Wii Sports is one of the most iconic games released for the Nintendo Wii, serving as a strong introduction to the potential of motion controls in video games. Its sequel, Wii Sports Resort, featured improved controls and more sports to play. And now we have Nintendo Switch Sports, a game that has arguably the best motion controls in the series, is fun to play, yet is lacking in the variety of its sports.
From the get-go, Nintendo Switch Sports immediately establishes a sense of place. Each of its six sports takes place in a different arena in Spocco Square, an athletic facility that is visually interesting despite the rather simple art style Nintendo is using. While you can use a Mii to play, you can also create a new avatar called a Sportsmate which has far more detailed clothing options and, in my opinion, looks far better than Mii’s do. In a nice quality of life feature, creating a new Sportsmate will activate the tutorials for each of the sports, allowing for new players to easily practice and understand the controls.
And make no mistake; Nintendo Switch Sports is best played as a multiplayer game. While you can play against bots by yourself, it is nowhere near as enjoyable an experience as playing alongside others. Honestly, playing Nintendo Switch Sports exclusively with bots was dull, and playing alongside others truly captured the strengths of the game.
Most of the six sports require a single Joy-Con to play, the exception being soccer, which requires two Joy-Cons to play. I found the motion controls to be exceptional, with the only problems being related to twisting the Joy-Con for certain games i.e. in order to curve a bowling ball in bowling. In those instances, recalibrating the controller and ensuring that there was plenty of space to stand did much to improve the experience, though the issue still persisted.aer
Personally, tennis is the stand-out sport in the Nintendo Switch Sports pack, and had me working up a sweat as I played multiple rounds with friends over and over again. Twisting the Joy-Con and changing the angle of attack in subtle ways felt impactful, and the fact that you can play as both characters in a doubles match did much to increase the strategy and depth of it across repeated playthroughs. By contrast, badminton is the weakest. As it plays similarly to tennis, my friends and I quickly grew bored at the 1v1 nature of the game and the lack of control we felt every time we swung the racket. And unlike the other sports, there are no alternate modes or ways to play the game besides the 1v1 match.
Bowling, meanwhile, now features a much faster pace thanks to the ability to play simultaneously. Instead of waiting for a friend to finish bowling, every player can now bowl at the same time. Couple that with an interesting challenge mode that places various obstacles in the lane, and bowling may well be one of the most played sports of the bunch.
Volleyball is fairly straightforward, requiring you to utilize several different motions to bump, set, spike, and block the volleyball in order to succeed. The motion controls here are good, and the game itself is fun to play, yet it has one glaring problem: the camera. If you play local multiplayer, each player is given their own screen, which often makes it difficult to tell what is going on. It also requires more practice to understand, making it a poor choice for those who just want to pick up and play a game or two.
Chambara, aka sword fighting, is both charming and surprisingly deep from a tactical perspective. Using a Joy-Con as a sword, you have to strike your opponent while blocking their swings in order to knock them off a platform. This is a tense game, requiring patience and proper planning in order to not get knocked off, as simply whaling on your opponent is a quick ticket to elimination. While there are multiple sword types to use, my favourite is the twin sword style, which sees you holding two Joy-Cons to dual wield swords. It’s silly at first, until you realize that you now have to pay attention to the angles of two weapons, making it much more engaging than the other varieties.
“Ultimately, Nintendo Switch Sports is a good game”
The last sport is soccer, and is easily the most complicated due to the fact that you are required to use a complete set of Joy-Cons to play. In either 1v1 or 4v4 matches, you use the Joy-Cons to move your character and camera while swinging them up or down to kick a large ball into a larger net. It’s an enjoyable sport that relies on managing a character’s stamina to make precise shots. It’s also made better by the fact that you can fly forward like a missile to perform a header if you swing both Joy-Cons down at the same time. Soccer also has an alternate mode where you can use a leg strap to kick goals into a net in a penalty shootout, but the lack of control over your angle means that it is a distraction at best, and not a particularly interesting one either.
That being said, the fact that there are only six different sports to play on launch (with golf coming in an update later this year) means that Nintendo Switch Sports is lacking in variety, particularly since tennis and badminton play so similarly to each other. With Wii Sports being a pack-in game for the Wii and Wii Sports Resort featuring 13 different sports, the limited number of sports means that the game has to rely on more than just novelty to thrive. Unfortunately, only a few of the modes are interesting enough to make me want to come back and play repeatedly.
This review does come with one caveat, however: I have not yet played any online multiplayer modes. Nintendo has stated that there are several unique modes available online, such as an elimination tournament in bowling. As well, players will be able to earn cosmetic items to change their avatar’s look. Barring extremely poor netcode or multiple great modes, I do not think online will change how I feel about Nintendo Switch Sports.
Because ultimately, Nintendo Switch Sports is a good game. Not great, not average: good. It does what it sets out to do well, for the most part, and captures the fun I had playing Wii Sports with my friends a decade and a half ago. While some of the modes lack staying power, Nintendo Switch Sports is still a great way to spend a few hours with friends.