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August 15, 2016

Worst 12/Top 12 Sports in Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games

I’m back with a new list! Boy, I haven’t made a double list of the worst and the best in the same game in a long while… Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games contains 24 sports, which means I can classify them in two lists of 12: The ones that I don’t like much, and the ones I like. You know how it goes; I get rid of the negative first, with the Bottom 12, and then I get into the Top 12 to end on a high note. I had to replay every single sport of this exhausting game in a matter of a few days to compose these lists, just for you. I hope you’re grateful. How about we get this started?

THE WORST SPORTS

12. Dream Fencing
The Fight To End All Fights! Danger! Thrill!
Epées! No epicness whatsoever!
I find both fencing sports to be very middle-of-the-road in this collection. Neither is particularly great, neither is terrible. As a result, I was trying to figure out which one was worse, to put it on this list. I went with Dream Fencing because it has a scoring system different from regular fencing; in regular fencing, you must hit your opponent a certain number of times before they hit you that number of times themselves. In Dream Fencing, characters have life bars and a character wins when their opponent's life bar goes empty. When getting hit or sparring attacks, they have a gauge that fills up. When it’s full, that character can use a special move. This can make some CPU opponents, which can already be fairly difficult to defeat in normal fencing, a little harder. And of course, you can use these attacks too, but a CPU character will know what the best moment is to use their special move, and they might activate theirs right after yours, stealing your chance to win…

11. 400m
Maybe you're gonna be able to escape from Bowser
the next time he tries to kidnap you!
Keep winning that 400m event, Peach!
I mentioned I hated the “exhaustion meter” in the previous part, didn’t I? Expect it to be mentioned a few times here. Running the 400 meters requires that you shake your arms for a rather long period of time. I mean, if you don’t think 40 seconds can be long, go play that mini-game and come back to me. It would already be bad enough, but the exhaustion meter takes it to a new level; if it empties completely, your character will need to catch their breath and you’ll lose seconds. Your character spends most of the mini-game teetering on the edge of exhaustion, with your movements trying to make them run but not get too tired… Pressing the A button to get a boost in the final 100 meters, as they tell you to, will likely not help. On the contrary, it might give you more trouble.


10. Hammer Throw
Daisy can throw a hammer like any of the toughest
guys in here. And then we wonder why nobody has
come to kidnap her in Sarasaland since 1989.
I never realized the strength competitions needed so much precision. I mean, it’s just throwing a big ball attached to a chain, how hard can it be to aim into the landing area? Turns out, it’s pretty hard. In this mini-game, you press A to start spinning, then you must spin around the Wii remote as fast as you can. When you’ve gained enough speed, press B to throw the hammer – into the landing area, as landing even half a foot off of it will make it a foul! And of course, you have to keep spinning before tossing! I found out this was probably the most pain-inducing mini-game here, the one that made my arms hurt the most. Probably because of the large horizontal circular motions. Oh, and also because you have three tries, which you must all play through. When placed after others tiring events in a Circuit, this sport is just painful.

9. Dream Race
Pictured: Calm before the storm.
You KNOW a goddamn Boo is coming.
I was expecting dream sports to be a sore spot for me, since many of them work on Mario Party or Mario Kart logic; they’re mini-games with items and mechanics that are not out of place in more fantastic sport games. It’s in the name: Dream Events. I dreaded that Dream Race would be even more annoying than Mario Kart, since your character only moves when you shake the remotes, there are many obstacles, and on 8 possible items to get, the Boo is the most annoying as it slows down the character in first place and they stack up, so if you’re leading and you got more than one Boo on you, you’re slowed down to a crawl. All in all, the experience isn’t so great, the constant changing obstacles do make a nice change, but the opponents can be dastardly when using items. It’s also very tiring, because this race is longer than the 400m Track race. However, it doesn’t have the “exhaustion meter”, so it’s actually more tolerable. But everything else makes this game more annoying in my opinion. At least it’s not outright bad, like some sports down there.

8. 4X100m Relay
Grab that stupid baton, you fat mustachioed plumber,
and let me go back to chasing after Sonic!
Here’s an idea: Take the already annoying formula of the 400m footrace and adapt it to Relays and Hurdles. Yay, I guess? In 400m Relay, you make a team of 4 out of the 16 characters available. You have a character run 100 meters, then relay the baton to the next character, and so on until the fourth and final character, who runs through the finish line. Problem is, you need to pull down the Wii remote when reaching the next team member in line, to pass the baton, and if you don’t do it with perfect timing, the next character will start off their own footrace slowly, which is really annoying. Definitely not a game I like…

7. 400m Hurdles
Go Blaze go! Your cat instincts
will lead you to victory! What
do you mean, you don't have those?
Hello again, 400m footrace! In case the “exhaustion meter” wasn’t enough, how about we add hurdles to this mess? The advantage of hurdles is that, when you successfully jump over one, you gain a small speed boost, which can be an advantage over the others. The disadvantage is that a failed jump will slow you down. Add to this the character getting tired if you shake your arms too fast, and you get a messy mini-game that will make you rage at the screen when it comes up in the middle of a Circuit.

