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Wii

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Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games

by Pedro Hernandez - December 15, 2009, 8:46 pm PST
Total comments: 9

9

Mario and Sonic face off once more, and the results are grand.

When Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games was released for the Wii in 2007, it received a lot of mixed critical reactions, mostly due to some faulty controls and repetitive gameplay. But the allure of two of the world's most beloved gaming mascots competing in an event as historically significant as the Olympic Games was a huge draw for the masses, and thus the game became a massive hit. Two years later, Sega pairs Mario and Sonic once more, choosing the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada as the arena in which the heroes shall compete. The end result is a game that's more polished, more robust in its gameplay, and in general a more complete package than its predecessor.

For starters, all of the Olympic events are unlocked from the start, eliminating the need to tediously unlock them all as seen in the previous title. There are 12 main Olympic events, including bobsled racing, curling, ice hockey, skeleton, and even figure skating. The game does a great job of presenting real world sporting events as fun mini-games. The video game interpretation of these events has been improved in terms of control, even though a few bothersome issues remain. Timing still plays a key role; a flick of the Wii Remote at the right time gives your character a boost, and at times you will have to shake it to build up speed. But the redundancy of the motions has been significantly toned down, meaning that players will not feel tired after a long gameplay session.

In addition to the Olympic events, Dream Events return from the original title, and this time they are more memorable and more fun to play. These events are fantastic takes on their respective events, featuring Mario and Sonic-themed worlds and items, and they are more arcade-style in terms of rules and overall competition. In the original game they felt like an afterthought, but in the sequel they are more refined and definitely more creative. Dream skating alone could make players crack a smile while playing. Unfortunately, these events have to be unlocked.

Characters are once again grouped under several different categories, namely all-around, speed, power, and skill. This is very important as some characters perform better in certain events. For example, Sonic is a speed character; therefore events requiring speed as an important skill will work best for him. This adds a little bit of challenge and strategizing to what is otherwise a party game, and its addition is much appreciated. The original cast from the first game returns, including titular characters Mario and Sonic, as well as new characters from each franchise such as Silver the hedgehog, Donkey Kong, and Metal Sonic. Miis can also be used as playable characters.

The game also features an achievement system. After completing a requirement, it will announce it and award you an emblem. There are a lot of emblems to earn in the game, guaranteed to please competitive type that will try to earn each and every one of them.

Speaking of competition, the game has some online features as well. You can upload your best times to online leaderboards and check everyone else's best scores and times. The game also lets you control the weather! If you have the Weather Forecast Channel on your Wii, the game will alter the weather in the events according to the weather readings in Vancouver, Canada. This might be a small feature, but it's one that adds a compelling amount of realism to what is otherwise a fantastical game.

Like its predecessor, Winter Games features many game modes to choose from. Single Match mode lets you select one event and play, while Festival Mode is Mario and Sonic's main single-player mode. Festival Mode aims to simulate the festivities of the Winter Olympics, lasting 17 days. When you first start the mode, you select a character; this is where the character's skills play a key role, because once you choose that character you will be using him or her throughout the mode. Each day features a series of events; you can participate in a training session, an Olympic event, and a Dream event (once you complete a Dream event it will be unlocked in the single match mode). During some days, a rival will appear. These rivals are boss characters from past Mario and Sonic games, so you'll be facing off against the likes of Rouge the Bat, Bullet Bill, and King Boo.

Festival Mode is a big improvement over the main single-player mode in the previous game. The training sessions help players understand the events in a more insightful manner, and they are simply more fun to play through this time around. The addition of rival matches gives the game even more character, making it an even more memorable experience overall.

Party Games mode puts a Mario Party-inspired spin on the proceedings. There are three main Party modes, and in between each event players will participate in a mini-game that gives them points. When the game is over, the player with the most points wins. The mini-games in this section of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games make much more sense, as they incorporate the main events unlike the mini-games found in the first game. It’s a fun mode that gives the events an interesting twist.

Finally, there's Shopping mode, which serves as the hub for the game's bonus content. In this mode, players can buy all sorts of items such as music tracks, images, Olympic trivia and more. But the best thing about this mode is that you can buy clothing items and sports accessories for your Mii. There are a lot of clothing items to choose from, and even full character costumes that turn a Mii into a Sonic or Mario character, a great touch fans should really like. The items are bought using star tickets, which are earned after you complete each event and earn achievements.

