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Nintendo Switch Sports

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: April 29, 2022


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Switch Review - 'Nintendo Switch Sports'

by Cody Medellin on May 6, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Play sports such as Bowling, Tennis, & Chambara as well as three new additional sports including Soccer, Badminton, and Volleyball.

Buy Nintendo Switch Sports

Once you whittle away the piles of bad motion-controlled titles, the Nintendo Wii is home to a good library of titles. There are bonafide classics like Kirby's Epic Yarn, Super Mario Galaxy, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. There are big multiplayer hits like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii. There are even fresh takes on classic genres like Red Steel and crazy stuff like WarioWare: Smooth Moves. For many of the 100 million+ Wii owners, the console's definitive title was the one that came with the system: Wii Sports. It served as a blueprint for how to handle the system's unique motion-controlled setup, and it was fun enough that it was the only title that many Wii owners ever played. Given the success of the Switch and the Joy-Con's own motion-control capabilities, it was only a matter of time before Nintendo brought the series back with Nintendo Switch Sports.

There are six sports represented, with three of them coming from older series entries. Chambara is the first sport, and it hails from Wii Sports Resort, which highlighted the more nuanced motion controls provided by the Wii Motion Plus add-on, which has been replicated here faithfully. This is essentially a foam sword fight where your objective is to hit your opponent until they get knocked off the platform and fall into the pool below. You can flail around, but there's some nuance in the combat from being able to block strikes so they stun the opponent to being able to sneak in hits when the enemy thinks they have blocked everything. There's also some strategy in selecting weapons; you can go for a single blade, dual blades for a spinning attack, or a single blade that can deliver a powerful strike if you block incoming attacks to charge it up. Like many of the sports here, it's a simple but deep experience that you'll return to quite often if you're craving something that's playfully violent.

Bowling is one of the sports closely associated with the original Wii Sports. The controls match the original, with the analog stick controlling lane placement, face buttons controlling player rotation, and the requirement of holding down zL or zR when throwing the ball. Taking a page from the Wii Sports Resort iteration, the game lets you twist the Joy-Con a bit to put some spin on the ball. This is one of the sports that has aged gracefully; hitting strikes and picking up spares is always satisfying. A big improvement is the ability to have all players bowl simultaneously, so the games go by faster to increase the odds that people will want to play another match.

Tennis is the third returning sport, and like bowling, it's one of the most popular ones from the original game. Movement is handled automatically, so all you're worried about is swinging at the right time, which makes for some cool-looking saves when you dive for the ball or suddenly warp to the correct location. Like bowling, this has also aged well, but you will come away a little miffed that it can only be played in doubles mode instead of also having 1v1 matches.

With tennis being limited to a doubles affair, it falls on badminton to provide a similar racket experience with the 1v1 setup. As with tennis, all you're really worried about is swinging the racket, but the physics of the shuttlecock make this feel different. Height and drop speed make a big difference here, versus the angle and speed of the ball in tennis. It's good, and it's exhilarating to make a save and keep the rally going.

The second new sport is volleyball played as a 2v2 indoor variant for up to four players. Like the other sports of this type, the game moves your character for you, so all you're worrying about is serving, passing, bumping, spiking, and blocking. There is some skill needed, as the best hits require you to hit the ball at the perfect time, but the game is rather forgiving regarding its hit window. Even though it's another net-based game in the package, the different movements and the satisfaction of hearing the ball land on the court with a loud smack make it all worthwhile.

The final sport is soccer, which is the most involving one in the package since it requires two Joy-Cons per player. The left Joy-Con's analog stick is used for movement, while the right Joy-Con is used for kicking. The direction of the kick is determined by the direction of your swipes. You can also swipe both Joy-Cons down to do a flying headbutt, which leaves you open since it takes a second to charge before you start flying. It's worth it to see you act like Luigi in Super Smash Bros., though. The giant size of the ball, its floaty physics, and the fact that the pitch is surrounded by a shield with no way to kick the ball out makes this feel like Rocket League, minus the cars. It's enjoyable in a 1v1 setting, since there are no goalkeepers.

That forces you to play defense in a 4v4 setting, and it feels like traditional soccer with a focus on basics instead of nuances like fouls and flopping. There is an alternate mode where you deliver penalty kicks against a goal that varies in size and has obstacles blocking it, and that's played with the leg strap from the game's physical release or from Ring Fit Adventures. It's a novel way to play, but if you're playing with others, people may not want to pass around one leg strap with a Joy-Con these days.

Nintendo Switch Sports is tailor-made for a multiplayer experience, and while local play is just as fun as the original titles, online play is where the game shines, with two sports taking advantage of the expanded player base. Soccer can now be played with eight players in a 4v4 match, and it is perhaps the best way to play the sport, whether you're on a team playing like a well-oiled machine or one that is still coming to grips with the fundamentals. For bowling, online play means jumping into a 16-player tournament where the field gets cut in half after every three frames. Since everyone is bowling simultaneously, the games go by quickly, and no matter what sport you're playing, finding a game to jump into takes little to no time at all.

Online play can be done either solo on one console or teaming up with a friend locally, but there is one element that people will both love and hate: unlockable cosmetics. Just finishing a match online yields points, and you receive bonuses for performance milestones, like getting strikes in bowling or going for a long rally in badminton. Every 100 points nets a prize box, and while you have the choice of box style, the actual prize is randomized. You get new outfits for completing the set, and you can choose to stick with one favorite sport to net the points. The time limit for each prize box gives you a reason to keep playing, at least until you have to wait for a new prize box.

The cosmetic items go a long way in making the standard character creation system more appealing, since it means more options, but it is a shame that the unlock process can't be done with local multiplayer. Those without Nintendo Switch Online memberships can still unlock stuff by playing the online mode, which replaces real players with CPU ones. Unlocks are limited to two a day, though, so it feels like a sampler rather than a way to circumvent online play.

If you have no interest in multiplayer, then prepare for some disappointment. For five of the sports, you can play against the CPU, but your only options you have are to play against different difficulty levels. There's no succession of foes to go up against or special unlocks, so it's mostly a practice mode. Bowling is the one sport that doesn't have you going up against CPU opponents, but if you want some variety, the only option is to bowl on courses with varying bumpers, moving ramps, and rising lanes. Those looking for something as offbeat as the 100-pin challenge from the original are going to be sorely disappointed unless Nintendo patches that in like they will with golf.

The overall presentation is quite good. The characters look great, with loads of polish to the animations and some nice facial expressions. It fares better than using the Miis, which look strange because only the Mii heads get used on the upgraded bodies. The frame rate is a rock-solid 60fps for every sport, but the environments really stand out. It looks like a proper sports facility with things like banners, shipping crate kiosks, and storefronts. The addition of spectators makes it seem like some of the malls that are still hanging on out there. It all looks gorgeous. Meanwhile, the music is lively stuff no matter the sport, and while the announcer is nice to listen to, her overall volume seems a little low to the point where it's sometimes difficult to discern what she's saying.

Nintendo Switch Sports shows that the company still knows how to make simple but extremely satisfying experiences intended for everyone. The simplified representation works wonders for old and new sports, and the controls are easy enough that anyone can become good at their favorites in no time. Solo players who don't go online will be disappointed at the lack of content, but those looking to play against others either locally or online will have a blast. Be sure you're a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber if you want to squeeze the most out of those unlocks.

Score: 7.5/10

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