6. High Jump
I can already feel a part of me yelling at the thought
that Daisy's ass will smack the bar, because it will,
because it's a mini-game where that sort of thing is too
goddamn likely to happen.
Now we’re getting into what are likely the poorest mini-games in the entire thing: The jumping games. For some reason, I loathe most of them, because they tend to be exhausting, and they also require excellent timing. High Jump seems to be pretty straightforward: You make the character run and gain speed as they head towards the bar, then when they reach the bar you lift the Wii remote to make them jump. After which, when they go over the bar, you need to lift the Nunchuk to raise the character’s legs. Problem is, this requires the strictest fucking timing of the ENTIRE game. In the other high-jumping game, Pole Vault, you can easily reach major heights in as little as four tries… here, you need to raise the difficulty level by 2 milimeters every time. Don’t aim too high too quickly, or you’ll hit defeat quickly. And of course, the CPU opponents are much better at this than the player. But there’s worse…

5. Javelin Throw
Pictured: A shame, a multitude of failures,
a poor attempt at playing a game. Oh, and a javelin
in hand.
I consider this one worse than Hammer Throw because you only need good timing to throw the hammer. To throw the Javelin, your character has to run, and then throw the Javelin by raising the Wii remote. N o t   t o o   q u i c k l y. If you raise it too slowly, the javelin isn’t thrown with enough force, and if you raise it too quickly, the character makes a bad throw and gets pitiful results. That gameplay mechanic comes up in some games, usually right after you’ve shaken your arms because the character on the screen was running, and as a result it’s extremely easy to screw that up. And then, you also need to remember that stepping on the line as you throw the javelin is a foul, so you can have a good throw and still lose due to acting too late. URGH.

4. Skeet
I have to say, if the crosshair didn't change size...
maybe it would be good... but dammit.
Really, many of the events that require timing, for a reason or another, can turn out to be pretty annoying. Skeet is one of them, in many ways. Your character moves around nine spots from which to shoot clay pigeons. Before the round begins, a meter appears on the screen with a dot that moves through it; pressing A stops the dot, and the closest it is to the center of the meter, the better will your aim be. Sounds fun? Have I mentioned that said dot moves really quickly when getting into the meter? Have I also mentioned that, if the dot is too far from the center, your aim actually gets WORSE? The crosshair shrinks (if you press A while the dot is in the center, instead the crosshair will grow). And after that part, you also need to be able to see the clay pigeons that get shot, and be quick enough to shoot them, which can be difficult regardless of the size of the crosshair. Seriously, how I despise that event. Oh yeah, did I mention that CPU opponents are insanely good at this one?

3. Vault
Doesn't matter, Yoshi. Fluttering is not allowed.
Guess what? Another jumping mini-game! Eeyup. In this one, you run towards the vault, then jump on it, and while the character falls down to the ground, you can make it perform acrobatic moves. You get more points with a perfect landing. On paper, this sounds pretty good. In practice, this one plain sucks. I feel like, whenever I play this mini-game, much of the final result is left to chance. And you all know that I have a bad luck that is almost legendary… No matter how much practice I get for this one, I always get the impression that the program is rigged. And I hate that.

2. Long Jump
Bleh.
Jumping mini-game! On the surface, Long Jump is basic enough. Shake the arms, gain speed… you know the drill. Once your character’s speed is locked, you have to raise the Wii remote, not too fast, to jump. One, you must jump before you get to the line; if you step over the line, it’s a foul. That’s already tricky. But two, if you screw up when lifting the Wii remote, you get a crappy score and your character doesn’t make a worthwhile long jump. These are two very annoying mechanics put in a single event… And once again, the CPU opponents tend to be really good at this one.