One of the issues many had with the original Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games was the repetitive nature of its controls, and their unpredictable timing. The sequel fixes these issues, creating a game that's much more fun to control. As previously mentioned, timing is still important in some events. But this time around they are much easier to master thanks to the game letting you know how you're doing. Repetitive motions have also been kept, but they won't tire you out. The title also lets you play with just the Wii Remote or with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck.

As a bonus, the game is compatible with the Wii Balance Board, and it works wonderfully. Sega did a fantastic job in integrating Balance Board play. Selecting the Balance Board option from the main menu will take you through the calibration process, and once this is done, there's no need to calibrate it for as long as your play session lasts. This is a very clever idea, and it eliminates a lot of wasted time re-calibrating the Balance Board for each event. The event controls themselves are great. An on-screen bar lets you know how good your balance is, making the control of your character much easier. Unfortunately, there are no multiplayer options when playing with the Balance Board, but this can be forgiven thanks to how fun it is to play with the peripheral.

The visual presentation has received a substantial upgrade from the first game. While the character models remain a tad stiff, they are more expressive and have more animations. But the real winners here are the locales. Each event takes place in event venues modeled after the venues in the real Olympics, and they are full of tiny details that stay true to the Olympic experience. Dream Events, however, are the most dazzling. Each event has been ripped out of a Mario and Sonic game, keeping the color, vibrancy, and imagination of each franchise intact. Sega knocked one out of the park with this one.

The music is a delight, and really completes the whole experience. It consists of orchestral themes that lend an epic feel to the Olympic atmosphere. There are also many remixes of classic Mario and Sonic songs, as well as public domain songs for the figure skating event. The character voices are just as charming as in the last game, but unfortunately, they repeat a lot of lines.

In the end, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is a great game. Sega took the solid foundation of the first title, addressed many of the concerns found with it, and made an excellent sequel that does justice to both the Olympic Winter Games and the Mario and Sonic universe. If you liked the first Mario and Sonic Olympic game, don't hesitate to give this one a try.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8.5 8.5 9 9 9 9
Graphics
8.5

More refined than in the first game, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games shines with its graphical representation of Olympic Vancouver, Canada, and the Mario and Sonic universes.

Sound
8.5

The orchestral soundtrack makes the game feel like an epic event, while the character voices preserve the cartoony and fun atmosphere, despite constant repetition of lines.

Control
9

The one issue that plagued the original game has been resolved thanks to events that control more tightly with less tiring motions. Timing is still integral, but it's much more tolerable. Balance Board controls are fantastic.

Gameplay
9

While the gameplay doesn't stray far from its predecessor in terms of design and implementation, it has been refined and polished substantially. Events won't tire you out, and achieving mastery is much easier. The various gameplay modes also keep things fresh and fun.

Lastability
9

The Festival Mode will take a few hours to complete, but the game will last a while thanks to its selection of multiplayer modes. Achieving emblems and participating in the leader boards will also keep many dedicated players busy.

Final
9

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is an exemplary sequel that respects the Olympics, thanks to great interpretation of its events as well as events that pay homage to the beloved heroes. With many gameplay modes to participate in, great Wii Remote and Balance Board controls, and excellent events, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is sure to become a must-play multiplayer title for many.

Summary

Pros
  • All of the Olympic Events are unlocked from the start
  • Dream Events are fantastic nostalgia trips
  • Festival mode is a great training and single-player mode
  • Great Wii Remote controls along with smart Balance Board integration
  • Plenty of modes to participate in
Cons
  • Dream Events still need to be unlocked
  • No multiplayer when using the Balance Board
  • Timing is still an issue with some events
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Mop it upDecember 16, 2009

Good review Pap64. I can't say I really agree with your score, but your points seem more informative and open-minded than some of the other reviews I've seen for this game.

I'm waiting to find this one on a sale before I buy it. I think it's really lame how they skimped on the new characters and instead made them costumes for the Mii, it is a real insult.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 16, 2009

Quote from: Mop_it_up

Good review Pap64. I can't say I really agree with your score, but your points seem more informative and open-minded than some of the other reviews I've seen for this game.

I'm waiting to find this one on a sale before I buy it. I think it's really lame how they skimped on the new characters and instead made them costumes for the Mii, it is a real insult.

Thank you very much.

