And the Gold Goes To..

Date Fri, October 10 2008

Sadly, I don’t even know who placed first overall in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Luckily, I’ve got a copy of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games to experience the excitement all over again for myself.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games (MS@OG from here on out) has many events in several sport types including athletics, aquatics, gymnastics, archery, table tennis, fencing, shooting and cycling. There are also “Dream Events” which are all locked at the beginning of the game which put fantastic spins on traditional events. The game encompasses most of the Olympic disciplines and you will see familiar events such as the long jump, table tennis and basketball. Although some of the events are a little less typical, they are all Olympic events.

And what fun is it to play these events as one of your favourite video game heroes or his friends. Sonic and Mario bring along their pals so you can kick butt as Luigi or Tails, Dr Eggman or Bowser, Princess Peach or Amy. In all, there are 16 characters divided by type (power, all-around, speed and skill) to choose from and everyone will have his favourite.

There are 3 standards modes of playing for single player in MS@OG: single match, circuit and mission. As the name implies, you can choose any single match in any sport with any character in “single match.” Most events consist of 3 rounds and your scores are either added or averaged to determine the winner and the top 3 competitors earn a bronze, silver or gold medal.

There are 3 circuit classes – Beginner’s, Advanced and Master’s – each containing 5 circuits made up of several events from different sports. The circuits involve a special opportunity to win called the “Circuit Chance” which will double the points you earn in 1 chosen event. Contestants earn up to 10 points each match which are added to all the match points to determine the winner of the circuit, who earns a trophy.

There is also a “Free Circuit” where you can choose the individual events or have the game select random events.

Each character has 5 missions, not all of which are unlocked to begin with. Completing all 5 regular missions unlocks a 6th final mission which is usually a dream event. Missions require you to complete certain events with certain criteria like within a certain time frame, without being hurt or scored against, with a certain score, with a handicap or before another character.

Gameplay is done mostly with the touch screen and stylus, making good use of the DS features, although a few buttons are used. Many of the events involved running which means rubbing the stylus back and forth quickly; this can soon tire your arm. There are some unique elements particular to the DS, such as making sound to increase your score. During some events, like the long jump, ‘clapping’ (I tap the mic with my stylus) into the microphone encourages your character to do better. For the hammer throw, making a sound at the right time increases your throw.

You can also expect to trace a lot of shapes (Trampoline, 100M Swim) as well as push certain button combinations (Platform, Table Tennis)

Gameplay can become a bit tedious, especially when it comes to a lot of racing or long races like the 400M race. I also find that the biking uses a lot of button mashing rather than calculated moves. It’s definitely a good idea to do a variety of events so that you don’t become bored or exhausted of any one. However, very few events are so tedious; most of them make better use of the controls.

MS@OG also makes good use of the dual screen by generally displaying information on the top screen, allowing the touch screen to be used completely for game viewing or settings/menu selections. In some events, like Table Tennis, the opposite screen is even used to display the character, allowing the view to be even larger.

One thing that I find unique about MS@OG is that it shows the actual World and Olympic records for events and, if you happen to beat those records in game, it tells you and updates them. Your scores can be submitted online through a WiFi connection.

And if you want to play with a friend or more, you can do that, too. MS@OG has Versus Play, like other DS Games. You can create a group with local friends via Download Play or play with others across the world via Wireless Play. There appears to be only a limited version of Download Play regardless of whether the other player has the game which is a bit disappointing. However, unlocking all the events expands the available games.

Of course, all your medals and trophies are stored in your Collection in your records. Here you can see medals by character (for individual events), trophies (earned in circuits), emblems (special accomplishments you unlocked during play such as winning an event without letting your opponent score or completing all of a character’s missions, and points and crowns (earning gold medals in all events for a character).

MS@OG also contains a gallery which lets you play minigames and learn about the history of the Olympics. As you complete the minigames, you earn rewards in the form of songs to play in the Gallery Jukebox.

Although some of the events differ in almost no way from actual Olympic events, MS@OG manages to still bring a unique flavour to their game. The dream events really add something new to the Olympics, taking events to a whole other level bye eliminating the laws of physics, gravity and even reason. ;) Although generally harder than the regular events, they are often more fun as well. They’ve even managed to add a bit of Mario Kart with the dream race, where you can use items to aid you.

Overall, my favourite events are 10m Platform (swimming), Trampoline and Vault (Gymnastics), Table Tennis, Fencing, Dream Long Jump, Dream Fencing and Dream Basketball. All except 10m Platform and Table Tennis require use of the stylus and most of which also use the buttons.

In terms of difficulty, MS@OG does not require much of you, which is why it’s a great game for kids of any age. Although it make take some time to get used to the controls, it’s likely that there will come a time when you are always scoring a medal or trophy.

Overall, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games is a fun game which creatively uses the DS as a system. Although it would be nice if there was a more extensive option to play with your friends besides only Download Play and some of the events are a bit tedious, it offers a lot of variety and lovable characters so that you can compete at the Olympics in your own home and experience the Olympics for yourself.

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