If Darth Vader and Captain Kirk ever meet, I hope they will not do so while ice-skating. When Optimus Prime finally crosses paths with Harry Potter, I trust they will not spend their first hour together bowling.
Since 2007, Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Mario the plumber have co-headlined three video games. That's not as cool as it sounds. All they've done in them is compete in the Olympics.
Is this what anyone was waiting for? Is this what anyone imagined during the decades when Mario and Sonic were the mascots of former rivals Nintendo and Sega? Is there anyone who doesn't consider this to be ridiculous? Does no one involved in the creation of Sonic and Mario video games have a better idea?
I recently decided to play through one of these Mario-meets-Sonic games that unpleasantly co-stars the Olympics. I wanted to see what I was missing, and I wanted to determine if the people at Nintendo and Sonic who caretake the Mario and Sonic media empires had lost their minds.
The game I played was Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games. I played the 3DS version which seemed, frankly, more technically impressive than the Wii tie-in games for the Beijing and Vancouver Summer and Winter Olympics, respectively. Also, this one had a fleshed out story mode, which I figured would help me figure out what in the world was going on.
Technically, Mario & Sonic on the 3DS is a good game. It's a collection of standard and oddball sporting challenges which are all brief and amusing to play. These sporting events star characters from across Mario and Sonic's universe of colorful heroes and villains. You can compete against friends or the computer. No problems there.
As a game about Mario and Sonic, however, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is a bad joke.
As exhibit A, I present the notes I took while playing the game. Apologies for spoiling the ending of the story mode, except, no... I'm not sorry. Just keep reading:
Who the hell is Espio
Some stupid forgetful bee called Charmy shows up and cannot remember where the bad guys are.
Marathons are water bottle pickups
So are 30k swims
Judo is cool.
Waluigi vs Metal Sonic in a tae kwon doe kicking contest
Wario vs Eggman. Long jump, kayak, rapid fire pistol, handball, tae kwon doe
Fantastic hockey game
Sonic speed walking against Bowser as a final boss battle? Sure
If most of that makes no sense to you or seems like the product of a fever dream, then, congratulations, you have just had the definitive Mario & Sonic experience. In this 3DS game, you're net getting some classic side-scrolling team-up between two former-rivals-turned-friends. You're not seeing what happens when the wielder of the fire flower meets the master of the spin jump. No, you're seeing what happens when Waluigi and Metal Sonic compete in Tae Kwon Doe.
What happens when Sonic the Hedgehog finally crossed paths with Mario's ultimate foe, Bowser, would should be a clash of Batman-vs,-Doctor-Doom proportions? They have a speed-walking contest.
The storyline of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games is actually an inane, tasteless propaganda piece for the London Olympic Games. Bowser teams with Sonic arch-nemesis Dr. Eggman to prevent the London Olympics from happening. They try to do this by filling London with some sort of nasty fog, which sure seems like the cartoon version of a terrorist attack on the same city that was scarred by terror bombings the day after they were awarded the 2012 games.
Bowser and Eggman's evil fog machines generate mean versions of Sonic, Mario and their supporting casts. These mean version cross paths with Mario, Sonic and their normal versions of their pals and rogues. When these paths cross, the good guys and the bad guys square off to settle their differences by... competing in events at the London 2012 Olympic Games, which, if you're following this closely, you'll realize, haven't happend because Bowser and Eggman are trying to stop them from even starting. It's a paradox or something.
The priority in this game appears to be pumping up how great both the Olympics and London are, not how great Mario and Sonic are. We get to see and play in many great Olympic events, and we get to see all these pre-event clashes between good guys and bad guys at landmark sites around London. Naturally, whenever our characters go to these sites, they have to talk about how great these locations are. Yes, game creators, London's museums are awesome, but who cares?
Mario and Sonic fans, chew on the fact that there is a game that lets Bowser share screen time with Knuckles...
... that lets Donkey Kong meet Tails...
...that puts Metal Sonic, Eggman, Wario and Waluigi in the same scene together...
...that allows Toad to chat with Omochao...
And yet all these Mario and Sonic all-stars do is rave about London's sites, compete in the hurdles, kayaking, or other Olympic events. They don't run from left to right. They don't squash bad guys. They don't jump on platforms. They do nothing that fans ever loved them for.
When Nintendo and Sega first revealed that they were doing a Mario and Sonic crossover game, cynics could have expected some sort of safe, equal-time game that never gave either character more screen time, never dared to—I don't know—suggest that Sonic was faster than Mario or that Bowser could fry Eggman with his breath. They could have expected a boring, timid creation that might sell well but tap into nothing that was wonderful about these characters. But could the cynics have imagined three of these games?
Sonic has also crossed paths with Mario and the rest of Nintendo's major heroes in the Wii's Super Smash Bros. Brawl. That game, at least, showcases Sonic's best moves and lets him fight against or alongside Nintendo's icons. But that game's just a brawler. It's not an adventure. It's not the dream team-up either.
It's sad what's become—or not become—of these Mario and Sonic team-ups. Sadder still if you play through the story mode of Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games at get to this one brief moment in the middle of one of the game's many dull cut-scenes. In this scene, Sonic and Mario have to destroy one of the nefarious London fog machines. They don't challenge the machine to a discuss competition. They don't compete with it in the 100m-dash.
Mario crushes it with a butt stomp.
Sonic attacks it with a
spin dash homing attack.
There it is. Perfectly done. An aberrant glimpse at a much better idea.