[Review] Nintendo Switch Sports

System: switch
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

If you grew up like me when the Wii was around, you undoubtedly put some time into Wii Sports. Packaged with every new console here in the west, the title was for many gamers their first introduction to the console’s motion controls and the first time they could engage with family members who wouldn’t normally think of playing video games. Wii Sports itself became a systems vendor and its popularity rages to this day, with many households still dusting off their Wii for gaming sessions at family gatherings to keep kids and adults alike entertained. With the success of Switch, a new entry in the series has now arrived – but will it earn the acclaim of its predecessors?

With more variants of Covid circulating every few weeks and going out in public can scare some of us, Switch Sports is bringing that feeling of bowling with your friend or playing tennis on a Saturday afternoon right into their respective living rooms. The ease of jumping into a match on a whim is fantastic, and the practice of more intense games like badminton cannot be downplayed. Sure, we could sit on our couches and use minimal movements to flick the Joy-Con in the direction we want to propel our ball or shuttlecock or whatever, but part of the real magic is the callback to its past – the games just feel more natural and fun when you treat them like the real thing and actually enable motion controls. Moving my body with the game feels wonderful and has made me more active than I have been in months. I’ve got the arm pain to prove it.

Make sure you have enough space to move freely to get the most out of a session. As I sat and played in my office, it was not uncommon for me to smack my index finger against the edge of the desk: the stabbing and stabbing pain from that morning’s tennis rounds is still felt. Each time I will sigh, punishing myself, then stand up and give myself the appropriate amount of space necessary to safely handle my Joy-Con without fear of my fingers becoming further numb. The hand straps for the controllers are highly recommended, as you can sweat when playing games and it becomes more difficult to grip the controller. Be sure to use the strap to protect not only your controller but also your screen. While it’s been a long time since we’ve heard of the destruction of TVs due to Wii motion controls, it’s not at all impossible to recreate some of those more unfortunate times with the Switch Joy-Con – it can, and will, fly from your hand, if Don’t be careful. I threw mine away once and haven’t stopped using the strap since. Lesson learned.

Nintendo Switch Sports review

With six games (football, volleyball, bowling, tennis, badminton, and chambara), there’s not as much variety as there is in the Wii Sports Resort, but what we do have is a small suite of games designed to capitalize on the Joy -Con and really gets players moving. The first game I sunk into was tennis, my old personal favorite from the Wii days. With two players per side, you can control one character close to the net and one further out. This is a pretty interesting formula that minimizes game times and streamlines games into short and sweet sessions – badminton on the other hand? Much more intense and probably my favorite offering in the collection. Bowling is incredibly fun, of course, and I went back to my TV, just like the old days of spending time with my family on the Wii. The immersion of treating it like a real sport is uninterrupted, and bowling itself is utterly enjoyable no matter what game mode you choose. Adding obstacles to the track is a fun twist and keeps things interesting.

Where things take a downturn is soccer and volleyball, the two toughest games in the pack. Volleyball is absolutely grueling and feels stiff compared to other games, but with practice you can master some of the finer points of movement controls and absolutely destroy opponents. The thing is, sometimes you can pull off an almost perfect move and the game still doesn’t seem to catch, or you miss a crucial spike and well, the match is on. The spike, which is worth some of the most points, is difficult to master. Soccer on the other hand is something I failed so badly at that I went out and bought the leg strap just to see if it helped and well it does…a little bit. In larger 8-player games things get a bit chaotic and it’s almost overwhelming with the amount of travel and kicking you need to do to really make a difference on your team, but while this game is my least favorite, it is it’s also the one that gets my heart rate highest when fully utilizing the movement.

Chambara isn’t nearly as blood pumping, but it does require a bit of precision work and focus that the other games don’t really require. Players can play with either a single sword or dual swords. These options make for a different experience and you have to adapt not only to your own weapon type, but also to your opponent’s choice. While you can definitely bang wildly and still have an awful lot of fun, I felt much more successful in planning and timing each of my shots. Chambara is perhaps one of the best parts of Switch Sports, as much as my love of badminton takes first place for me, this is definitely my second most played sport. In particular, it made me very aware of just how much the Nintendo Switch has to offer in terms of fitness games on the Switch, and reignited my hunt for the elusive Ring Fit Adventure to round out my collection of fitness titles.

Nintendo Switch Sports review

An addition to Nintendo’s Sports formula is the new avatar customization system. During your online matches, you earn points for every game you play, whether you win or lose. As you keep playing, earning points is fun and addictive. For every 100 points earned, you’ll unlock a new customization device for your player avatar, allowing you to accessorize with fancy outfits and accessories. You can also swap out the gear you use in each game, an aesthetic choice I’m glad it’s included. While standard bats, bowling balls, and other play equipment would have been fine, adding color variants and designs really adds to the grind, but I never felt like collecting new stuff was a chore or something I had to actively work towards.

Online matches are fast enough that after a few rounds you can easily rack up enough points to unlock a new customization item. Building a collection of cool gear isn’t hard at all, and as new parts and themes are added there’s always a reason to load up the game and look for new things. Completing a collection can also bring in some cool bonuses. While I’m not intentionally striving to collect every single piece, I probably will over time without realizing it, and that feels kind of gross when you’re used to spending hours in games like Dragon Quest III to grind for a 1/256 chance of a cute cat suit that turns your character’s overworld sprite into a cute kitten.

The judgment

With the addition of golf to the plans and the sheer fun and nostalgia of local multiplayer, Nintendo Switch Sports is shaping up to be a solid party game that’s sure to become a family favorite, like Wii Sports before it. While you can’t help but look for the same thing in a follow-up game like this, I think the new shines the most here. We may not have a copy of this game in every living room around the world, but we’ll have a fun time burning some calories and earning points to increase your character avatar’s Drip Score, as the kids say. I’ll be collecting avatar pieces for weeks and hopefully lose a few pounds and look awesome in the process.

Nintendo Switch Sports copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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