For as long as I’ve been a professional writer, I’ve dreamed of going to Tokyo for the Olympics (well, it’s been my dream to go to Japan for a while, but I can lump two things at once). The 2020 Olympic Games was supposed to be my chance but… you know. Oddly enough, due to this delay, the official video game adaptation Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game, was delayed outside Japan for about two years! Now that it’s here, we can finally experience the joy of international sports from our couches. Considering none of us can actually go to the games right now, this is the next best thing.
It’s hard to believe that Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is the first full non-Mario and Sonic Olympic sports title we’ve had since London 2012 (excluding the Steep expansion). It was originally released in 2019 for Japanese audiences, but unfortunately due to… you know, the game was delayed internationally.
That said, the sports represented here are solid, with a total of 18 events being available from the start. It’s a decent mix of events, from Track and Field staples like the 100 Meter Dash to a couple swimming events and even team sports like Baseball and Judo. Each game has its own mechanics and member count. There are some tutorial screens you can use when you first start a game, but they’re all condensed into Mario Party-like minigames that are remarkably easy to pick up and play.
Unsurprisingly, the best events are the ones involving teams, mainly because they’re generally longer than the individual ones. I had a lot of fun with the Judo event (which acts like a simple fighting game, complete with over-the-top throwdown animations), and Baseball was oddly strategic given the limited mechanics. In the latter, you’ll have to match the opponent’s pitch with your hit by navigating a square and hitting the bat button at the right time. On the other side, you can pick your pitch and try to psych out the batter. Pretty much all the team sports are gems, and last just long enough to be enjoyable yet short enough to play multiple rounds because it’s just so darn fun. Heck, even Boxing manages to be a knockout due to how it relies on timing and strategic attacks in order to overpower your opponent. The best sports distill the essence of each while not being bogged down by hyper-realistic simulation mechanics; in short, Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is a non-Nintendo version of Wii Sports at its best.
To complement the streamlined gameplay, there exists a cartoony presentation to the game. Instead of going the hyper-realistic route, the character models are what I can describe as semi-realistic chibis. It’s not the level of uncanny valley we’re used to seeing in professional sports titles, but it’s also not as simple as a Mii. As the game does encourage personal creativity, there’s a surprisingly detailed character creator that you can use for your whole team. It’s pretty robust, and while not at the level of say, The Sims, there’s enough here to create a unique team of capable athletes ready to go for gold. You can even choose your own country to represent, with matching uniforms to boot!
On the flip side, some sports aren’t winners, with most of the individual events being a bit inconsistent. My least favorite event was Sport Climbing, as the computer here is just way too fast and climbing up the rock wall is a tedious timing affair. A lot of the track and field sports require mashing buttons or wriggling control sticks, which isn’t as fun as doing it on a motion controller. Table Tennis is way too finicky to be enjoyable too, with my timing being off for a while (and this isn’t counting some of the latency issues while playing on Stadia). Thankfully, only a handful of these events are truly cumbersome, and the overall package is great.
Unfortunately, I would give a higher score to this game had I played it on any other platform. The online component has the potential to make this a wonderful sports addition, with ranked matches following a streaming schedule (mimicking the around-the-clock nature of the Olympic Games), but unfortunately the Stadia userbase was so barren that I wasn’t able to test this out. I hope that there can be some sort of cross-platform compatibility in a future update, because I’d love to test my mettle against human opponents around the world. As it stands, I feel like I’m the only person playing this game on Stadia, and as such it’s pretty lonely. If you plan on getting this game on Stadia, I strongly recommend getting another local player with you; you’ll have an immensely better time with someone in local multiplayer.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020: The Official Video Game is a wonderful slate of bite-sized sports experiences. While this is a great title to play with friends, the lack of Stadia’s userbase makes this version of the game a silver winner in an otherwise gold entry.