Update: With the Olympics beginning in real life today, and Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 included with this weekend's batch of Free Play Days titles, we're republishing this review to help you decide if you fancy trying it!
Original story: Whether you should consider picking up the official game of this year's (well, last year's) Olympics depends entirely on what you're looking for out of a game like this. Want a true-to-life, simulation-focused athletics showcase complete with realistic visuals and ten different versions of running events? Stay well away. Want something a bit more arcadey with a pick-up-and-play nature, while still retaining plenty of depth? Keep reading.
Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 isn't afraid to differ itself from predecessors like London 2012 and Beijing 2008 on Xbox 360, adopting a more cartoon-like style of presentation and varying up the events massively. The focus is primarily on traditional sports such as baseball, basketball, football, tennis, beach volleyball and even rugby sevens, and the trade-off is that events like the 200m and javelin throw are entirely absent. That's going to disappoint some people, but it also makes Tokyo 2020 stand out as a unique Olympics experience.
And the events are pretty enjoyable and well-designed for the most part. They can be deceptively simple on the surface, but games like football actually have a lot of advanced controls you can learn to master, and athletics events aren't just limited to pure button-bashing... although that is a factor. The downside is that, like most Olympics games, trying to cram a bunch of team-based sports into one title means some of them end up feeling a bit clunky, and the controls can occasionally be unresponsive in events like basketball.
The presentation of the game is its strongest asset, featuring a fantastic recreation of the main athletics stadium and various other sports arenas and stadiums, while the characters themselves have a charming aesthetic to them. You can customise your characters with lots of different options as well (including a bizarre Sonic costume), and everything ultimately just feels very, very polished from a presentation standpoint.
Will you get bored of it after a while? Maybe. There's no campaign to speak of in Tokyo 2020, so instead you simply complete across three rounds of a sport, trying to win the Gold in the third round, and then rinse-and-repeat. You can also create your own medley of sports to play with a friend, practice with different rules and opponents, compete in quick matches online, and engage in a revolving schedule of ranked events every hour.
It's easy to see how a fan of past Olympics games could be put off by Tokyo 2020, but if you're willing to lean into its arcade tendencies, you can have a lot of fun with it. The games are enjoyable for the most part, the presentation is great, and there's enough depth to keep you playing longer than just a few rounds of each sport. It certainly won't be for everyone, but SEGA's willingness to be bold and divert away from the simulation-heavy focus of previous Olympics games makes Tokyo 2020 a refreshingly memorable competitor that deserves some attention.