1. Triple Jump
Bleh bleh bleh!
Well, at least Eggman's jumping pose is amusing.
Jumping mini-game. Again. Just goes to show how bad these are when three of them make up the final three of the Worst list. Triple Jump is basically Long Jump… times three. That precise timing you need to show in Long Jump? You have to do it thrice here, once to jump before the line, once for the second jump (which requires raising the Nunchuk, this time), and a final time with the Wii remote. You only get meaningful results if all three jumps were good; one bad move and you can kiss that gold, silver or bronze medal goodbye. You do get three tries, but really, sometimes these tries mean nothing, as you could perform even worse than you did on your first attempt. And really, I don’t think I can add anything else to the topic of jumping games here… well, unless one of them appears on the Best list…


THE BEST SPORTS

12. Individual Epée
Shadow Versus Wario. Wafts thankfully
not included. For that, there's Smash.
Dream Fencing was the least bad mini-game in the collection, #12 on the previous list; Individual Épée similarly opens the Best list. In this one, each participant has to hit their opponent a set number of times (usually 15); No HP bullcrap and super powers. Of course, there’s still quite a bit of strategy to it: You can choose to swing blindly as often as you want. You can choose to fake an attack, which would cause the opponent to try and spar, giving you an opening to attack. Or you can spar when the opponent tries to land a hit, which will cause them to tumble for a moment, allowing you to get a free hit. It’s harder than it looks, but for the most part, the AI is fair, which makes this event often difficult, but usually fun to play.

11. Archery
I would aim for the Chao hot air balloon.
I like Archery in Wii Sports Resort so it’s a given that I would like archery here. I would like to point out that the controls here are just as complex: To prepare to shoot, press A and B and pull back the Wii remote; then, the target appears on the screen. You have to move the cursors of the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk on the screen so that they’re one above the other, and then release the buttons to shoot. That’s already complex, mostly because of the Nunchuk cursor that is very fickle when there’s wind. Oh yes, I almost forgot: There’s wind here, so you need to take that into account before aiming. I like this sport, even though it’s difficult and the AI of the opponents is really good. I usually dislike that, but I like archery, so I suppose I have a bias…

10. Rowing – Single Sculls
"Rowing around in my pink canoe..."
"Preparing my hammer to hit the ones who beat me..." 
I don’t do many sports in real life, but I do like to rent a canoe and go row for a bit. Obviously, the one in M&SatOG is more competitive than that! In Single Sculls, you race against three opponents. Each time you row, you have to hold two buttons indicated on the screen, among A, B and Z; this prepares the character to row. Then you pull the two remotes towards you to row. Repeat this as quickly and as often as possible. Pressing the wrong button while preparing will make you lose speed. Despite the apparent difficulty of it (the buttons to press are randomized), there is just something fun with this one. The camera shots changing around the player and offering multiple points of view of the world around also help, even if it’s just a cosmetic addition.

9. 110m Hurdles
Keep practicing these jumps!
Feel like Mario!
It’s crazy how removing a little gameplay mechanic can make a game so much worse, or so much better. In this case, the hurdles come with the territory; however, since this is only 110 meters, the “exhaustion meter” is absent. Of course, you still have to worry about the hurdles and having good timing to jump over them; but you don’t have to worry about exhaustion, which is much welcome. None of the 100m sports have it, since obviously there would be no purpose. As a result, I like this event. Not saying that I always win at it, but it’s still good.

8. 4X100m Freestyle
Ha! In the water, Mario beats all of these Sonic
characters! Especially Sonic, who is forced to wear
 a lifesaving vest here!
The only 400m event on this list is Aquatics, because both Aquatic events are on the Best list. More sports in this game should have been done this well. For starters, yes, the exhaustion meter is there, but it’s very simple; just press B to regain some energy; also, just swing down the Wii remote when you reach the other end of the pool to turn around, almost no timing required. Simple. Second, yes, you have to make big, tiring movements to play. However, there are 6 different swimming techniques, and when you make your team of 4, you might have characters who all use different swimming techniques. The Crawl, the Breaststroke, the Butterfly, the Dog Paddle, the Underwater Running and the Crocodile Paddle. These add a nice color to the event. I like having to adapt to the new swimming technique that comes up, and it’s never a bother when I have to press B to regain energy. I just like this one.

7. Dream Table Tennis
Shadow is gonna headbutt that ball and win the match!
Table Tennis is another sport I really like in this collection, even if opponents can be pretty tough to defeat. I can sometimes complain about the fantasy aspects added to Dream Events, but in Dream Table Tennis, those are actually pretty good. First off, you need to rack up a high amount of points (usually 50); that may seem like a lot, but actually when you score against the opponent you get one point for every time the ball was thrown around by both participants. This can give you a lot of points, though you’ll rarely get more than 10 points for a round this way. Next, knocking back the ball fills the superpower gauge, and you can have up to three charges on it; when the ball comes your way, press A and B at once to activate your character’s superpower. The opponent can also use their superpower, so look out. Also, some superpowers are easier to counter than others, so take that into consideration. Thankfully, this is a sport that actually did turn out pretty good, even with the Dream abilities.

