The original Wii Sports came bundled with the Wii and showcased the cool new tech Nintendo had created. But more than just a tech showcase, Wii Sports was an engaging experience the entire family could enjoy and set the stage for future fitness and sports games that utilized motion controls. Motion controls would essentially change how we played games in the early 2000s.
Over 15 years later, Switch Sports makes its debut and picks up where its last few installments left off, giving you some new and familiar sports to play with while utilizing the Joy-Con’s motion control capabilities. It’s a no-brainer that makes sense on the Switch, and the end results is a nostalgia trip that is best taken with others.
Keeping Things Simple
At its core, Switch Sports is a game meant for more than one person. The original Wii Sports brought families together and would-be gamers in front of their TV to bowl, swing their arms, and just enjoy the sheer fun of playing together. Switch Sports keeps this theme alive by offering sports that are easy to pick up with controls that make it a no-brainer for gamers of all ages.
Compared to the plethora of options Wii Sports Resort brought to the table, Switch Sports keeps things more simple and only comes with tennis, bowling, chambara and three new sports: badminton, volleyball, and soccer. Besides offering some simple menus and the option to play it solo, with others locally, or online, its offerings are rather bare and straightforward. If you were expecting Super Mario Party-like mini-games, you will be disappointed.
- A great party game for the whole family;
- Responsive controls and ease of use;
- Bowling is still the best sport to play solo or with others.
- Volleyball feels sluggish;
- Customizable options only available online;
- Not a lot of extras.
Another disappointment is that the game takes place in this vibrant Olympic village-like place known as Spocco Square, but the only places you can visit are the venues where each sport is played. Think of it as a giant Olympic Village that features courts next to expensive cafes that overlook glistening pools and giant bowling alleys inside indoor malls. It’s a great backdrop to the sport you are playing, but it’s a shame there isn’t any depth to the world you are in or any story that connects you to it even by a little bit. The game takes place on the courts you play on, and that’s it.
Going from a Wii Remote and Nunchuk to a Joy-Con doesn’t feel that different and the sports offered here continue the trend of approachability the series is known for. When you start playing, each sport comes with a friendly tutorial that goes over each sport’s unique controls and rules. Most sports, with the exception of soccer, can be played with one Joy-Con as the controls mainly require you to move your hand for various actions. This keeps it easy to play with a friend, but if you want to play with more people, you will need more Joy-Cons.
The sport I was obsessed with during my time with Switch Sports was bowling. Nothing beats reliving those iconic moments of Wii Sports bowling when I would get strike after strike against my little brother but then, somehow, get beaten by my dad. This version feels just like the original and even now lets you flick your wrist when you go to release the bowling ball if you want it to swerve a bit to the right or left.
Its core experience is here, and now also comes with a special mode that places obstacles on the lane for you to maneuver around while still aiming for a strike. Panels that block your ball will pop in and out of the lane, the floor itself will be curved, and various other obstacles will make you relying on timing as well as the angle and direction you swing. This mode gives the sport a more gimmicky option and brings with it lots of laughs.
Tennis also rekindles memories and simply requires you to time your swings when the ball comes your way. You always play doubles, and your characters move on their own so you are limited to what you can actually do on the court. Despite how much fun it was when I was younger, playing it now feels a bit dated and didn’t feel as fun as the other sports that actually gave me more control to do things.
Badminton also controls your character for you, but it feels more responsive than tennis because you can actually feel the Joy-Con rumble differently when you hit the ball with force at just the right time. Hitting the shuttlecock just right will send it flying across the other side, and missing the timing will cause your character to falter leaving you vulnerable for a power shot. You can also lob a drop shot using the ZL/ZR buttons to change up the speed of your hit. There is a surprisingly high level strategy in this simple game as the way you hit the ball actually matters more than in tennis.
One of the newest sports in the game, Soccer feels like a mix between Rocket League and Lucio Ball from Overwatch and involves two teams running across a giant field trying to score an oversized soccer ball into their opponent’s goal. This game uses two Joy-Cons and gives you the most control over your character and features swings, jumps, head shots, and even a stamina meter that runs out if you sprint too much. Matches can go on for the full amount if both teams are strategic enough, or they can be over in a flash if one of you leave your goal open, for instance, so there is plenty of room to strategize your plays.
Online mode helps keep Nintendo Switch Sports alive if you play it solo, but the game doesn’t offer much besides the sports you expect it to have. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel so don’t expect something brand new, but if you have friends nearby, you will definitely have a good time.
Soccer is best played 4 vs. 4, but each person will need two Joy-Cons to play, and while it may feel weird kicking the ball with your arms, you get used to it after a while. If you purchased the physical version of the game or own a leg strap from Ring Fit Adventure, you will also be able to play a special Shoot Out mode that sees you kicking the ball into goals by swinging your leg instead of your arms. We didn’t have a chance to try this mode out, but it offers a different way to compete against others.
Volleyball also offers you many ways to devise your plays, but this sport contains the most gestures to respond to the ball making it the most complicated one to learn. You can serve, bump the ball, jump to trigger a spiking opportunity, perform a spike after, or jump to block your opponent’s spiking attempt. Each time you perform a move, the action seemingly slows down and the game waits for you to perform the appropriate move. If you miss your timing your shot won’t be as strong and a little message on the screen will tell you of that. This not only makes the game feel sluggish, but it also means you have to rely a lot on these drawn-out combos to score. And because volleyball is also a doubles game here, you need to rely on your teammate for these set-ups making the game feel slower than others.
On the other hand, a sport like Chambara, which is essentially the Switch’s version of Swordplay, is a fast-paced game that is easy to pick up but hard to master. In order to win, you need to keep hitting your opponent to push them off the platform you are both on. A horizontal block will block your opponent’s vertical swing, leaving them open for some punishment, for example, so you need to be quick to respond. There are three variations to the sport, with the third letting you swing two swords with two Joy-Cons for added strategy or full-on chaos. Matches can be quick and fun or slow and strategic, adding to the versatility of the sport.
The best way to experience Switch Sports is with others in the same room. You can’t replicate that even with an online mode, but this option does fill that void and even includes some cool features such as an intense 16-player bowling battle royale that weeds out the competition through various qualifying rounds.
Online mode is also the only way to unlock customizable options for your avatar. Each time you play a match — even if you lose — you gain points that let you unlock a random item from a set after you reach 100. This incentivizes you to keep playing, and because games like Badminton can be over in a couple of minutes, you essentially get rewarded for the time you just spent playing online. Sure, it’s not ideal that you need to play online to unlock anything, but if you play solo, your friends probably won’t care what your avatar looks like anyway, right?
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The original Wii Sports didn’t have an online mode, but it offered plenty of quick pick-and-play sports that kept the party going with simple controls. Switch Sports is exactly like that, although it looks a bit nicer and features a fair amount of sports to play with — some better than others — with golf on the way. Online mode helps keep it alive if you play it solo, but the game doesn’t offer much besides the sports you expect it to have. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel so don’t expect something brand new, but if you have friends nearby, you will definitely have a good time.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com