Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (3DS) Review

The Summer Olympics in Rio are a while away, but that doesn't mean we can't start Olympic Fever a little early. At least that's what Sega is doing with Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Here's my review of the Nintendo 3DS version. Note that the Wii U version is set to be released in June.

Earns a place on the podium

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games occur this summer, but Nintendo and Sega are already cashing in on the competition fun with Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the first of two Rio 2016 Olympic titles featuring Nintendo's and Sega's all-star mascots. The last handheld Mario & Sonic game failed to be that enthralling with a modest amount of content and some frustrating controls. However, with Rio 2016, Sega is back on the right foot, out of the showers, and ready to compete.

The main single player mode in Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games' 3DS version is the Road to Rio. Here, you get the choice of joining either the Mario or Sonic gym, and you compete in a week-long event-filled mode with your Mii. Each day starts off with you being introduced to your opponent for the finals of a particular event. Each day has a different event that is played, and not only that, but the event played also depends on the gym you're representing.

First things first, however, you need to complete the preliminary round for a given day before you can take on the Mario or Sonic gym rival for the finals. You can immediately jump into the preliminaries and hope for the best, but it's recommended to explore the map and participate in various training mini-games of which there are two to four each per day. These training mini-games are bite-sized events that focus on individual challenges featuring simplistic versions of sports like kayaking, long-distance swimming, badminton, water polo, and handball. I call these simplistic versions because you're not doing the entirety of each sport. For instance, for handball, you merely serve as the goalie, trying to block as many shots as possible from entering the net.

Metal Sonic wants to prove that he's superior to the hedgehog he was modeled after.
Completing training mini-games earns you experience points to help level up your character. Each time you level up, to a maximum of level 10, you can equip more helpful clothing and gear to make yourself more formidable in each event. Each piece of equipment has a certain amount of stars it's worth, and you can't equip an outfit that has more stars than you currently have allowed to you. Thus, by gaining levels, you can equip outfits that are worth more stars.

When you're prepared to take on the CPU in the preliminaries, you take on three other Miis in that day's event. Once you've done that, you can participate in the finals against that day's rival in that day's event. Beating your rival ends the day and starts a new one with a completely new rival and a completely new event.

Each event has some semblance of depth to keep you coming back for more. Well, some more than others.
Outside of this formula for Road to Rio, there's a loose story attached to the mode that is completely optional to do. You accomplish and complete the story by talking to specific characters throughout the mode's various days that have you exploring across four parts of the city of Rio. Not only can you converse characters to further the story, but you can also discover treasure chests containing things like new costumes for your Mii and melons, used to purchase special gear from Yoshi's stall. As solving the mysteries behind the Olympic Games is highly possible, you can find yourself missing an important conversation, thus ruining your chance of seeing the rest of the story. However, you can replay the series of days as many times as you want, and as long as you've already cleared the preliminaries and finals in a previous run-through, you can skip doing these events again. Thus, you can just focus on exploration and making sure you investigate the story elements of Road to Rio fully.

Now, remember, Wario. That's a javelin, and not a toothpick to clean all of the garlic from between your teeth.
Apart from the story, the events, and training mini-games, each day for each gym has a character you can compete against that awaits you somewhere on the game map. After beating the preliminaries of the day's event, you can take that character on in a Plus version of the event. Plus versions on events take a well known Olympic event and spices them up with some wacky rules, such as having items available in Football Plus, trying to let thy arrow's aim be true by hitting moving targets held by the Super Mario Bros. series's Boos in Archery Plus, or nailing a Bingo in Beach Volleyball Plus. Beating that character at a Plus event unlocks them for Quick Play in that event.

These hurdles rise and lower to trip runners up in the 110m Hurdles Plus event.
Aside from the relatively meaty Road to Rio, the other main mode for Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Game is yes, Quick Play. This mode allows you to play any event you like to attempt to go for an Olympic or world record, as well as lets you try to unlock achievements for performing well in a given event and meeting certain conditions. These achievements have three tiers to them each, such as getting 3 consecutive perfect jumps in the Equestrian event, 6 consecutive perfect jumps, and then 10 consecutive perfect jumps. Completing these achievements unlock rare equipment and gear not available anywhere else in the game.

Bowser Jr. learned grace like this from Mama Peach back in the day.
Unlike the past console versions of Mario & Sonic, Rio 2016 has but a selection of seven characters each to choose from for each event. Therefore you can't just choose Luigi for every event, as he is not available in Boxing or any number of events, for instance. This is a shame, as I would have loved to be able to see Bowser pedal for all his worth in BMX or witness Cream do her best in Rhythmic Gymnastics. Perhaps having all characters available in every event was too much to ask for in this lower budget version of Mario & Sonic's Rio 2016 romp.

Each event shows you the controls ahead of time, as well as on the bottom screen in case you need a reminder.
The events themselves in Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games use a myriad of control options to them-- some using buttons, some using the touch screen, and some using the 3DS system's gyroscope like to aim in Archery. The controls work well overall, and there weren't any events that I truly dreaded playing due to the controls. From speedily moving the stylus around in a clockwise pattern for Swimming to mashing on the A button to sprint in both the 100m and 110m Hurdles, the controls might feel a bit gimmicky but they don't get in the way of the fun.

The major addition to the event lineup with Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is golf, which hasn't been seen at the Summer Olympics in over 110 years. It returns to great effect, using the stylus to draw down on the touch screen and then quickly drawing a line forward to hit the ball on one of 18 different holes. Depending on how far back you draw a line, the power of your shot is altered, making for some precision golfing as something necessary if you want to stay under par.

A perfect swing. When can we see a Sonic Golf game to rival Mario Golf, Sega?
With all of these fun and enjoyable events to play, it's a shame that there is no online option outside of sharing your best times and scores from the game's various events. Still, it is very welcome that Mario & Sonic's latest on 3DS offers local Versus Play as well as Download Play. The latter only requires one game card across multiple 3DS systems in order to play all of the events in the game. The only caveats here are the loading times for the Download Play players to load each event, as well as Golf only having one hole to play instead of several. At the same time, you can adjust the rules for most other events to your liking, just like if you were playing solo with Quick Play. Download Play certainly is a lot of fun, and since it only requires the previously mentioned one game card, you can easily entertain yourself and a friend or two or three with the game.

Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is a gorgeous and well performing Nintendo 3DS game. The character models are highly detailed and impressive, and the backgrounds and environments are suitably bright and cheery, perfect for the sunbathed goodness that is Rio de Janeiro. The only real noticeable frame-rate problems is during slow motion instant replays. It doesn't look slowed down, more like the frame-rate sinks to under 10 FPS. Otherwise, the game runs smoothly.

The visuals are nice, especially with the 3D slider on
The sound is always phenomenal in the Mario & Sonic series, and this is no different with Rio 2016. The music is absolutely sensational, taking a lot of cues from music from the city with catchy and infectious brass, acoustic guitar, and percussion. Voice clips from the Mario and Sonic rosters are as charming as ever, though your mileage may vary on this particular subject.

Overall, Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the best the series has seen on a handheld. Despite feeling like a lower budget affair compared to its upcoming console brethren (and let's face it-- that's because it IS a much lower budget affair), Mario & Sonic's latest sports entertaining events, mostly well done controls, awesome Download Play support, a sizable amount of content, and an impressive presentation. This game definitely deserves a place on the proverbial podium.

[SPC Says: B-]

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