6. 100m
Sonic might win...
Don't let Sonic win!
Sometimes, gotta stick to what’s basic. 100 meters, short, simple, sweet. Just run as fast as you can. Yes, you need to get a good start by holding B at the beginning and pulling the Wii remote down to get a good speed, but after that, nothing stands in the way to your victory. Shake your arms for a few seconds, you should win easily. I like that!

5. Dream Platform
Hey, is it me or those blocks have no reason to be there?
The only Dream Event that isn’t based on a real event, though it has gameplay mechanics similar to the Trampoline mini-game. Four characters jump off a plane and into the sea below, and on the way down they have to avoid various obstacles, like floating blocks and robots made by Eggman. They can also pass through a red, yellow or green hoop, which will trigger a mechanic where you must press buttons or shake the Wii remote in order to achieve a series of acrobatics. The faster you do these acrobatics, the more points you get. You lose points for hitting obstacles. However, it’s not a race; the order in which the contestants reach the water doesn’t matter; all that matters is the score. Since I like the Trampoline event in this game, I knew I was going to enjoy this one too.

4. Table Tennis
The thought of Bowser using a paddle without ever
trying anything evil or twisted... kinda funny to me.
Table Tennis, without anything special. You have to win a set number of rounds (usually 15), each time trying to surprise your opponent by preventing them from knocking it back. Your character replaces itself so that you can hit the ball with the paddle, so that’s not the true challenge here. The true challenge is to trick your opponent by changing the speed at which you toss back the ball, either by sending it normally, sending it slowly (by holding A before you swing) or sending it fast (by holding B). Of course, there are some drawbacks, as it takes a second of buildup when sending the ball fast, so it takes some timing. Also, your opponent has the same options, so be on the lookout for fastball specials. I’m good at this one, which might explain why I like it.

3. 100m Freestyle
If you kept track of the sports on the list, then you may have noticed 100m Freestyle, in Aquatics, was still nowhere to be found while 4X100m Freestyle was covered. The reason is simple; I like both sports, but 4X100m Freestyle is longer and thus more exhausting. If you want something short and good, there’s its brother, the regular 100m Freestyle, where all that matters is going back and forth once in the Olympic pool. Again, short, sweet, not too exhausting, me likey.

2. Trampoline
Even when he's on a trampoline where one can't help
but go "Wheeee!"
One of the least tiring events, but one that you can easily mess up if you’re not careful; it takes a lot of skill. Our character is trying to reach new heights on the trampoline, and that means making awesome acrobatics when coming back down. Symbols appear on the screen (A, B and “Wii remote twist”). You have to press all the buttons (and twist the remote) in the correct order. The more mistakes you make, the lower your character will go on the next jump. You have to act quickly! And of course, you also need to pull down the Wii remote when your character hits the trampoline, in order to get a jumping boost. At the end of the event, the character who reached the best height wins!

1. Pole Vault
You know what's the difference between a bad pole vault
athlete and a good one? I need to think about it...
Give me a moment-um!
What’s that? A jumping game is, in my opinion, the BEST sport in the whole game? No, you’re not dreaming. It’s a proof that when done right, even these sports could be excellent. In Pole Vault, your character must run and gain speed. When their speed gets locked and they get closer to the pole, you must lower the Wii remote to set the pole near the mattress. And no, in this one, you only have to have good timing, you don’t have to lower it slowly, you can do it at any speed you want - and to make it even easier, you can easily tell when to lower the remote, the blue and the orange on the floor go in a straight line towards the bar and mattress, not perpendicular to them. With the pole set, your character will soon be sent upwards over the bar, and you can shake quickly the Wii remote and Nunchuk to give it a boost that will allow them to pass over the bar. Before the event, you set the height of the bar, and you get three tries each time (in case the bar falls off). What’s good is that, with this mechanic, you can actually reach pretty impressive heights with the bar (the world record of 6.30 meters is actually fairly easy to reach). It’s my favorite sport because it takes some of things that were done wrong in other sports of this collection, and actually does them correctly. And that’s quite an achievement. An indication that by putting the right amount of effort and by carefully programming the mini-game, it's possible to make it challenging, but fair and fun.

Well, there go these two lists. I’m done discussing Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games now. I said everything I could ever say on this one. However, there is one subject I have yet to complete… Remember the Kirby game reviews? I only have one game left to cover among the six in Kirby’s Dream Collection. I skipped that review in favor of this one due to the Olympics, but this Friday, I will be covering Kirby’s Dream Land 3. Once that’s done, I’ll talk about the three Kirby: Right Back At Ya episodes available in Kirby’s Dream Collection, and then I’ll make a final post about the collector’s item in general. This should cover pretty much everything that’s left to cover about it. So I'll be tal;king about the Kirby series pretty much for the rest of the month. Don't miss any of it!