If you think it's ridiculous that Sonic can get beat by Mario in the 100m Dash, wait until you see him get smoked by Bowser.
The first appearance of Mario and Sonic together in the same video game (and with luck, not the last one we'll see this year) is one that will carry the official 2008 Summer Olympic Games license with it, though not exclusively. Developed by one of Sega's Japanese sports groups in close conjunction with Nintendo, it'll finally answer that age-old question of who is the better mascot character: Mario, or Sonic?
Those two aren't the only characters in the game, of course. The E3 demo version we got to take a look at featured eight, but according to Sega reps demoing the game there will be “significantly more" in the final version. Each character has a specialty in one of three areas: speed, power or technique. Obviously, Sonic is one of the speed characters. Bowser and Knuckles were labeled as power characters, with Tails and Luigi being some of the technique characters. In addition to a field of specialty, each Olympian also has individual stats in one of four areas: speed, acceleration, dash and technique. Mario was also classified as a speed character, but his stats are much more balanced than those of Sonic, who has the highest top speed but very poor acceleration.
The different technique types and stats are meant to balance the characters in a way where any character has a chance to win at any event, but still give an advantage to the characters who excel in an event specialty. Bowser would naturally do better in the hammer throw than Peach; and Tails or Luigi would be better suited for the technique-heavy triple jump. The final game will have multiplayer challenges that span multiple events, so things will even out over time. However, Sega said that if you wanted to break an Olympic or world record in an individual event, you'll have to select a character that specializes in it.
The Wii remote and nunchuk will be used in different ways during the various events. In the 100m Dash, it's all about drumming the controller halves as fast as possible. During the first half of a race, however, you can only run at about 80% capacity. A blue meter tells you your speed, but if you drum too fast and go into the red, you'll stumble a bit and lose time. After the halfway point this restriction is lifted and it's just a full-on sprint to the finish. The potental to screw up in the opening means it's possible for slower characters (like Bowser) to outrun faster characters (like Sonic) if the person controlling ol' blue messes up a bit. But all player skill levels being equal, speed characters will win every time.
In the triple jump, a technique event, the drumming of the controller will get you up to speed during the run-up. You won't need to do this all the way to the jump plate, however, as the game will lock in your speed a few moments before you need to flick the Wii remote upwards to start a jump. The second jump is done with a similar nunchuk flick and the final jump is the Wii remote again. Each jump has an angle meter that tells you the trajectory of each jump, but it wasn't clear what determined the jump angle from Sega's demonstration. It appeared to me that it was the force of the flick, but it could also have to do with the controller angle when flicking. Either way, the goal is to get a 45-degree leap each time.
The last event on display at E3 was the hammer throw. For this power event you must hold the remote upwards and twirl it around in a circular motion to get the speed up, then hit the A Button with good timing to fling it out of the cage. It didn't look like the remote motions required to build speed were very vigorous in this event, but since Sega wasn't allowing anyone to try it hands-on we do not know if giving the remote a violent shake will provide more power.
There will be some neat extras you can do with the Wii remote strewn about the events. Before starting a run in the triple jump, you can clap your hands a few times by doing the same motion with the two halves of the remote to pump up the crowd and give you a little power boost. In the 100m Dash, thrusting the controllers forward at the finish will make your character perform one final thrust toward the tape. There will be more of these in the final game.
And finally, the combination of the Mario and Sonic universes won't stop at the character select screen. Footage has already revealed a few cameo appearances from minor characters from both camps. In the triple jump, Toad watches for jumping fouls and Lakitu measures the final jump distance. In the hammer throw, Cream the Rabbit raises the red and white flags to signal a fair or foul throw. This is an indication that even if a recognizable character doesn't make the final roster, it'll probably still show up in the game somewhere.
Sega was pretty much mum on other key details during E3, such as the number of events or specifics on extra game modes. It did, however, say the game will be out this November, a good nine months before the real Olympic Games get under way in China next year.