Nintendo Switch Sports Review
Wii Sports was a game that transcended a typical video game release. It was a game everyone knew, nearly everyone had played, and showed up every Christmas in airport lounges, old folks’ homes, etc.
A few years later, we got a sequel in the form of Wii Sports Resort, and then on the Wii U so digital rental scheme with Wii Sports Club – later released physically. Then nothing. Since then, other franchises have taken motion sports further, but nothing from Nintendo. It has taken another massive hit of a console to bring the next instalment. While Nintendo says this is the next game in the Wii Sports series, it almost feels like a reboot. The game feels more like a reboot, stripped back to the core and then rebuilt with modern graphics and things like online.
Whereas Wii Sports was the king of the living room, it now seems like Nintendo Switch Sports wants to be the king of online – with local multiplayer now demoted to a prince. We could not try the game’s online modes until hours after the embargo for reviews, and at that point, it seemed just a bit disappointing. Many of the new things promoted for the game are hidden behind online. Returning features like the Pro League now move behind that paywall as well. We can now give some updated thoughts on the game
When there are not enough actual players to play with, the game will fill in with CPU players. It’s almost impossible to tell if you’re playing CPU or a real player as there’s no real way to tell them apart, which begs the question, why do I have to play online to unlock stuff if I might just be put with CPU players anyway? Bizarre.
There are three options from the main menu: play globally online, play locally and play with friends online. Only in the first mode will you earn points to unlock new gear and accessories for your Sportsmate avatar or go for the Pro Leagues. Two players can jump in online from the one console so that you can earn some new gear with your siblings locally, but it does seem like Nintendo put online as the focus of this game. It’s not a deal-breaker, and the game as a package is still fun, but it’s even more bare-bones in aspects without it.
Update: We’ve just learned if you don’t have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription you can play a Trial Mode mode of ‘online’ and get access to a limited amount of unlockables for your Sportsmate. You’ll only be playing CPU players in this mode as well and thus won’t be able to access the Pro Leagues. So it’s not actually online at all.
The things you can unlock are super cute and fun to get them. You earn points for each game you play, win and do something like a long rally in racquet games or a header goal in soccer. When you get to 100 points, you can pick from a collection of prizes, and more collections unlock the more you play. But if you’ve got your eye for a nice hat, you might end up with a ribbon or earing to dress up your Sportsmate instead. It’s a lucky dip. Once you complete a collection, you’ll unlock a themed outfit.
Online also has different modes, and the selection of some modes is different if you’re playing with friends or with randoms. There’s no 1v1 soccer with random players, only 4×4. Elimination bowling is the only way you’ll be bowling online, but that’s because ok because it rocks.
The sports lineup for Nintendo Switch Sports has also changed, with two Wii Sports games getting the chop and Wii Sports Resort filling in a slot too.
Going with Soccer first because I think it’s the best new game out of the lot. It’s been compared to Rocket League, and that’s fair, but don’t expect some crazy fast-paced soccer game. You’ll find it a more methodical game; it makes more sense with a giant ball and on legs – not in a car. Of course, it’s all motion controls; depending on which handedness, you use one Joy-Con to run around, the other to aim your shots. Flick up to get the ball up, two down Joy-Cons down to do a header – reasonably simple. People start running for the ball, but like Soccer, you’ll want to get some space, call ‘open’, and pass it downfield. Soccer also can use the leg strap but just for penalty shootouts at the moment. You’ll be able to play full matches with it later. Just don’t kick your cat.
The new addition of Soccer, along with Elimination Bowling (online only) are the stand outs of the package for me.
Chambara gets a lot of hate, but it can also be a bunch of fun. At least for a little while. It’s a pretty simple sport on the surface. Two people stand on a platform and try not to get knocked off into the water. You can’t just win by whacking the crap out of them, either. You have to be patient, time your swings and defend. Once you figure out someone’s strategy, it can be pretty simple to get past them.
Aside from a standard nerf looking sword, there’s also one that charges and a twin sword just to mix it up a little.
Ah, my favourite! Bowling is something you think you’re good at in real-life and without the bumpers – just a bit crap. Not here in Nintendo Switch Sports. The bowling action is slightly different from the Switch on the Wii. You let go of the B Button on the Wii Remote as you complete the swing. Now you don’t – it will get you too. Aside from vanilla bowling, there are also some novelty lanes, but sadly there is no 1,000-pin game from Wii Sports Resort.
Badminton, Volleyball, and Tennis
No, I’m not a crackpot. I realise these are three very different sports, and they all have their own nuance in real life and that if you can play one, you can’t play another. But in Nintendo Switch Sports, you can, all of these court games feel very samey.
The tennis this time around feels slower, and despite me going back and checking, it’s not. You’ve still got the same Wii Remote Plus style controls, and you still have to be in control of both players on your side of the court. Badminton, the new addition, feels super fresh compared to the slower tennis. The court is smaller, and it’s 1v1 all the time. There’s also no CPU or friend at the front to worry about.
Being perhaps a more physical game, Volleyball doesn’t require the same jumping around and spiking that a real game would. You’ve still got to launch your ball and tap it over, but it’s all very naturally. It’s more about timing than anything.
I lumped all those sports together because, with the removal of Baseball and Boxing and the addition of two court sports, the mixture of sports feels off. If you don’t like tennis, you’re probably not going to enjoy Badminton – although I think now Badminton is way more fun than tennis myself. Golf is coming later, but that’s really not in the same league as the other games.
Wii Sports was the king of parties, and Nintendo Switch Sports can still fill that role when played locally, but the real juicy stuff is all online-based. If you don’t care about how your Sportsmate looks or getting in the Pro Leagues, then Nintendo Switch Sports is an admirable package of sports games and still super fun. Soccer is the new stand out in the package, but the balance of games seems somewhat off with too many court-based games. If you’ve ever just wanted Wii Sports on the Switch, this’ll do it, but online is a must to get the most out of it.
Review was originally published without a score before the online modes of the game went live.
+ Fun sports games anyone can play, online and locally
+ Fresh look and bopping soundtrack
+ Elimination Bowling and Soccer are standout games
+ Sportsmates are good actually
- Nearly all unlockables and Pro Leagues are gate kept behind online modes, and then only with randoms can you actually unlock anything
- Balance of games seems off
- No Matt the Mii