Nintendo Switch Sports - Hands-On Preview
With thanks to Nintendo Australia, I recently made the trip down the highway to go hands-on with the upcoming Nintendo Switch Sports, playing a non-final build of the game, but trying out each of the 6 sports available in the launch package. Having tried out each of Badminton, Bowling, Tennis, Soccer, Volleyball, and Chambara, I’m pleased to report that the feeling we all had for years beginning in 2006 when we went hand-on with Wii Sports is wonderfully emulated in Nintendo Switch Sports. Grandma and Grandpa might be a decade older, but wheel them out to try this one, it’s going to be a blast.
Volleyball was the first sport I tried, and the first of the new faces coming to Nintendo Switch Sports. After a quick tutorial which highlights how to dig, set, spike, and block, you’re into the action. In this preview experience I was playing alongside one of my fantastic local PR representatives in a doubles game as we chased victory in a first to 5 contest. Timing is the real key in this sport, from the obvious spikes to land them in tight corners, to setting the ball with the right elevation to allow a team-mate to spike it, even the initial digs or blocks to ensure you deflect the ball back into your oppositions side of the court rather than have it skew off and go out of bounds off your hands. Though I only had a few minutes with the sport, I quickly learned the in-game cues for when to act, except for blocking – all credit goes to the opposition there who consistently fooled me with their own timing.
Badminton is a more straightforward affair, one-on-one, single joy con play, but it’s not simple swatting the shuttlecock over the net until someone mistimes it. Like Volleyball, timing is important, but so is the use of defter touch or even heavy handed blows. Using the ZL or ZR triggers players can activate a slower drop shot, one that lures your opponent in. Maybe you’ve forced your opponent back with heavier blows and that drop shot catches them off guard and they can’t get into the net in time to reach the shuttle, or perhaps you’ve lured them close to then lob the shuttle over their head. The tactical opportunities are plentiful and the controllers keep up well with your intentions.
One of the Wii Sports staples, Bowling returns and is much the same as you remember it. You will have access to the standard high-score chasing mode, but you can also play competitively. Bowling supports one or more joy con as you can each take turns, or be in your own bowling lane, constantly taking your shots. The Obstacle challenges are again present, though it remains to be seen whether or not the 91-pin strike with the hidden button at the back of the wall will again be possible.
Soccer is one of the most interesting additions because the core Soccer modes see players using hand-based controls to kick or head the ball. Obviously the natural feeling is gone, but players can impose slicing movement upon the ball as they run around the playing space. Soccer is the most “traditional video-game” of all the options in Nintendo Switch Sports thanks to the need to use the analogue stick to adjust the camera and a trigger for (stamina dependent) sprinting. Despite the unnatural feeling it’s still a lot of fun to play. Supporting that is a penalty shoot-out mode where players equip themselves with the leg-strap attachment and can actually partake in the shoot-out in a more natural way. It’s all about timing, not power, as you take shots at goal, and at the higher difficulty levels with a smaller and smaller target to aim at. This mode feels the part more-so than the core options, but Nintendo claims to be adding leg-strap support to those modes in a few months.
Chambara, despite being a returning sport feels new thanks to a few new fighting options including twin-swords! The strategies utilized previously return, but the momentum of a match can shift faster than ever off the back of one successful block. Players can charge attacks to unleash a lethal flurry that shifts the tide of battle, but it’s never over, considered play, effective blocking and smart strokes guarantee that you always have a chance to win. Keeping your composure on the other hand when backed into a corner is going to be the greatest challenge facing players in this one, but it’s no doubt going to be a blast to play.
Tennis is perhaps the most by-the-numbers mode in Nintendo Switch Sports, with very little having changed to the original iteration in 2006. The mode supports single, 3, and 5 game matches, and feels exactly as it once did. The precision is there, the tension, the ability to throw the game into chaos with a swift strike from your up-close CPU clone.
What was most noticeable about all of the sports is the enjoyment (and increased likelihood of success) derived from properly immersing yourself in the experience. The impact of swinging your arm (or leg) properly as if you were playing the real sport, as opposed to simply following the on-screen visual prompts is immediately noticeable. The game is responsive to subtle movements in your wrist as you try to slice the ball in tennis, or the arc of your leg in you soccer kicking action. Online play will also be available at launch. Players can also customise their own characters, who all look very nice and modern, or even, in a retro throwback, outfit a Mii for play.
There’s a lot to like about Nintendo Switch Sports, and a new audience, both young and old who are likely to fall in love with this upcoming title. The support post-launch is promising (Golf will be added later this year), and so players should have plenty to enjoy at, and well beyond, the April 29th release date.