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SEGA's official video game for the Tokyo Olympics has, much like the real-world celebration of elite competition itself, been on hold for a year. Unlike the athletes in contention for medals in the Japanese capital, however, its delay won't have carried any risks of injury, or dips in form, or allow for the rise of a prodigious new talent in a particular discipline. So while what's on offer here, for the summer of 2021, is the same game we should have played 12 months ago (unless you ordered it from Japan, where it did release in 2019), its fun factor hasn't faded whatsoever.
And that 'f' word, fun, runs throughout everything Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - The Official Video Game (to give this release its full title, just the once) has to offer. This isn't a painstakingly accurate simulation of an array of athletic events. Instead, it's easy-to-learn, harder-to-master fare that asks you to mash buttons, rotate sticks and squeeze triggers to bring the action to life. You'll toss hammers like they're toilet rolls and make precision turns in the pool like a mermaid; you'll leap over hurdles dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog and pull off exaggerated dunks like you've stepped right out of NBA Jam. Anyone expecting anything that isn't served with a smile, move right along.
Watch the announcement trailer for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 below
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 features 18 events - although one is a sprint relay, so, I'm not sure if we count that as a unique offering even with the testing baton-passing and altered control scheme factored in. There are individual options, from track and field disciplines to speed climbing and judo, through to team sports including football, basketball, rugby sevens and baseball. With practice modes available for every event, and tips unlocked the more you play, it's quick and easy to find favourites. The better you get, the more prepared you'll be to enter the Olympics themselves, and go for gold across three rounds - preliminaries, a semi-final, and then the climax itself, where a podium potentially awaits.
Played solo, Tokyo 2020 is enjoyable enough for a few hours of medal chasing. You'll score points with everything you do, which can be used to unlock silly outfits to wear alongside more traditional athletic gear. Your kits can all be customised, as can your avatar, and it's all cosmetic so there's no slowdown if you're not the most streamlined of figures. The AI does rather ramp up in difficulty come the Olympic finals, however, so be prepared to fail a few times in your quest for gold before scoring one (and don't be surprised, too, to see the AI set some alarmingly swift times that'd give Usain Bolt cause to sweat).
But it's with friends and/or family beside you that this game - or, let's face it, collection of mini-games - really does start to shine like the medals it wants you to train for. I've yet to take the game online so I can't comment on how it performs there, but locally Tokyo 2020 is a blast in co-op or played competitively. Whether it's table tennis or boxing, beach volleyball or the FIFA-lite football mode, controls are mostly well explained and fairly intuitive outside of a handful of select events (swimming, for example, is a test of precise timing and controller dexterity). Whether you're a seasoned gamer or not, you will find something here that you will come to really love, playing alongside someone else in a same-sofa scenario.
My personal favourites aren't totally in keeping with my tastes elsewhere. Yes, I've played enough of the arcade-like football mode to win gold, and basketball and rugby are equally enjoyable given their similarities to bigger virtual takes on the sport. Baseball can get in the bin, which fairly well reflects my thoughts on that IRL - but its popularity in Japan and the US explains its inclusion here. But hammer throwing and speed climbing have established themselves as unexpected highlights - I've smashed the world record in the former, and continue to shave milliseconds off my best times in the latter.
The aforementioned exaggeration comes through in a power bar that fills as you play in team events which, when full, allows your avatar to unleash a special move. This doesn't guarantee an unstoppable strike from thirty yards or a mitt-scorching pitch, but it does cue a close-up animation where your character becomes the star of the show and unleashes an extravagant, fiery burst of style. Again, it's an example of how Tokyo 2020 prioritises fun over anything especially demanding. Yes, some events need a fairly complex combination of controller interactions to get the most from them - you'd be surprised at how intense sprinting can become - but one on one, next to a pal, knockabout enjoyment is the name of this game.
But it's debatable whether or not this is the best Olympics game, in terms of bang for buck, even at an RRP of £34.99. You get 18 events here but 31 in last year's more comical Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, if you include its bonus 2D inclusions. There's more variety in the mascot-fronted alternative too, which finds room for archery and canoeing, surfing and skateboarding alongside events that also feature in this Official Video Game, such as the 110m hurdles and boxing. Naturally, Mario & Sonic is only on Nintendo Switch, and not the multi-platform effort at hand - but if that's your console of choice for a mini-game showdown, you've a decision to make.
Pros: Largely intuitive controls, lots of customisation and costumes, decent event variety, budget price
Cons: Some team events feel sluggish, solo-play appeal fades rather fast, would have benefitted from a few more events, baseball is included
For fans of: the Mario & Sonic Olympics series, 51 Worldwide Games, London 2012
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - The Official Video Game is available now for PlayStation 4 (version tested), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, PC and Nintendo Switch. Code for this coverage was provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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