About the score, I think the game deserves it. Yes, it might be a mini-game compilation, but not only are the events done very well Sega did something they rarely do: actually address some of the issues found in the first game. There are repetitive motions, but they are kept to just a few events, unlike the first where all of the events required intense waggling. The dream events are beautiful and so much fun to play. There are so many small touches that the game truly is more complete.

As for the characters, I don't see it that way. I think its wonderful that YOUR Mii gets to wear character costumes that alter their stats. Again, a great piece of fan service. Sure, it doesn't beat having the actual characters, but I think its great.

I say don't miss out on this one. Very rarely do Sega surpass themselves...

I am also surprised by the score as it's higher than most everybody else's, so I wonder what the differing deciding factors were.  The first one was so terrible, it's hard to imagine them improving the game that much.  But I did spend some time with the balance board events at E3, and those at least were pretty good.

TJ SpykeDecember 16, 2009

The score is indeed well above the average. The Wii version's average score at GameRankings is 70.27% (based on 32 reviews). It's highest score is 90%, which it got from the UK magazine "Official Nintendo Magazine" and the website Nintendo Life (and now NWR). I haven't played the game yet, but it looks fun.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 16, 2009

First off, I was one of the few who thought the first game was really good, but agreed to many of its flaws. Believe me when I say that I was expecting some of them in the sequel. Believe my surprise when I realized that a great deal of the issues have been resolved for the sequel. I also felt the events were more fleshed out and required more skills than the events in the first game.

I can't argue with anyone else if they didn't like it. I disagree with them of course, and I am not telling anyone to take MY word for it. Note that the rave review comes from MY experience and enjoyment, which means that what may have been good for me may be bad for others.

TJ SpykeDecember 16, 2009

pap, you don't have to defend yourself. Reviews should be the opinion of reviewer (I say "should" because Famitsu and Game Informer have both admitted in the past that they partially base their review scores off of what they think their readers want, with reviewers at GI trying to defend this crap). There have been games and movies that got generally great reviews, but I hated (and ones that got bad scores that I like).

D_AverageDecember 16, 2009

Wow.  I like games like Wii Sports as much as the next guy, but when I played the first game, I almost put a gun to my head.  This game earning a 9 is a bigger comeback than Jordan dropping baseball to return to the Bulls.  Impressive.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterDecember 16, 2009

Quote from: TJ

pap, you don't have to defend yourself. Reviews should be the opinion of reviewer (I say "should" because Famitsu and Game Informer have both admitted in the past that they partially base their review scores off of what they think their readers want, with reviewers at GI trying to defend this crap). There have been games and movies that got generally great reviews, but I hated (and ones that got bad scores that I like).

I know. Just that I always like to state that my opinion might not necessarily reflect the views and preferences of other people, and thus I always recommend renting before putting down the money. Lord knows that in my day I made the mistake on relying solely on reviews and the recommendations of my friends. I then realized that not everyone will share my views and what I like may be crap for someone, or what I hate may be what everyone else liked.

D_Average: Once more, I would recommend renting. While it had fixed some of the issues seen in the previous game I can't guarantee that you won't put a gun to your head.

I think what truly put the game on the top for me was how clever Sega was with the controls, especially Balance Board controls. You don't have to calibrate it after every event. It's such a simple idea that few developers are able to get, and Sega got it. SEGA... They also make the game much more enjoyable and fun to control.

Mop it upDecember 16, 2009

The funny thing is, even reviews from people who gave this game a lower score than they gave to the first game say that the game is better than the first, but it wasn't enough of an improvement so they gave it a low score. So yeah, I've always felt scores are pretty arbitrary and it's the review text that matters. Pap64 doesn't simply gush about the game, he explains WHY he likes it so much, therefore the review is informative regardless of whether or not the reader agrees with the overall score. And that, to me, is the mark of a good review.

I did like the first game but it soon became repetitive because of how similar many events are. This game definitely looks like an improvement, but it's difficult to shake my weariness so I think I'll wait to find it on sale.

As for the Mii costumes, I guess it depends on your perspective. On the surface they do seem like a nice bonus, but because some of them replace actual characters, that seems like laziness to me. But that's just how I see it.

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Mario & Sonic at Vancouver Olympics Box Art

Genre Sports
Developer Sega

Worldwide Releases

na: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
Release Oct 13, 2009
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone
jpn: Mario & Sonic at Vancouver Olympics
Release Nov 05, 2009
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
Release Oct 16, 2009
PublisherSega
Rating3+
aus: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games
Release Oct 15, 2009
PublisherSega
RatingGeneral
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