Nintendo Switch Sports - Wii Sports 2.0
It’s rare that you see a phenomenon on the level of Wii Sports. The Wii launch title that took over households, nursing homes, parties and every waking hour was impossible to ignore back in 2006-2008, and it’s successor, Wii Sports Resort did a superb job of generating another wave of the same excitement when it released a few years later. Since Resort launched in 2009, Wii’s have grown dusty, and been superseded multiple times over, but the memories persist, and with the immense success of the Nintendo Switch, a console that has incredibly outsold the Wii, finally, we’re seeing the return of family-friendly, motion-sports action in the form of Nintendo Switch Sports. The name isn’t as catchy, but the action is just as engaging as you recall it being 15 years ago.
Nintendo Switch Sports, in it’s offline state is the Wii Sports you fell in love with all those years ago. Fun, and engaging sports, a host of additional modes, and an endearing charm that is instantly welcoming to players of all ages and stages. Right out the gate players have access to six sports, a slate that is greater in number than the original release but dwarfed by the mighty 12 activities on offer in Wii Sports Resort. The six that we do have (Golf is promised as DLC in a few short months), Tennis, Badminton, Bowling, Chambara, Soccer, and Volleyball, have been excellently realised, each with their own nuances that will inevitably create division within households, each player desperately trying to get the upper hand by convincing their loved ones to play their favourite sport. There are no weak links here, though some are certainly stronger than others.
While some games really stand out, the depth of Chambara, and the necessary balance, technique and control of Volleyball are the highlights. Chambara features a three different types of swords, the standard blade, a charge sword, and the twin swords. Each has its own strengths, from the standard blade being the most powerful, the charge sword becoming more and more lethal which each successful block, while the twin blades works as such, with an exciting power-up swing attach if you can earn it. Volleyball is fairly straight forward, playing much like the actual sport combining digging, setting, blocking and spiking with a CPU (or human controlled) partner, and it feels incredibly intuitive.
Soccer (I’ll take this opportunity to note that it’s Soccer, not football) is the least intuitive in all but one mode. The standard modes, one-on-one, four-on-four, and Free Practice all require both joycon as you use the sticks and, button inputs and motion (thrusts forward for headers, and swings of the hand for kicking) to score against your opposition. The Shoot-out mode is sensational however, prompting players to equip the leg-strap accessory, insert the left joycon, and engage in a novelty shoot-out mode, swinging your leg as if you were in the real thing. Timing is key, and finding the right timing given the varying ways that the ball can be delivered to you can be an exciting challenge to overcome.
Things drop off a bit from there though, with staples Tennis and Bowling returning and offering very little new. The standard Bowling mode is as fun as ever, but the Special mode doesn’t feel as special as it did before, with the challenges here not resonating as strongly as what we saw in Wii Sports. Tennis, like newcomer Badminton feels great, but doesn’t offer anything outside of increasing difficulty. Badminton also sacrifices some of the control over the placement of the shuttle that Tennis gives you; this opens up the opportunity for smash shots, and defft touches when swinging with the joycon trigger down combined with pressing the trigger down. What this adds in varied strokeplay, is offset by the lack ability to place your shots, often leading you to await an opponents unforced error, rather than force it through some of your own brilliance.
When playing online, there are a few more options that unlock for you. Bowling possesses the most exciting online variant with it becoming a knockout mode with your ten racks being divided four ways to whittle a group of 16 competitors down to an elite 3 to play it off for a win. The other sports are simpler affairs, but are no less entertaining. There are minor tweaks to scoring systems, but the playing experience remains the same. The Pro League is an opportunity for skilled players to tee off against others of similar ability in ranked matches. It takes a little while, through several wins, to unlock Pro status across your preferred sport, but once you have, going forward you will only be paired with players of a similar level to you as opposed to the broader pool of randomised players that you’re first pit against.
Spocco Square, the hub for all six sports makes for a nice visual update to what we’d seen from prior Wii Sports games. There’s life moving around you, and the upgrade from Mii’s for the characters is much appreciated. There are a number of layers of character customisation, from the throwback of creating a Mii, to other unlockable outfits, racket, ball or sword designs, but all of this aside from the Mii’s, everything else is locked behind online gameplay rewards. What they’re asking of you isn’t enormous, with points allocated win/lose/draw for every online match you participate in, with bonuses accumulated for bowling strikes, or for hitting winners that just scratch the lines of the court across various sports, and as a result it actually becomes quite easy to score what is required to unlock a randomly allocated new item of gear. Whether you find yourself playing against real players online, or CPUs, the points earned remains the same.
While there are certainly some sports that are weaker experiences than others, you’ll find it hard not to play the game and find at least 3-4 that you really gravitate towards. In more casual play with friends in the same household or online you’ll have a ton of fun competing for braggin rights, while the online experience opens up more competitive approaches and gives players the opportunity to test their mettle against the best of the best, in what is, regardless of the level of player skill, still an fun, bubbly experience. You’d like to see a few more sports involved, (Golf is to come in the next few months), but the core is solid, and forms a superb foundation for what could be to come. Here’s hoping Nintendo sees the game as worthy of building out as an ongoing service.
Nintendo Switch Sports was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch OLED Model with code kindly provided by Nintendo Australia.
*This review was at one stage a review-in-progress, due to the online functionality not being live at the time of the initial embargo. It has been since updated to reflect the full experience*