[Review] Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (3DS)
Release date: March 18, 2016
The Mario & Sonic series first began in 2008 to commemorate the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Since then, Mario, Sonic, and friends have continued duking it out at each edition of the Olympics, now leading up to this summer’s festivities in Rio de Janeiro. But how does Mario and Sonic’s newest foray into traditional sporting events on the 3DS stack up against their previous ventures?
Once you start Mario & Sonic 2016, you will be prompted to assign a Mii you want to play as and your country of origin. From there you’ll be greeted with a menu of different modes and options to explore. There’s your standard fare, like records and options, however the bulk of the game comes in the three main playable modes: Quick Play, Road to Rio, and Versus Mode.
Quick Play allows you to play through fourteen different Olympic events to try and break records, personal bests, and win the gold medal. Each of the different events come with their own special version called a Plus Event. Plus Events are the same as their regular counterparts, but with a Mario and Sonic styled flair. For instance, in the Swimming Event, instead of just trying to swim 100 meters faster than your opponents, you have to dodge giant waves created by a Thwomp at the opposite end of the pool. The Long Jump event has your character jumping on a giant classic spring from Sonic the Hedgehog, and Football allows you to use items like Pow Blocks and Koopa Shells against the opposing team. It’s a really nice mix of variety that keeps the game fresh when the normal events get a bit stale. There is one downside to Quickplay however, and it’s the fact that you can’t choose whatever character you’d like from the available roster. Once you choose an event, you are only allowed a choice of seven different characters. Three characters from the Mario franchise, three from the Sonic franchise, and your Mii. The characters that are available to choose are usually tailored to the chosen event, but it would have been nice to select any character regardless of the event.
Versus Mode allows you to play with up to two or four friends and compete in events just like previous installments. You can choose to play locally with friends who also have a copy of the game or you can use Download Play which only requires one copy. Unfortunately, there isn’t an option to play online (leaderboards only) with friends or even random players. There’s also StreetPass functionality that takes your steps while the 3DS is in sleep mode and equates them to in-game steps for your Mii to run. Meeting the required amount of steps completes a daily bonus that can unlock things like currency, special items, or even special outfits for your Mii.
And finally, Road to Rio is the 3DS version’s story mode. This begins with your Mii, who you will be playing as for the entire duration of the story, arriving in Rio de Janeiro to compete in the Olympic Games. Immediately upon arriving to the coast with suitcase in hand, your Mii is approached by two fanboys. One is decked out in a Sonic onesie and the other is clad in Mario’s iconic cap and overalls. They tell you they represent Mario and Sonic’s respective gym and immediately begin vying for your membership. It was at this particular moment when the game’s charm really started to shine through for me. The dialogue and humor was silly and charming raising my hopes ever-so slightly higher for the future story events. However, while the charm and humor still exist in throughout the story, they become few and far between as the events unfold. Once you decide which gym you’ll be allying with, you head off to meet the gym manager and begin exploring the top-down over-world of Rio.
Throughout the story mode, you’ll see a lot of different characters from both the Mario and Sonic franchises, compete against a rival character from the opposing gym, and explore a compact version of Rio de Janeiro. The story mode consists of days where your Mii has to place 2nd or 1st in the preliminary round of a designated event and eventually take 1st place against your rival in the final round. Before and after the finals, your Mii has the chance to level up his or her stats through training sessions at the gym. Training sessions act like little snippets of Olympic events, but with an almost Mario Party-esque twist. Along with leveling up stats, you have the option of trading fruit at any Blue Yoshi stand to get outfits to customize your Mii. Outfits come in clothing (shirt and pants), hat, and full-body suit varieties. Each outfit has its own set of stat boosts and requires a certain amount of stars to be worn. Once your Mii levels up, it gains additional star slots which allow for better outfits to help best your rival in the finals. The overall story of Road to Rio isn’t anything special, however, the Olympic events and training sessions keep the mode fun and there’s actually quite a bit of replay-value to keep you coming back. This comes in the form of unlockable characters, hidden treasure chests, and playing and winning 1st in all the training sessions.
This new Mario & Sonic entry on 3DS features graphics that look clear and sharp, with bright and vibrant colors used throughout. Some of the character animations can appear a bit stiff and unnatural at times, but overall, the game looks pretty good for the 3DS. The soundtrack for Mario & Sonic 2016 is another high-point of the game. Almost all of the tunes have a catchy, upbeat Brazilian flair with lots of background vocals, drums, and horns.
The gameplay of Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games doesn’t stray too far from the formula of previous Mario & Sonic titles. This has become something of a staple of the series, sometimes to its detriment. Yet even though the same formula remains intact for the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic 2016, I still ended up having fun with it. Each event has a different control scheme depending on the event, ranging from touch controls, gyro controls, are normal button inputs. Running and cycling events require you to button mash, sometimes with an occasionally jump or two thrown in. Swimming has you circling the screen with your stylus, Archery uses gyro controls, and Rhythmic Gymnastics requires timed button presses for the highest possible score. Some events were far better and more in-depth than others, like Archery, Golf (which returned to the Olympics after 112 years), and Football. Having said that, none of the Olympic events felt boring or frustrating. There were a few choice training sessions that suffered from bad controls, frustrating AI, and repetitiveness; however, they were fairly rare and can easily be ignored unless you’re going for 100 percent.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the 3DS version of Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The game does have some small issues. Sometimes the events or training sessions may feel repetitive, the AI can be frustrating, and if you don’t have a couple of friends who own 3DS systems the game might feel a bit light on content. But if you’re looking for a fun party game to play with your friends or a pick-up-and-play style of game for those moments when you’re on a long car ride, plane trip, or even just want to beat personal records for certain events, this game will do the job.