Back in 2006, Wii Sports was nothing short of a phenomenon. Its use of motion controls to replicate familiar sports was not only revolutionary at the time but broke down any barriers of entry and opened the door to a far wider audience. No longer were video games just for the hardcore. Bowling for example was a regular event for our family, three generations gathered together scoring strikes and spares with glee. Wii Sports Resort would later expand its activity line-up whilst improving motion accuracy through the Motion Plus add-on but beyond that (aside from a repackaging of the original for Wii U) things would remain rather quiet for the series.
Fast forward to 2022, and we finally have ourselves an all-new sequel to the original two games, Nintendo Switch Sports, a six-sport package offering three returning favourites and three brand new entries. It had been a while since I’d settled in with some good simple motion-controlled fun, so was very interested to see if the magic still remained or whether my interests had moved on. And at the very least, I’d have a way to play bowling on the Nintendo Switch.
Let’s kick things off with the new additions. I’ll admit I did question the need for two racket sports when Nintendo Switch Sports was first announced, after all how differently could tennis and badminton actually play? Surprisingly though, badminton proves itself to be different enough and more importantly a lot of fun. This mostly comes down to the sharper pace of the whole experience, the shuttlecock darting about much quicker than a tennis ball. Unlike tennis where timing impacts the angle you hit the ball, here it very much feels like your swing that influences a shot’s trajectory.
Volleyball feels like a simple case of an idea better on paper than in practice. While you do have some control over your player’s movement on court, your main focus will be on timing the actions for ‘digging’ the ball, ‘setting’ it and finally ‘spiking’ it over the net all of which require very similar motions. It certainly ticks the boxes when it comes to the sport of volleyball however just lacks the same satisfaction as its surrounding activities. It’s decent enough but arguably the weakest sport of the bunch.
Soccer is by far the most ‘video-gamey’ experience on offer, matches allowing players complete control over the movement of their character (and only their character I might add since the game doesn’t allow you to hop around à la FIFA). What you essentially have here feels like Rocket League lite, two teams of four dashing and kicking a floaty football around an enclosed pitch. Just like Rocket League, there’s a lot of fun to be had from this simplified take on the sport, however, it does suffer when it comes to the pacing department thanks to a stamina meter that drains all too quickly and refills far too slow. It results in matches where you’ll feel discouraged from sprinting, constantly worried you’ll be caught with your pants down and no stamina left to chase down a shot that’s floated just out of your reach.
Soccer is also the only sport to make use of the leg strap, although only in its Shootout mode. This feels more like a mini-game, the aim being to time your kick movement as a ball gets crossed your way in hopes it’ll wind up in the back of the net. It’s a gimmicky thing, but one that I’d be lying if I said didn’t have us laughing and coming back to it after a few drinks.
As for the returning sports, it should come as little surprise but tennis and bowling prove just as much fun now as they did all those years ago, being every bit as accessible and satisfying. Any changes are merely minor, one I noticed being that you no longer need to let go of the button when swinging the ball in bowling (perhaps an attempt to reduce chances of any thrown Joy-Con). Chambara (or sword fighting) proves just as manic as you’d expect, any form of blocking often thrown aside in favour of wild swings. There is certainly a more strategic way to play this sport but clearly, it’s a method this reviewer chooses to ignore. The option to switch sword types is a nice addition – dual-wielding the clear favourite.
While all six games feel polished and have something unique to offer, it’s hard not to reflect on what came before. Wii Sports Resort in particular boasted 12 different activities, so seeing a sequel halve that figure is disappointing. While the promise of golf coming later this autumn is certainly an exciting tease of potential things to come beyond, as it stands, six sports feel a little slim, especially with so many excellent examples missing in action like frisbee golf, baseball and archery.
You could arguably break Nintendo Switch Sports into three different ways to play; on your own, with friends locally or competing online. As you can imagine, swinging away against an AI opponent is a great way to introduce (or reintroduce in some cases) yourself to a sport, but offers little beyond that especially since all progression elements are tied to online only. Getting a group together unsurprisingly proves to be a real highlight and since a majority of sports only require the one Joy-Con to play (with the exception of dual-wielding chambara and soccer) the cost of entry remains relatively low.
Playing online against others is an absolute treat with my lengthy sessions seeing little in the way of lag or other issues. Furthermore, rising up the ranks and unlocking new cosmetics offers an attractive incentive to keep you returning. Who wouldn’t want to sport a cute pink tennis racket or star-shaped facepaint?
As someone whose love for the Miis expired many years ago, being able to play as the all-new Sportsmates felt long overdue. These Splatoon-style human characters are not only more aesthetically pleasing to look at but offer far more personality than Miis ever had. In fact, I never found myself ever tempted to bring in my old unpleasant replica. The fact, that all unlocks you earn in the game are limited to the Sportsmates too, only serves to raise the question, why are the Miis even here?
Nintendo Switch Sports goes to prove there’s still plenty of fun to be had in swinging and shaking away with imaginary sports equipment. With a more generous dose of sports, this could have been fantastic, but instead, Nintendo seems to have settled on pretty good. While some sports certainly score harder than others, the overall package nonetheless remains entertaining, easily accessible and surprisingly competitive online.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo