Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (Wii) Review

It's been quite a while since we've had a new review on SuperPhillip Central. Well, I won't be able to say that anymore after posting this new one. It's a game that was released last month, and it's surprisingly much better than I had expected. It's Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games for the Nintendo Wii (also available on the DS).

Goes for Gold, Ends Up With Silver.

It's that time once again. Competitors from countries close and far are fluttering to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. While the real deal might not be happening until next year, that hasn't stopped Mario's and Sonic's friends and foes from taking over Vancouver and holding an Olympic ceremony and games of their own. The original Mario and Sonic catapulted itself up sales charts faster than an Olympic record in speed skating. The unlikely duo, Mario and Sonic, Nintendo and SEGA, are at it again. Gone are the cool swims and long sprints-- taking their spot are cold ice and wintry slopes. Is Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games worthy of a place at the podium?

Overall for this winter edition of Mario and Sonic, there's a wider variety of things to do and characters to play as. Last time around eight Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants and eight Station Square denizens came to compete. This time four new characters join their ranks, two from each series-- Bowser Jr and Donkey Kong from the Mario series and Silver and Metal Sonic from the Sonic series, equaling up a total of twenty competitors. Well, 21 if you count the ability to play as any of your Mii characters. As for events, there's more than sixteen individual events to select from. Unfortunately, there's still no online play to speak of, but the leaderboards from the original Olympic outing have returned.

Common fact: Hedgehogs can't skate.

The main mode of Mario and Sonic 2 is Festival mode. This mode has 1-4 players trekking through seventeen days of fierce competition where the goal is to be the player or team with the most points by the end of the olympic games. Points are awarded by placing well in various events and training sessions. There's usually 2-3 events per day starting off with training events which allow players to get used to the basics of a given event and then putting that training to practice through collecting coins, beating a certain time, et cetera. The next day of competition is where the real event players just trained for the previous day takes place. By earning a place on the podium in an event, you're awarded one of three medals and the maximum amount of points. Occasionally at the end of a given day, you'll be challenged by a rival who wishes to test your skills. Unlike any other form of event, these must be successfully completed before you can continue with the olympic games. These rival competitions are exactly like ordinary events except instead of you versus a wide assortment of opponents, it's just you and the big bad boss. These rivals are unplayable as characters which is a shame since duking it out as Dry Bowser, Rouge, and Omega would have been enjoyable.

Weegie shreds through the powdery snow.

The original Mario and Sonic had a large number of games, but most of them really measured up to constantly waggling of the Wii remote. Not so much this time around. There's a wider range of events as well as more intuitive uses of the Wii remote and nunchuk. Events like alpine skiing have you holding the two pieces of the Wii controller like ski poles, tilting each to maneuver your character. There's your traditional downhill race as well as slalom racing where the goal is to navigate through multiple gates on your way to the finish line. Continuing with the theme of skiing is the ski jump event. You try to keep your balance going down the huge ramp, lift back the Wii remote and nunchuk at the very edge of the ramp for greater distance, and touch down to the snow below with perfect timing for greatest results. Moguls combines racing to the goal as fast as possible and pulling off impressive tricks. The points you earn from both add up to your total score. Get the best score, and hope to beat out the rest of the field.

Apart from skiing there's its two-feet together counterpart in the snowboard. Unlike skiing, this event only requires use of the Wii remote. All you do is twist and turn the Wii remote to shred your way through the snow with ease. By pulling up the Wii remote as you come off a ramp, you'll be able to perform a trick, effectively increasing your speed. If racing isn't your bag, you can always play like Shaun White and take it to the halfpipe to get some mad air and perform mad tricks in the process via the snowboard cross event.

Amy's no Wayne Gretzky, but she can hold her own.

Perhaps you'd rather be a Mushroom Kingdom version of Scott Hamilton? Then for you there's speed skating against three other players, a relay race where sixteen characters can show their stuff on the ice, as well as figure skating where the goal is to make the correct Wii remote gesture as you cross certain points of the ice for major points. If you're looking for something more full-contact, the incredible ice hockey event is perfect for you. It stands as one of my personal favorites. It's four-on-four hockey without worrying about a certain dynasty from Detroit. The game itself feels like a teaser of what we might see from a future Mario Hockey title. Well, we can dream at the very least.

Rounding out the package of traditional events are the skeleton, bobsled, and curling games. The skeleton and bobsled games are similar in the fact that they're played the same. The goal is to stay in the racing line in order to keep your speed up through the courses' icy twists and turns. The only difference is that the skeleton is a single-player game while the bobsled is a team sport. Curling may not seem like the most entertaining sport to be playing in a video game, but rest assured, SEGA makes it fun. Each team gets four attempts to get their stones as close to the center circle as possible to earn points.

Dream events take you in unrealistic places.

Sometimes traditional sports get tiring. After all, we play video games to escape reality. This is where dream events come in. Ever wanted to ski or snowboard down Mario Kart Wii's Mario Circuit or Sonic Adventure 2's Radical Highway? Now you can. Each dream event takes place in a different section of Mario and Sonic lore from Sonic Heroes' Seaside Hill, Super Mario Galaxy's Good Egg Galaxy, Sonic Riders' Eggman Base, and Mario Kart 64's Sherbet Land. Each area is brimming with fan-service as well as a bounty of remixed and remastered tunes fitting each area. New dream-exclusive events include a mix of bowling and curling, a snowball fight of enthralling proportions, and a gliding game where the goal is to shoot down as many enemies (or opponents) as possible within the time limit.

Sonic Heroes' first zone gets an icy makeover.

As stated before, waggling is kept to a minimum. Most of which is used to build up speed at the start of events or during certain events (such as speed skating). As for the controls of most events they work quite well. I couldn't help but think Wii MotionPlus would have been beneficial for some aspects such as parts of the game where you have to draw certain symbols with the Wii remote. I've had it on multiple occasions where I hardly moved the Wii remote at all yet still accomplished the specified symbol. Other than that, controlling each event is seldom bothersome and is often more intuitive than not. Some events allow players to utilize the Balance Board peripheral. I did not have the chance to use this, but be aware that it is an option for those looking for a new game to try it out on.

Snowball fight!

As you play through Mario and Sonic, you'll earn coins that can be used to purchase items in the game's many shops. These coins are earned by medal-ing an event, beating olympic records, and by completing certain in-game tasks such as grinding 200 meters in snowboarding. There's a shop to buy new costumes for your Mii to wear such as sport coats and Mario and Sonic-themed outfits, a shop to deck out your skis and snowboards, a music shop where you can purchase any and all music you hear from the game, and a library where you can check out facts from past Olympic Winter Games at your leisure.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is by far a better product than its original summer fling. It's packed with more to do, more content, and more extras to keep players who enjoy the package coming back for more. No form of online play is a bummer, and some of the load times can become unbearable while waiting for certain events. Regardless, Mario and Sonic's second Olympic outing is one that fans of either character will enjoy and those looking for some frenzied local multi-player fun.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.0/10]

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