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Mario & Sonic brings together the two titular characters and fourteen more from both franchises to participate in environments based on the official venues of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. These environments are stylized to fit the futuristic and cartoon-like art styles of the Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario franchises respectively. Each playable character has his or her own statistics which can serve as an advantage or disadvantage depending on the event. The characters are divided into four categories:

  1. All-around
  2. Speed
  3. Power
  4. Skill.

The Wii version has additional in-game characters taken from the console's Mii Channel, which allows the user to create a Mii, a customized avatar, that can be imported into games that support the feature. Both games have non-playable characters who serve as referees for particular events.

Gameplay[edit]

The player twists Remote button and presses various buttons as instructed to perform tricks in the trampolining event.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is a collection of twenty-four events based on the Olympic Games. On the Wii, the events consist of using the motion sensor capabilities of Remote button and Nunchuk button to control the actions of the on-screen character. The player moves Remote button in a manner similar to the method the separate games are played in real life; for example, swinging Remote button to replicate the hammer throw or pulling back on it and tilting Nunchuk button like a bow and arrow. While Nunchuk button is required for archery, it is optional for most of the events. There are also events that are more physically demanding, such as the five running events which require rapid drumming of the controller. Some aspects of the gameplay are computer controlled. For example, in table tennis the player movement is controlled by the Wii, while the swinging of the racket is controlled by the player. The DS game is the same in design, but its events are less physically demanding than those on the Wii. For example, instead of drumming the controller, players have to quickly stroke the touchscreen.

The player strokes the touchscreen to row in Dream Canoe. Players try to collect the most coins and can use items from the Mario Kart games.

Both versions of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games have three similar modes of gameplay:

  1. Circuit mode
  2. Single Match
  3. Mission mode

Circuit mode is where players compete for the highest overall score in a pre-determined series of events or design their own circuit. In the Single Match, players can choose to compete in each event individually. Mission mode is a single-player option where each of the competitors has six character-specific missions to complete, although the characters' statistics are not as balanced as in the main game, making missions more difficult. The Wii version's Circuit and Single Match can have an additional one to three players competing simultaneously while its DS counterpart has a extra option dedicated to multiplayer called Versus Play. Versus supports up to four people using the wireless capabilities of the Nintendo DS to play events. DS Download Play is possible for those without a individual copy of the game, however the number of sports available is limited.

Both versions feature a gallery mode where brief facts about the Olympics can be found. There are five categories of Olympics-related trivia organized by history and athletes, with corresponding minigames that will unlock the answer to trivia questions once completed. Classic music from both series is available in the gallery once all levels in a category are cleared. The two versions also have leaderboards that uses the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to display the best times and scores in each event.

Events[edit]

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games features authentic Olympic events for the Single Match and Circuit modes. The types of events are classified as athletics, gymnastics, shooting, rowing, archery, aquatics, fencing, and table tennis. Similar events have varying gameplay aspects; for example, getting a starting boost in the 100m dash is more important than in the longer relay races, since the initial short burst of greater speed would play less of a role in winning the longer distance runs. In relay events, such as the 4×100 metres relay and 4×100 metres aquatics relay, players can assemble teams comprising any four characters.

Besides these regular events, there are alternate versions of Olympic events called "Dream Events". Unlike the regular events, the gameplay in Dream Events is exaggerated. Taking place in locations and using objects from older games of the Mario and Sonic series, Dream Events allow players to use the special abilities of characters and display dramatic moments in slow motion.

Although the Wii and DS versions of the game feature mostly the same events, each version has events that are not found in the other. The relay races are exclusive to the Wii version. In contrast, the DS version has five Dream Events – canoeing, boxing, basketball, long jump, and skeet shooting – not featured on the Wii version.

Event Category Wii DS
100m and 400m Track & Field Yes Yes
100m Freestyle Aquatics Yes Yes
10m Platform Diving Aquatics No Yes
110m Hurdles Track & Field Yes No
400m Hurdles Track & Field Yes Yes
4×100m Freestyle Aquatics Yes No
4×100m Relay Track & Field Yes No
Archery Archery Yes Yes
Dream Basketball Dream Events No Yes
Dream Boxing Dream Events No Yes
Dream Canoeing Dream Events No Yes
Dream Fencing Dream Events Yes Yes
Dream Long Jump Dream Events No Yes
Dream Platform Dream Events Yes No
Dream Race Dream Events Yes Yes
Dream Skeet Shooting Dream Events No Yes
Dream Table Tennis Dream Events Yes Yes
Hammer Throw Track & Field Yes Yes
High Jump Track & Field Yes No
Individual Épée Fencing Yes Yes
Javelin Throw Track & Field Yes Yes
Long Jump Track & Field Yes Yes
Pole Vault Track & Field Yes No
Pursuit Cycling No Yes
Single Sculls Rowing Yes No
Singles Table Tennis Yes Yes
Trampoline Gymnastics Yes Yes
Triple Jump Track & Field Yes Yes
Vault Gymnastics Yes Yes