Review: Nintendo Switch Sports — Serving up some Fun!
Written By: Samual Johnson for 9 To 5 Gamers
Nintendo’s latest title in their sports series, Nintendo Switch Sports, has launched, and is here to show that motion controls aren’t done yet!
It’s hard to deny the huge impact Wii Sports had on gaming and the motion control wave of the mid-2000s to early 2010s. What was supposed to be a simple tech demo to promote the Wii’s capabilities, ended up growing into one of the flagship titles of the system. Since then, motion controls have fallen to the wayside, with the exception mostly being for VR games, which begs the question: Would a new version of Wii Sports work in 2022? Yes, and it’s called Nintendo Switch Sports!
Well, given the success of the original, it’s obvious Nintendo wanted to answer that question. So now here we are, with the latest installment, Nintendo Switch Sports, has launched, and we get a chance to see how it fairs in the modern gaming landscape.
What You Get in Nintendo Switch Sports
Let’s start with the most important part of the game, what sports are actually in it? Switch Sports has a surprisingly light list compared to the previous sequel, Wii Sports Resort, which boasted 12 sports, only giving 6 to play around with. While Nintendo has announced Golf will be added, that update isn’t due until Fall 2022 and there’s no knowledge of Nintendo’s plans to add any more after. Until then, we only have Volleyball, Badminton, Bowling, Soccer, Chambara, and Tennis. Despite the lack of content, what is there proves to be a very solid experience.
In the roughly 15 hours I put into the game, I found each sport to be plenty of fun in its own way. Volleyball kept me on my toes by having me constantly switching my position. Badminton has a variety of options to hit back the shuttlecock to the other side, making volleys a fun back and forth reliant on mixing up your options. Bowling’s controls feel the most natural and provide a relaxing time. Soccer is maybe a little too slow-paced with an oversized field, for the primary 4v4 mode, which leads to you spending more time running to get to the ball. However, it does make you work to score so when you manage to set a shot up (or follow through on a set up) for a goal, it feels really satisfying.
Chambara proves to be the most intense game, with the tide of battle able to sway back and forth in a blink of an eye. Being a fighting game player, I was really enjoying the mind games that come from the simple blocking system. And tennis leads to long rallies with the tension getting higher every time you swing the racket.
There are a few extra modes for some of the sports that can help add variety. Bowling has challenge modes where you play on obstacle-littered lanes to make getting strikes harder. Soccer has a one-on-one mode with a smaller field for faster-paced games and a shoot-out mode. The shoot-out mode is a simple kicking challenge game, which requires a leg strap. One comes with the $50 USD physical version of the game (digital is $40 USD), but if you already have one from Ring-Fit Adventure it will work as well. To be honest, I didn’t spend too much time on these modes since I mainly played online with the global matchmaking, which unfortunately does not have these modes.
The Controls for Nintendo Switch Sports
The controls for most of the sports feel natural to what you’re playing. In bowling, you pull your arm back and swing it forward to roll your ball down the lane. In Chambara, you just need to swing your joy-con parallel to the opponent’s block to land a hit. You can go all out in recreating the motions, such as putting your hands together and pushing up to set in volleyball, or you can be lazy like me and just flick your wrist, either way, works just the same.
Just like its predecessors, these simple controls are key to the game since they make it so even people not familiar with gaming can pick up and play. Thankfully, Switch Sports nails that element down. The only sport I feel might come off as a little complex would be soccer. Unlike the others, soccer requires you to use two joy-cons to play, using the left stick for moving around, the right to control the camera, the A button to jump, and flicking the joy-con to kick the ball. For anyone with even a little video game experience, these controls won’t be an issue, but I could see someone who’s never played a video game struggling for their first few matches.
The motion controls do suffer from being inaccurate here and there. A lot of the time, these moments aren’t that big of the deal since most sports rely more on timing rather than accuracy. However, it occasionally leads to frustrating situations where a wrong motion in soccer or chambara can turn a game in your favor into your opponent’s.
The next issue is the lack of information the game gives. While it makes sense for the tutorials to be quick, so friends or family can jump in quickly, they end up leaving a lot of details, such as how to put a spin on a ball in tennis. In order to find them out, you have to be reading the loading screen tips, figure them out yourself, or just say “screw it” and google how to play a specific sport to get all the information. To top it off, the game also has a lack of feedback in some areas.
In Volleyball, each time you touch the ball for receiving, blocking, or spiking, it will tell you if you hit the ball too late or too early. This is really handy for learning the timing, but for some reason, other sports that are timing-based don’t offer this. The main two culprits are badminton and tennis. Tennis does give you some feedback but only when you hit the ball out of bounds. Badminton doesn’t give you any feedback and proceeds to let you fall on your face over and over until you realize you’re swinging too early.
When it comes to progression, the only thing in the game that’s there for you to work towards is the collection. These collections will cycle out every so often, each one offering a variety of customization pieces such as emotes, headpieces, sport-specific gear, and outfits. In order to fill out a collection, you have to earn 100 experience points which will then earn you one random item from the collection. You only get these points from playing online, with 30 being rewarded just for completing a game and bonus points for winning or other things like holding a long rally in tennis. After you get all the items in a collection, you get a completion bonus, usually an outfit for your character. This mini-battle pass system is neat, but so far the collections haven’t been too interesting (other than the squirrel suit one). It would be nice to see some collections that are themed on other Nintendo properties. For example, they could do one which gives you the master sword for chambara, or one with soccer gear inspired by Mario Strikers.
Outside of the collections, there isn’t really any other progression system other than a ranking system for online. Of course, the idea of playing the game just for playing the game isn’t bad, but it would have been nice if they implemented more single-player content. I don’t think there needs much. A simple arcade ladder where you work to earn a new high score or some barebones story mode would have been nice to help make playing alone against AI feels like an actual experience and not just something I only would do when my internet is out.
While more single-player content would be good, the main focus of the game would still be online play. For the most part, the online runs solid. I hardly experienced any lag, or disconnects during matches. As mentioned before, none of the different modes for bowling or soccer are online. This leaves you with the base 4v4 of Soccer and your standard alley’s in bowling. It would be nice if we had the obstacle alleys for bowling online since it could have a lot more variety to the game mode, but I don’t see it as a huge issue. To me, the biggest problem is the lack of options for matchmaking with friends.
To be clear, you can make a lobby with friends, but the game will autofill the empty spots with AI. If you want to group up with friends to play against random people, then the only way to do that is to have them physically there. I do understand that Switch Sports is made to be an in-person party game, but this seems like a major oversight. For me, the majority of my friends live at least an hour away, with many living out of state or even in different countries. This means that if I want to team up with friends for soccer or volleyball, there is no easy way to do it. Given the nature of the gaming community, there’s no doubt that I’m not the only that will face this problem. The biggest shame is that Switch Sports had the potential to have been a game I could pull up a few times a week to hop on with friends, but instead it’s a game that I might pull up once every few weeks.