Preview: Hands on with Nintendo Switch Sports
In the world of video games, there are very few titles that can be picked up, and with less than 30 seconds of instruction, players can understand the mechanics and start to have fun. Wii Sports is really the only one. As a pack-in game with each Wii console, at least in most regions, it was the game that helped sell the promise of the Wii. We did get a semi-remake in Wii Sports Club, and many folks expected that to come to Switch, but no one predicted Nintendo Switch Sports.
Nintendo Australia was kind enough to invite us down to check out the upcoming sports title and put the six new games through its paces. While some are returning from the various Wii Sports titles, there are a few new ones. Everything we played was done locally, which brought back so many memories of playing Wii Sports, but even the returning games had new things to learn about, and each new game was more fun than you might imagine. Let’s start off by looking at those returning games, and we shall start with Chambara.
The reason why I am starting with Chambara is simple, it is the most basic game in the collection. Yes, the argument could be made that they are all basic, especially when you compare them to other sports games.
The basics are straightforward, you have to knock your opponent off the edge of the platform you are on, which will cause them to fall into the water. Attacking is done by swinging your arm, just as if you were holding one of the Nerf-inspired swords, so if you swing straight down, your Sportsmate does as well. The challenge comes from learning to predict where your opponent will swing from and then guard against the attack. A successful guard will stun your opponent for a brief moment, giving you a chance to get in a quick attack or two. A proper attack with push your opponent back, and you can even use a lunge attack to push them back in a hurry, but that takes time and leaves you open to being struck. Chambara isn’t the flashiest of the games, but I can see it has its appeal. While I stuck with the basic sword, given the other options, charge and twin, some players could create interesting skills with them.
The second of the returning sports is Tennis. It feels like you remember from Wii Sports, and like that game, no matter how many players there are in the room or online, Tennis is always played with four players on the court. If you’re playing solo or competing against the CPU, you still have to control both players on your side of the court, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The game does offer up the chance to have 1, 3 or 5 rounds per game, so you can be playing for quite a while if you want.
You can hit the ball by swinging the Joy-Con, and much like the original release, you can put some topspin or underspin on the ball while twisting the controller as you go. Tennis was honestly as fun as I remember it being. While the mechanics for getting the perfect shot, were not something I could deep dive into in my limited time with the game, I am very excited to do that once the full game is released.
The final returning game is Bowling, and if you loved it when it was included in Wii Sports and then in Wii Sports Resort, you will be confused here, at least at first. The mechanics are the same. Swinging the Joy-Con like it was a real ball is the same, but on the Wii, you had to let go of B as you completed the motion to release the ball. With Nintendo Switch Sports, you keep holding the button down. It will take a lot of muscle memory resetting to get around that one.
Beyond that change, the gameplay is just as before. You pick your line, adjust your approach angle (if needed), and bowl. You can spin the ball by twisting the Joy-Con in either direction, which comes in handy if you leave a few pins split on the lane. Something that was pointed out to me by the folks at Nintendo, is that there is no benefit to including the motion force as if you were really bowling; You can choose to do that, but the game doesn’t make the ball go any faster. We have seen in the reveal trailer the Survival Bowling, and the skill games are set to return as well. Still, there is no word on whether the 1,000-pin game from Wii Sports Resort and other novelty modes will appear in Nintendo Switch Sports.
Now onto the new stuff, Badminton, Volleyball and Soccer (or football if you prefer).
Starting off with Soccer, this was the one game that I didn’t think would be that fun, simple due to the nature of the game. It looked slow in the trailers, and the oversized ball seemed slow to move. It turns out that both those aspects make it very fun. There is little chance you can see this version of Soccer and not think of Rocket League. Both contain 5 players per team and feature a huge ball, set within an enclosed space and even playing the game feels like Rocket League, minus the cars, of course.
With you controlling the character directly, you can set up plays with your teammates, move down the pitch, and receive their kick. Kicking is done by flicking the Joy-Con right. If you kick up, you will kick the ball up, flick to the side, and kick to that same side, and because you can also move the camera, you can line up your shots perfectly. In addition to kicking, you can also do flying headers, where if you flick both Joy-Con at once, you will dive in the direction you were moving it. Combine that with kicks, jumps and the ability to have your character call out that they are open, and things can get quite hectic. It wasn’t uncommon in my game to see characters running and jumping before throwing themselves at the ball to get it away from the opposing team. The match that I got to play in was 1-1 at the end of the playing time, so it went to extra time, and when it did, the goals got wider, making it easier to score a goal. I am happy to confirm that I was the one who scored that winning goal by completely missing my diving header and then flailing around until my Sportsmate kicked the ball. It just coasted through an unguarded goal.
The second additional sport is Badminton, which could easily be mistaken for another Tennis sport upon a quick glance. Still, things here are quite a bit different. First up, the play space is much smaller, meaning that you have less time to react to hits, so you always need to be on guard. The second reason it is different is that it is always just two players, you and your opponent, so winning or losing is linked back to yourself. You can be forgiven for thinking it is just a slower form of Tennis, but there is a little more going on here than you might think, and a lot of it comes down to timing. If you hit the shuttlecock too early, you may hit it down more, and as the net is much higher here than in Tennis, it means you may not clear it.
Beyond that, if you hit it too late, you may throw it up in the air, giving your opponent plenty of time to ready their shot back to you, and if they hit it right, they can power it up. If the returned shot is powered up, you can be staggered, which means that you opponent has an easy chance at hitting the shuttlecock back in a place you may not be able to get to in time and lunging for it, can achieve the same results as if you were hit by a powered-up shot.
The last sport that is being included is Volleyball. It is the one that we have seen the most of, thanks to the gameplay presentation during the February Nintendo Direct. Like Bowling, you don’t need to complete the insane actions Volleyball can require, so no jumping into the air and ‘spiking’ the ball down; you can just move your arm. What it does need you to do, though, is get your timing right, and for a few reasons, the first of which is that if your timing is not right when you set the ball up for your teammate to spike it, then you may not get enough height.
If you attempt to block too soon, you will find yourself back on the ground, and the ball was then sailing over your head. Getting the timing right, though, will also give you to build up a flow, which can be seen by the ball changing colour. Get your flow right, and when it comes time to spike, you can power the ball home, but the opposing team can do the same.
I only had the chance to play through each of the included sports once, but I really enjoyed my time with all of them, well, maybe not Chambara.
With the extra modes and options, plus the ability to play online, there is lots more to dive into; even the Sportsmate you create for yourself has clothing and accessories that you can earn as you play. There isn’t much longer to go until the game is released, and we will be sure to have a review for it, but so far, things are looking very good.
Nintendo Switch Sports releases on April 29th, we’ve got a bargain guide together for it as well.