Nintendo Switch Sports
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 29/04/2022
Price: £30.99 (Digital) and £39.99 (Physical)
A code was provided for review purposes
Wii Meet Again
The release of the Nintendo Wii bundled with Wii Sports is of cultural significance to not just gamers but households worldwide. I remember my first experience round a family friend’s for New Year’s Eve, where every one of us joined in, taking it in turns to play. My little mind was blown at the motion controls, which were so innovative at the time.
Since then, with the Nintendo Switch’s arrival, people have yearned for that sports game that would give them the same feeling Wii Sports did. In February’s Nintendo Direct, Nintendo delivered with the announcement of Nintendo Switch Sports, and mixed reactions ensued.
But does Nintendo Switch Sports strike with that same nostalgic feeling, or did it fail to bowl me over?
Let’s Get Physical
Nintendo Switch Sports has six different sports to choose from: tennis, badminton, netball, chambara, bowling and football. With most of the sports, when I first played offline, I was greeted with a tutorial showing the various controls, some easier than others. Most sports worked essentially the same as they did in Wii Sports. Netball had an extra few steps, using an upward movement with both hands to bump the ball into the air, throwing your arms into the air to block and striking downwards to bounce the ball in to the opponent’s side.
These all use one Joy Con, but the basic football mode requires two. Use the left joystick to run around the pitch, swipe both down to perform a flying header and hit downwards to keep the ball low. Even these control schemes are easy to pick up, keeping the game as family friendly as it has always been, replicating how you would move when playing the sports in real life.
My favourite sports are the netball and bowling. There’s nothing like a heart racing rally of the volleyball slapping between hands, or getting three strikes in a row! Bowling offers two modes too, your regular one and a special one, where obstacles such as moving walls block your path. Football was surprisingly fresh too; moving around the pitch freely was very different from the other sports where you only move automatically with a step to hit the tennis ball for example. Though, football is perhaps the only sport which could do with some tweaking. It felt very slow at times, since once your stamina runs out you have to wait for it to replenish to be able to sprint again, with few goals occurring.
I have to note as well that the badminton didn’t have a tutorial. Since it’s pretty straightforward I didn’t think too much of it, until my character started tumbling over and being unable to get up, losing me a point. I had to resort to Google to find out it’s a timing and movement issue on my behalf causing this. This definitely should have been explained, particularly as in netball you are given step by step instructions on what move to do next.
Nintendo kindly sent me a Joy-Con leg strap too, which currently can only be used in the Shootout football mode. Self explanatory, but you face off against a friend or a CPU to score penalties, the goal size shrinking or the ball being worth extra points. Using the strap felt a lot more authentic than if you had to swing the Joy-Con, though I found it a little tricky to kick the ball in the right direction that I wanted. I could only play with a CPU since I only had the one strap, and it would definitely be a lot more fun with a friend, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I would like to see this used more in other sports to really get the most out of it.
For the most part, playing with others in your living room is more enjoyable since the competition really heats up! It follows the same as if you were playing alone with slightly different options for some, such as choosing to take it in turns with bowling or go split screen to bowl simultaneously. I thought it was more of a challenge playing with real people, though you can change the difficulty of the CPU. It just doesn’t compete with the high emotions playing against your partner, where a fight could start any minute over a game of tennis…
Similar to the issue with the strap though, football requires two Joy-Cons each, but I only have the two which came with my Switch. This is the same with using twin swords on Chambara. Considering Joy-Cons are upwards of £30 each, it’s asking quite a lot to have multiple pairs. The way they have done football I understand why you need two, but it is a shame you’re down to five out of six sports.
As well as offline play, you can play with friends online or globally with random players. Most of the sports are the same as the basic mode offline, but bowling has a slight twist. Taking on fifteen other players, it’s survival through rounds until three people are left in the final. It adds more pressure and excitement, but it is also very difficult! Despite me receiving the game on launch day the same as everyone else, players online are just so good. If you’re not getting strikes every time, it’s a stretch to get out of the first round. Maybe I need to go practise some more with CPUs before taking on the big boys…
Except, a massive incentive to global play is the rewards you can get only through that mode. You gain points through playing, getting more for certain moves or through winning. These points then unlock cosmetics for your character, with collections only being available for a certain amount of time. Now, I’m a sucker for cute outfits so have been grinding out global play, despite losing a lot, to get them all. It seems a little unfair that people without Switch Online are limited to two cosmetics a week through ‘Trial Mode’ against bots instead of real people. However, lots of players aren’t bothered about this and are more than content with local play. It really depends what you want to get out of the game.
Playing online does have its downfalls too though. Despite having very good internet, I was having fairly frequent connection issues. Mostly, games failing to load in. I would either get a connection error issue from Nintendo Switch Sports, or a message from the Switch itself. There doesn’t seem to be a particular reason or fix for this, so it’s something I’ve just put up with since I want the rewards. Though once, someone rage quit and the match ended, so I didn’t get the rewards! It’s frustrating to be punished for this but hopefully it doesn’t become too much of an issue. It hasn’t made the game unplayable for me, though for those with poorer connection, it may be a different story.
A New Look
When Nintendo Switch Sports was first unveiled, there was slight outrage that our beloved Miis had been replaced. The game features cute characters with big eyes and perfect hairstyles; though worry not, as you can choose to be a Mii as well! Personally I love the new character designs and I’ve enjoyed dressing my character in outfits ranging from stylish to sporty. They display much more emotion too, elated when they score a goal in football or upset when they get knocked out of survival bowling, dragging their feet behind them.
The arena designs are fun too; I liked the concept of all the sports taking place in a plaza, Stocco Square. The colours are vibrant, and there are great details in the background with characters going about their day around you as you play, visiting shops and cafés or eating ice cream. The background animations were a little janky, but easily ignored since your attention is on playing. The only other performance issue I experienced was some frame drops when playing simultaneous bowling. Otherwise, Nintendo Switch Sports ran smoothly.
The soundtrack certainly has a similar Wii Sports feel to it, even paying homage with the same nostalgic melodies scattered through the tunes. They are energetic and catchy, though not too overwhelming that they take away from the sport at play.
I have had so much fun with Nintendo Switch Sports and it’s certainly a blast with friends! I had just as much fun playing against others online too, on my grind to unlock cosmetics. The fact it works similar to Wii Sports too is very satisfying and nostalgic. However, the game is not perfect, such as football needing something extra to ramp up the intensity and badminton requiring a short tutorial. I also worry that players with a poorer connection may have a bad experience playing online. Players without Nintendo Switch Online may feel they’re missing out on rewards as well. It’s up to each person what they prioritise in the game.
Though the six sports are fun, it’s a shame that we have to wait for more to arrive later in the year too. I would have much preferred waiting longer for the game but having all of the sports together. The title seems slightly incomplete. It does give some hope of longevity for the game however, adding updates of new sports or modes down the line. Combining this with cosmetics, you get a game which could become a staple in the household for a few years. We will have to wait and see whether this is the route Nintendo will go down though!
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase Nintendo Switch Sports from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.