It’s hard to believe but it’s been well over ten years since we’ve had a proper new entry in the Wii Sports series, a shame considering how well it introduced gamers (and even non-gamers) to the world of motion controls. Come April 29th though, we’ll finally get another taste of sporting action in Nintendo Switch Sports, a welcome return, especially in a time where motion controls seem to have taken somewhat of a back seat in the gaming world.
At launch, Nintendo Switch Sports will offer six different events; three familiar to anyone who played either the original Wii Sports or its sequel Wii Sports Resort and three entirely new efforts. In my demo, I got the chance to check out all six in local multiplayer mode.
Bowling and tennis both deliver a very similar experience to their original Wii predecessors, my time with them like slipping back into an old comfy pair of slippers. Within just a few frames I found myself bowling spares and strikes, for example, it was like I’d never put down the Wii controller. Players can line up their shot by moving their Sportsmate (more on them in a moment) left to right or turning them on the spot while actually bowling the ball is simply a case of holding the shoulder button and swinging away with twists of the wrist affecting spin. Interestingly, bowling does support split-screen although in the demo we opted for the more traditional alternating approach.
Once again, the aim of the game with tennis is timing, timing, timing. When you swing the Joy-Con – be it early or later – will impact the angle in which you send the ball back while the movement of players is handled automatically meaning you just need to focus on when to move your racket. Tennis will always force doubles matches regardless of player count with one vs one situations seeing players controlling both players on the court.
Chambara (or sword fighting as I refer to it), is a battle to knock your opponents enough times with your sword until they fall off the raised platform into the water below. Players can swing in all directions while holding a button will place the Sportsmate in a blocking stance. To successfully block you’ll need to position your sword in an opposite manner to the opponent’s swing, so for example a horizontal block will stop a vertical swing and vice versa. Players can choose between three sword options; standard, charged (successful blocks rewarding players with a more powerful swing) and dual-wielding.
Football is the only sport in the package to require two Joy-Con, yet despite the additional controller, doesn’t feel much more complicated to play. Matches consist of two teams of four as they attempt to knock a giant Rocket League-sized football into a giant goal. A simple upward swing of the Joy-Con will kick the ball high while a downward swing will keep it lower to the ground. Moving both Joy-Con meanwhile will unleash a hilarious-looking diving header. Players have complete control over their character’s movement right down to jumping and sprinting (with a Breath of the Wild-style stamina meter to keep an eye on). Interestingly it doesn’t seem like you’re able to switch between teammates meaning the action remains firmly on the one, unlike other football games.
I also got to try Shootout mode, a neat minigame that makes use of Ring Fit Adventure’s leg strap accessory. In it, the computer will cross in five balls one at a time as the player tries to kick their leg (the one with the strap on) at the right time in order to angle the proceeding shot toward the goal. Multiple successful attempts will lead to the target getting smaller the winner at the end the one with the most points.
Badminton might initially feel like a strange choice considering tennis already exists, but after a few minutes, it became clear how different the two played. If tennis is about timing, then badminton focuses more on reflexes since the shuttlecock doesn’t hang in the air for long and a cheeky timed drop shot can catch you off guard. Just like tennis, movement is taken care of so again all you need to do is focus on hitting the shuttlecock back over the net. Unlike tennis though, matches are limited to one on one.
Volleyball much like football allows players to control their Sportsmate while the actual hitting of the ball requires a physical motion. Played with two players on each team, the usual rhythm you’ll find yourself in is to bump the ball (underarm swing of Joy-Con) then set the ball (overarm upward thrust of the Joy-Con) and finally spike the ball over the net (downward swing of the Joy-Con). Interestingly where you aim the ball on the final spike can be adjusted based on the direction you swing the Joy-Con.
While players are able to play as their Miis, the real stars are the Sportsmates. Not only do they exude more character but any customisables unlocked can be applied, from their hair to the clothes they wear. As someone whose fondness for the Miis has long worn out, it’s refreshing to see these new character designs added to the series.
I’m eager to return back to Nintendo Switch Sports, my limited playtime certainly enjoyable but leaving me very curious to see how that enjoyment fares after multiple sessions. Online is also another area I’m keen to see and if Nintendo can nail both, then we could well be onto a winner later this April.
Nintendo Switch Sports will release at retail and digitally on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch worldwide on 29th April 2022.