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Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games - interview

A 15-year rivalry ends this Christmas as gaming's favorite mascots finally meet head-to-head in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.

The Olympics genre has already been done many times before, with plenty of success and just as much button-mashing (Track and Field excluded). So how is Sega going to take the games forward when Luigi, Tails and co. brandish the torch? Sega's UK Product manager Grant Gie talked us through an early demo of the Wii version.

Sonic and Mario are finally meeting for the first time. Which characters can we expect to see in Olympic Games, and how diverse will they be?

Gie: We've got a handful of characters from both camps at the moment, though obviously the final game will have significantly more.

Different character types have different attributes so you can pick a character that fits your own play style, or just pick your favorite and get used to their strengths and weaknesses.

Also if you're playing a circuit-style game, you can be strategic about your decision and decide whether you want a balanced character; someone who's strong but maybe not as fast, etc.

So Sonic isn't always going to win?

Gie: The great thing about this is it's similar to Mario Kart in leveling the playing field. Sonic isn't always going to win the 100-meter dash; it's really up to the players and how well they use the Nunchuk and Wii Remote.

Mario and Luigi for example are great all-rounders. Their stats are spread across speed, acceleration and dash. Sonic, meanwhile, has a good top speed but his acceleration is low. It's a real balancing act.

The final build will have lots more characters in there and some of the animation is really early at the moment. I hope you'll agree, though, that it's starting to like a really strong, almost Nintendo first-party, quality title. It is being published by Sega, but there's a critical partnership with Nintendo to make sure that the product delivered is nothing shy of first-party quality come Christmas.



How have you benefited from having the Olympic Games license?

Gie: This is an official Olympics game, so although the look and feel is slightly “Mario and Sonic ” in terms of the world, it has official Olympic stadiums and events that we'll play - though we'll only be showing 100-meter dash, triple jump and hammer throw today.

OK, how does the 100-meter dash work?

Gie: It kicks off with a Mario Kart-style power start; the idea is you need to get a good start right out of the blocks. You do this by punching the B trigger to bring up a power meter, though you can't press and hold it for too long or you'll go into the red. If you can time it right you'll already be ahead of the pack.

The first 50 meters are going to kind of limit your speed; you're not going to be able to do 100 percent. The power meter’s still there; you want to keep it maxed out in the middle without going into the red. Then in the last 50 meters it's an all-out sprint and that's where you've really got to thrash hard on the Nunchuck and Wii Remote.

You said there's a lot of Mario Kart influence in the game?

Gie: We're trying to go for that mass-appeal like Mario Kart; it crosses all boundries. Kids can pick up and play Mario Kart and have a great time, but it's really fun at home with those core gamers who replay and replay.

How does the triple-jump work?

Gie: In step one, it's very similar to the 100-meters; you're setting your speed. So the faster you can thrash, the better jump you'll get.

In the next stage your speed gets locked and the camera angle switches to a side view. For your hop, skip, jump you use the Wii Remote to time with the animation of your character. For the first jump, you use the Wii Remote, then the Nunchuck for the second and the back to the Wii Remote for your final jump into the pit.

The idea is the harder I flick upwards, the higher the angle I'll get. 45 degrees is just about perfect, and you'll see it illustrated with some stars when you nail it.

There's a couple of ways to fail in the triple-jump; if you don't time it right you'll just end up stopping, or you can just step over the line.

Are any of the events more difficult than the others?

Gie: The hammer throw is actually the hardest event in the E3 demo - it took me a while to master! The reason it's the trickiest is because there's so many different ways to fail.

As in the real sport, if you rotate too many times and step over the circle, it'll be a fail throw. You can hit the side of the cage; then even if you're lucky enough to get it out of the cage you could send it outside of the playing field.

Basically you pick up the hammer with the A Button and then use the Wii Remote in a lasso style. The faster you rotate, the faster your character will. In this build, there's a countdown to let you know how close you're getting before you have to release it.

Very similarly to how the athletes do it; once you release the hammer, if you press A, your character will let out a big, loud grunt and that'll give you those extra few meters.

August 6, 2007

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