream Race, which is essentially a footrace version of Mario Kart – the problem is that there’s only one track. I also enjoyed Dream Platform, which had you diving through the sky and collecting items and rings. Both were fun, but pretty basic.
In any of the events, you can play as either Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Peach, Daisy, Wario, Waluigi, Bower, Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Blaze, Vector, Shadow and Eggman – it’s a nice selection (though I was a little sad that Donkey Kong was not present) and this is really why I play the game. I love watching these strangely proportioned characters take part in realistic Olympic events. Watching Bowser or Wario sprinting and jumping over hurdles is hilarious – as is watching Eggman propel his body through the air for the high jump. Because of his awkward body shape, I actually think I love being Eggman the most. But if it wasn’t for these beloved characters, I wouldn’t be all that interested in this otherwise mediocre game.
Basically, this is just some Olympic events playable with the Wii Remote with some popular characters pasted onto it. I really like the idea that the Olympics bring people together and that’s why Mario and Sonic are playing together after all these years – but that’s all it is, a nice idea. I played until I had unlocked and played every event, but honestly you will probably get bored after the first hour or so. You never unlock anything that good (other than Dream Platform). It could have been a lot better and I love what they were trying to do, but I can’t really recommend this too highly. I wish we got to see more interactions between the characters, I wish there had been more overall substances to it. I wish the loading screens weren’t so slow and so frequent. I wish there wasn’t so much untapped potential in this game…