16 years ago, Wii Sports put gaming on the map for many who’d previously never got involved. Now the concept returns in updated form as Nintendo Switch Sports, aiming to get us all up off our bottoms once again.
If you ever encountered Wii Sports then you’ll feel at home in Nintendo Switch Sports. The look is very similar, just in higher resolution, and the presentation is as slick as ever.
While Wii Sports included tennis, baseball, bowling, golf and boxing games, Nintendo Switch Sports mixes things up with a handful of sporting experiences from its follow-ups and some new additions, delivering us tennis and bowling, plus volleyball, badminton, football/soccer and chambara, a fun swordplay entry. Golf is also slated to be added via a free downloadable update sometime later this year.
The events take place in a sporting precinct known as Spocco Square, with players given three gameplay options in ‘Play Globally’, ‘Play Locally’ and ‘Play with Friends’. The first and last have options for one to two players online, while up to four can get active playing locally.
“Just don’t forget to tighten those wrist straps!”
Online play is the probably the biggest differentiator to the original game, and Nintendo Switch Sports saves a lot of the good stuff for the ‘Play Globally’ mode, in which participation wins points that can unlock costumes, emotes and other cool bits and bobs for their customisable in-game character (randomly though, you can’t choose exactly what you want – not ideal). It would have been nice if these had featured in the offline and ‘Play with Friends’ modes as well – we hold out hopes for that to be added via an update.
Going sport by sport, tennis will be one of the most familiar, presented as a doubles match where you and your ghost (in solo mode at least) battle an AI pair, with the main player able to rove around the court, and the second one playing the net and able to be called on for the odd smash return. Control is a dream with the Joy-Cons, in fact we never missed hitting a shot, just a few of them were a little, well, overzealous. The game goes to great pains to ensure that wrist straps are employed at all times, which is pretty wise advice when you’re flinging a controller about, especially for…
Bowling! The old favourite returns, and is as good as ever. With additional modes, including taking on others internationally and one where you need to roll around obstacles on the lane, it’s sure to be the most popular of the included sports for many.
Next up, chambara. It’s a relative of Wii Sports Resort’s swordplay, and involves knocking your opponent off a platform while retaining your spot upon it. It’s a great way to play out you’re the Princess Bride sword-fighting fantasies. Or maybe that’s just us? I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top…
Badminton is quite similar to tennis, except the ball is eschewed for a shuttlecock – a conical feathered rubber ball thingy – that you need to thwack backwards and forwards over a net. This is a much easier way to play than in real life, at least from our limited experience.
The last newcomer sport is volleyball. You variously serve, punch, bump and spike to keep the ball from hitting the ground on your side of the net. The controls work very well, and once quickly mastered this one’s a lot of fun.
Rounding the package out for now is football/soccer, which offers four different play modes: ‘One-on-One’, ‘Four-on-Four’, ‘Free Practice’ and ‘Shoot-Out’. If you play solo, the numbers are made up by AI players, as you kick a very comically oversized ball about the pitch. With the physical release a Joy-Con leg strap is included, which currently works with the ‘Shoot-Out’, adding some extra realism – and another reason for your TV to be afraid of accidental damage. A future free update will allow the leg strap to work with other football/soccer modes. It can be a bit disorientating at first, but – like most of the included games – once you get the knack, it’s good fun.
If you’re new to the concept of getting sporty in front of the telly, each sport has a brief but helpful tutorial that will have you swinging, rolling, lobbing, spiking, stabbing and/or kicking in no time.
We touched on the Joy-Con responsiveness for tennis, and good news is that this applies to all of the other included sports. With its extra motion capabilities over the classic Wiimote, it allows for finer control in many instances, and offers a bit more of natural feel to playing sports in your loungeroom.
Further good news is that when you do choose to take on the world online, it’s a fairly speedy and painless process – we found matches quickly for all sports, including the 16 players required for a bowling tournament – and suspect that if real people aren’t available then Nintendo pops in the odd AI opponent. Our reason to be suspicious? We scored a not-so-great 200 in bowling and our closest opponent managed a mere 51…
We doubt we were alone in hoping that Nintendo would revisit their Sports series on Switch, and the result is much what you’d expect – and that’s a good thing (other than the odd sore arm)! It’s a brilliantly enjoyable party game that all can get involved with, plus if you’re on your own you can still join in with others thanks to the online options. Everybody will have their favourite sport out of the six currently included, and as it stands there’s decent choice for a keenly-priced release, with the promise of more to come. Just don’t forget to tighten those wrist straps!
Nintendo Switch Sports is available now exclusively on Switch.