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Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games

Interview: Sega talks us through the historic contender

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

The Olympics genre has of course already been done many times before, with plenty of success and just as much button-mashing tripe (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?

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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 favourite 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's 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 levelling the playing field. Sonic isn't always going to win the 100 metre dash; it's really up to the players and how well they use the nunchuk and remote.

Mario and Luigi for example are great all-rounders. There 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 metre dash, triple jump and hammer throw today.

OK, how does the 100 metre 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.

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The first 50 metres are going to kind of limit your speed; you're not going to be able to do 100 percent. The power meters still there; you want to keep it maxed out in the middle without going into the red. Then in the last 50 metres it's an all-out sprint and that's where you've really got to thrash hard on the nunchuck and 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 boundaries. 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 metres; you're setting your speed. So the faster you can thrash the better jump you'll get.

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