I don’t often watch the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games when they are held every four years, and I was one of those people who fled Queensland in 2018 when the Gold Coast hosted them this year – the. I can sometimes take a peek at the Opening Ceremony and sometimes watch some of the more point-focused sports like diving and gymnastics when there is nothing else on TV . But like sports at any other time of the year, I’m not enthusiastic about them. Surprisingly, however, I have always had a soft spot for official Olympics video games. Starting in Athens 2004 for the PlayStation 2, in which I spent countless hours, I would pick a new game from the franchise every four years. The only exception being the Rio 2016 games, which have never received an officially licensed adaptation. For the Tokyo Olympics, following their work on London 2012, SEGA is back with Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – The Official Video Game – but without their Australian development studio.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – The Official Video Game was first launched in Japan in mid-2019 when COVID-19 wasn’t even echoing on our radar. This gives the game a sort of parallel universe where, especially considering the lack of a name change, the game takes place in an alternate reality, presenting a more lively atmosphere and vibe. As a result, the game is more precise than organizers initially envisioned in some aspects, with crowds full of cheering fans and many close to each other without the need for social distancing.
The most crucial part of this game is its choice of sports, as someone cannot enter it expecting every sporting event to be reflected in one way or another. Many of the expected sports are present, including a small track collection (100m, 110m hurdles, 4 x 100m relay), domain (Long jump, hammer throw) And swim (100m freestyle, 200m individual medley), as well as unique disciplines such as rugby sevens, sport climbing and judo. However, while there are 18 events to choose from, I feel like they could have offered a lot more variety. We haven’t had diving, weightlifting or gymnastics, for example, but the three-track events all use pretty much the same control scheme with little variation. They should have provided both quality and quantity, implementing more sports while adding extra lengths as options within each discipline – especially since some sports can be completed in seconds, even a few minutes.
Fortunately, each of the events of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – The Official Video Game captures the atmosphere of the Olympic Games well. Each mini-game is presented in a way that makes the player appear to be watching their character participate in the actual event – with a decent degree of realism in their appearances and animation. The controls are generally relatively easy to learn, with each game offering basic accessible controls and sometimes advanced (less realistic) controls. The difficulty curve increases as players progress through the rounds, from the ranking events to the final round for a chance to win a medal. Therefore, even if you are very proficient in button mash and the game in general, you can get a golden first shot; but if not, it can become a game of trial and error to see what works. What I’m trying to say is that getting a gold medal can feel like you need to work at it, which isn’t much different from the real Olympics.
One of the funniest parts of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – The Official Video Game is that it has a full-fledged character creation system, allowing everyone from kids to adults to create an avatar that reasonably resembles them. Body types, face editing, and a good collection of traditionally masculine, traditionally feminine and unisex hairstyles are all on offer – with performance characteristics such as skill types also being on the table. With 80 countries included in the game, many players will find themselves able to represent their nation; and tailor-made other team members from their country. Want to replace the muscular athletes in your country with pale-skinned pint-sized kids and watch them devour the competition three times their size? I can confirm, you can do it! Also… costumes… personalized for each nation as well as a range of cosplay outfits and accessories to unlock. You may end up with some really wacky matches when boom! Sonic the Hedgehog suddenly takes on a 200m individual medley!
Character creation is why the lack of event diversity disappoints me, because especially with so few multi-person events, you’ll never see most of your custom characters if you put in the time. I think they could have taken this rather than controlling an avatar in single player mode, you can build an entire team with strengths and weaknesses. These characters are specialists in certain events or types of events, and you can, through a campaign mode, work your way through sports to earn the most medals for your country. At least that’s the direction I would have been interested to see them go, as that would have been more engaging than welcoming players by throwing them a list of events. You can do this to a lesser extent through playlists, but once you got into the sport I focused on the individual events trying to win gold there.
In addition to winning a gold medal in each sport and eventually playing in online co-op / multiplayer modes, the final phase of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – The Official Video Game revolves around going against an additional level of competitor difficulty known as the “Top Athlete”. Beat any of them, and you can say you’ve really mastered the sport. I… only got over them a few hours after a few hours, so I expect them to keep you on their toes for a lot longer than the main game.
On the production side, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – The Official Video Game is a quality game, offering great visuals that hold up to 2021, a lively general atmosphere and free musical accompaniment. This is no ordinary licensed game, and SEGA has made a clear effort to reflect the vibe one would expect from games. The character creation system is also welcome and this is something I would love to see SEGA, if they are working on the video game adaptation of the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics, expand further. My only concern is that while every sporting event is accessible, fun to play, and difficult to master, many feel repetitive or otherwise shorter, less in-depth versions of sports that have renowned video game franchises behind them. However, adaptations of video games to the Olympic Games remain my guilty pleasure every four years …
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – The Official Video Game can now be purchased on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, and Windows PC. A PS4 review copy was provided by the Australian distributor Five Star Games for the purposes of this review.