It’s been sixteen years since Wii Sports. sixteen years. A lot has happened since then, but one of the most significant milestones for Nintendo during that period has to be the release of the Nintendo Switch. Having sold in excess of 100 million consoles, it is the perfect platform for a new Sports release. We’ve already seen sequels (Wii Sports Resort and Wii Sports Club) on the respective hardware, the former capitalising on the success of the Wii, and the latter failing to reach the dizzy heights of its predecessors due to, well, the Wii U.
With that in mind, Nintendo Switch Sports is a rather monumental release. It comes mid-hardware cycle and has the potential to be a very, very important part of Nintendo’s modern history. An excellent install base, coupled with a solid multiplayer infrastructure, means Nintendo Switch Sports has the foundations needed to be a huge success.
My concerns around the new release in the franchise started forming soon after its announcement. Six sports confirmed, with another coming down the line. Why? We’ve seen the effects of releasing content post-launch; you only have to look as far as Mario Golf: Super Rush or Mario Tennis Aces to determine it a risky strategy. It pays to be a complete package from the get-go, and Nintendo Switch Sports is one it could be argued has no right to be anything but.
It’s unfortunate to start in this manner, but it’s a bone of contention that proves difficult to ignore when playing through this collection. Sure, a couple of the sports may be some of the better ones we’ve seen over the years, yet there are others that aren’t the most compelling and could even be considered a little lacklustre. Nintendo Switch Sports is also a mixed bag when considering the modes on offer, with there really only being so many times you can play the same sports over and again – even if you do have the option to play online against others.
To begin, I’ll delve into the three sports that are returning for the franchise before moving onto the new additions.
Tried and true, Tennis is a mainstay in the Nintendo Sports games, and it truly wouldn’t be Switch Sports had it not been included. It’s the go-to, and, whilst it doesn’t always offer an experience representative of sixteen years in the making, it is still a brilliant way to pass the time.
By controlling both the player at the net and the other at the baseline, you swing the Joy-Con in the direction you want the ball to travel. You can play with 1-4 players, with one player matches defaulting to a doubles game. Personally, I have been left disappointed by this: a singles game would have been an excellent test of ability, but, I imagine, an equal test of the game’s mechanics.
Watching both your players swing their racket around as you attempt to return a shot can be jarring, and it does serve — sorry — as a reminder that this is, at its core, a far less immersive way to play. Tennis with friends or as part of online multiplayer is much more engrossing, not least because each character on screen is individually controlled.
I believe most will buy Switch Sports for Tennis and Bowling, and thankfully there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
This is a cracking sport to play. It is brimming with subtle complexities that make for an exciting and tense multiplayer game. The tutorial itself was a little tedious, but essential to a successful bout. It’s all too tempting to just start hacking and slashing your way to victory — something that rarely ever works — although you can occasionally strike gold.
There are three different modes: Sword, Charge Sword, and Twin Swords. Each operates in slightly different ways, although the core of the game remains largely the same. Twin Swords is a real game-changer though, as wielding two swords instead of one makes you re-evaluate your playstyle quite significantly. Increasing the difficulty is vital to get a competitively stimulating match out of AI opponents, but there’s a sweet spot there for everyone.
Whether it’s delivering that all-important blow or successfully parrying a friend’s attack, Chambara proves to be one of the most competitively enjoyable sports, and a welcome departure from all the racket and ball sports.
This one writes itself. What a stroke of genius. Nothing beats a good old competitive bowling tournament with mates. It’s equally as enjoyable against the AI, and there’s a focus on positioning, fine-tuning, and then that all-important flick of the wrist to apply spin. I did find the need to hold ZR down a little finicky, but it becomes second nature quite quickly. There are other games out there that have tried, and failed, to replicate the success of Bowling in Wii Sports — this one has nailed it.
Often described as Football/Soccer Rocket League, Soccer is the first of the new sports in this entry and its description couldn’t be more accurate. You compete in an arena of sorts and boot an oversized football around until someone scores. It’s smart stuff and proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. 4v4 is where I think most players will spend their time, mainly due to the competitiveness of an eight-player game, however, there’s a lot to be said for the 1v1 mode. Here, the arena is much smaller, and it ensures the play is just as frantic.
There are a few complexities, namely in the way you kick the ball (I.e., keeping it low, or getting the ball off the ground), and it does just enough to keep it simple whilst remaining engaging and competitive. Those aren’t words I’d use to describe the AI though. The AI for the opposing team is great, but playing with three other AI teammates isn’t nearly as enjoyable as it should be; they often look to be doing the right thing, only to change their minds at the last minute and leave the team open to attack. Three levels of difficulty aim to provide that progression in challenge but playing with friends is where it’s at. All in all, a cracking edition to the Switch Sports library.
This one is a little bizarre. On paper, it sounds like the ideal sport. In reality, it’s far too formulaic and slow to be a new major player. You play in pairs, with one closer to the net than the other. When the ball is hit over the net by the opponent, the one closest to the net will attempt a block, whilst the other will be preparing to tee it up for an attempt at scoring. Timing is crucial here, but the only real reason you’ll fail to nail the play is because the ball moves so slowly. It had potential, but it feels underbaked and void of ideas.
I had to save the best till last. Sharing its DNA, Badminton manages to double down on what makes Tennis so great, all the while capitalising on some of the mistakes of Tennis within the Nintendo Switch Sports package. More than anything, it’s the ability to play a singles match which makes it much more authentic — exactly what this collection needed. Between this and Soccer, there has been a much-needed injection of creativity, and it’s no surprise that these two have been my most played to date.
Having already alluded to it throughout this review, it can’t be understated just how much Nintendo Switch Sports is reliant on online multiplayer. The AI just doesn’t cut it and, save for a family function or a friendly get-together, the opportunities to play longer sessions with friends are limited. Thankfully, the online portion of the game is excellent. It’s smooth and reliable, keeping the limited number of sports fresh enough as you come up against different players with differing levels of skill and experience. The inclusion of cosmetic collectables — something which can only be accessed when connected to the internet — isn’t nearly as engaging as one would have hoped, but it offers an incentive to those who are interested in that sort of thing.
And that pretty much sums it up, really. It’s a paint by numbers Wii Sports successor that I don’t think is as successful…
Nintendo Switch Sports £30.99
Nintendo Switch Sports is competent, but unremarkable. It fails to recapture the magic of the Wii days, even though all of the tools are available. It does exactly what it says it will, but little else.