Going on a "Virtual Vacation" in Tokyo with Mario and Sonic
The 2020 Summer Olympics won't be taking place this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People around the world are being asked to stay home whenever possible and to exercise physical distancing, add in strict border controls, travel is difficult or impossible and it means you probably won't be going on an international vacation in the foreseeable future.
However, one of the neat things in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is that the game basically includes a Japanese tourism marketing campaign. It might feel a bit shameless, but it actually comes off fairly tasteful. Japan has bet big on these Olympics, and it's pretty clear this game tries to present the city and country in a good light. It's neat that throughout the game you can learn tidbits about Japanese history and culture from the non-playable characters (NPCs).
The Story Mode, features two sidekicks, Luigi and Tails who have to rescue Mario and Sonic who are stuck inside an old video game. This adventure takes you to destinations all across Tokyo and you will see many iconic tourist attractions throughout the city.
I've been to Japan several times in the past, and playing this game brought back some fond memories of my previous trips. It's actually quite cool seeing the elements of the Mario universe blend in a real city with real buildings. It's sort of like how New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey, resembles the real New York City, except this is with real Tokyo buildings!
The Tokyo Tower is one of the most recognizable spots in Tokyo, this tower is built similar to the Eiffel Tower. One of the mini-games is to climb the Tokyo Tower with Tails.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
This building is basically the "city hall" of Tokyo. There's a mini-game based here where Luigi has to kick a rugby ball at Metal Sonic who is hanging out high above the building, which is actually shaped like rugby goal posts - creative idea!
In real-life, the building has a free observatory to give you a good city view!
Shibuya Crossing, which is just outside a major train station is a must-see for any visit to Tokyo, it's a bustling area with lots of food, shopping and entertainment. The game version of Shibuya Crossing is just as busy and filled with Toads and Shy Guys in the middle of the road.
The Nintendo Tokyo store is actually a short walk away from the Shibuya Crossing. If you're reading this, you're likely a Nintendo fan that will want to check that out when you're in Shibuya!
Kaminarimon / Asakusa
The Kaminarimon (literally "thunder gate") is the entrance to the ancient Sensoji temple in Asakusa, this is a famous area for tourists, featuring a traditional market and many restaurants. It's a great place to take your IG photos!
The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in Japan, primarily used for broadcasting, but like most tall towers, it is marketed as a tourist spot with plenty of food and shopping at the base of the tower. It's actually visible from Asakusa market, which is a short distance away.
In the game, at the base of the Skytree, we have a mini-game where Tails has to beat up an onslaught of Shy Guys coming his way!
Tokyo Station is the busiest train station in Japan, and many train lines, including the Shinkensen bullet trains will stop here. In this game, you can roam around the plaza outside the historic main station building which has a beautiful brick facade.
Food trucks are not extraordinarily common in real-life Tokyo, but in this game we see a number of food trucks that will make you hungry. We can see food vendors selling beef skewers, chicken karaage (fried chicken), corn, takoyaki, crepes and slushies!
It's unfortunate, that the Olympics can't take place this year, the IOC has postponed the games until July 2021.
Hopefully, things will ease up soon and we will fight off this pandemic so we can go back to a more normal life, which could include planning a real-life trip to Japan… For now, just enjoy the extra time at home and have a virtual vacation in Tokyo with Mario and Sonic!