The Olympics is the pinnacle of sporting greatness that only rolls around every four - or in this case, five - years. It brings with it unrivalled competition, the platform to make yourself a legend, and 150,000 condoms. Seriously, the athletes get free condoms and are politely asked not to use them. I can’t imagine they’ll all listen. Anyway, it also brings with it video games, and Tokyo 2020, which is actually happening in 2021, is no exception.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - The Official Video Game, to give it its full title, comes with 20 different events packed in, which seems like a fairly meaty selection, but once you look a little closer, it gets considerably more shallow. Tennis singles and tennis doubles count as two separate events, as does table tennis. There are also two different but similar swimming events and both the 100m and 4 x 100m relay, which if you want to be stingy, means that 20 events quickly becomes 16.
The selection itself also feels a little strange. I like the variety that the ball sports bring, but most of them have much better versions available. Rugby sevens is easily the best ball sport on offer, and that’s mostly because it lends itself to arcadey chaos by simplifying its rules and keeping the pace up - but it's also because there’s nothing to compare it to. The other ball sports are football, basketball, and baseball, and unsurprisingly, they don’t stack up to FIFA, NBA 2K, or MLB: The Show. I know it's harsh to compare them, but as someone who plays a lot of sports games - and therefore surely part of the target audience for an Olympics adaptation - I couldn’t help it. When so many much more unique Olympic events like gymnastics, fencing, track cycling, or surfing don’t make the cut, you have to wonder what a fairly naff version of football adds.
There’s also some bread and butter Olympics events missing. Track & field events are 100m, 100m relay, 110m hurdles, long jump, and hammer throw. No triple jump, no javelin, no high jump, no discus, no pole vault, and no track events bar the sprints. I like seeing rugby sevens, sport climbing, and BMX get some love here, but track and & field is the Olympics. Also, while BMX is great to watch, it’s the least ‘Olympics-y’ cycling event, so it’s strange to see it when other events miss out.
But enough about what’s not here - it’s time to judge the game by what is. For the most part, events are great. There’s an easy going ‘pick up and play’ feeling to them all, and they each have a decent amount of complexity. With the exception of a few events, I walked the qualifiers, did enough to get by in the semifinals, then struggled in the final. For a first go on each event, that’s about the return I’d be looking for - I want to get the sense that I know what I’m doing but haven’t quite mastered it yet. I think I’d be fairly happy introducing any non-gamer friends to this and showing them a handful of events they would be able to pick up immediately. On PS4, the instructions for every game are basically ‘push X for one thing, push square for another, move with the sticks’. Baseball is needlessly complex, and swimming using sticks for arm motion instead of button pushes is way too fiddly, but you’ll have a decent time with most events - just maybe not for very long.
There’s no story or adventure mode here whatsoever - you either choose an event and compete in three rounds to win the gold, or you can do predetermined or customisable medlies where you play a variety of your favourites. It’s just sport after sport after sport, and while I’m usually all for that, I would have liked the game to push the idea that this is an Olympics tie-in a little bit more, rather than just Sega’s Summer Sports Simulator 2021. You can unlock things, but they’re also a bit strange. The better you become at any given event, the more tips you unlock for them, which seems counterproductive. Some of the tips are clearly more advanced, but others are simple things like ‘hold this button for a faster start’, which is information that really ought to be provided from jump. You can also unlock Top Athletes, which is basically a three-tier hard mode, but it’s only available in the practise menu. Odd.
You might have noticed my character is not a traditional Olympic athlete in the images here, but is instead a bunny rabbit maid - that’s another thing you can unlock. You earn points for each event you compete in - more depending on where you place and in which round - and can use this currency to buy various outfits. You can be an astronaut, pirate, vampire, maid, or even Sonic the Hedgehog. The game never takes itself too seriously, and while the other characters are dressed as regular athletes by default, they do have a sense of cartoonish charm to them. Not stellar graphics by any stretch, but they get the job done, and keep the sense of fun and enjoyment at the centre of things. It’s too shallow to really be a party game, but it feels as if it’s in that ballpark, and the costumes are a big part of that.
All things considered, Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is a great sports game but only a decent Olympics game. Nearly all of the 20 (or is it 16?) events offer an enjoyable enough time and only a few are bogged down by mechanics, but once you’ve played them all a couple of times, you’re done. If you dabble in the two player mode regularly or find a game online, it could be a deeper experience, but it just feels like the trimmings aren’t quite there. I won the boxing gold medal as a bunny rabbit maid with blue hair though, so there’s that.
A PS4 review copy was provided by the publisher. Score: 3.5/5
The student who acquired the drive has been given a life sentence and others who watched it will do five years hard labor.