Released on: April 29, 2022
Available Platform: Nintendo Switch
Price: $49.99 CAD ($39.99 US)
I might run the risk of sounding corny (and revealing my age), but I remember enjoying Wii Sports when I first got my Wii. I remember attempting to reach pro rank in all sports, only achieving it in Tennis and Boxing. I’m not the only one who enjoyed Wii Sports, as it (along with the Wii) made the news for being family-friendly, fun with friends, hard-to-find, and potentially screen-damaging. While there was another Wii Sports title released on the Wii, it released as a stand-alone game, so it didn’t do anywhere near as well. Still, many people played the Wii Sports sequel (Wii Sports Resort), and it does have a loyal following. That begs the question; where’s the Switch version?
Enter Nintendo Switch Sports: a sports game in the vein of Wii Sports that focuses on motion controls to play the games. Announced in February of last year, the game did garner a little bit of controversy when the in-game avatars appeared on the screen. Many people loved the Miis in Wii Sports, so having completely different characters was slightly jarring. Nintendo confirmed a little later that players could use Miis as their avatar if they so chose, quelling some of the frustration. While, at first, I was debating whether or not I could afford the game, seeing a lot of people on Youtube play it made me want to check it out for myself. Is Nintendo Switch Sports worth digging up the Joy-Con wrist straps for?
Nintendo Switch Sports introduces the player to the sports complex known as Spocco Square. In Spocco Square, players can visit the different venues to enjoy lovely sports such as Volleyball, Badminton, Bowling, Soccer, Chambara (Swordfighting), and Tennis. After the player makes their avatar (or uses the Mii if they choose), the game will introduce a tutorial on the player’s first time playing the sport in question. Once the player gets past the tutorial, it’s time to head online to compete with people worldwide.
Being a casual sports game, Nintendo Switch Sports doesn’t have a story to speak of outside of the loading screen tips that explain the history behind Spocco Square. I like that there is a little bit of lore in the different venues; it makes me feel like I’m on vacation to a sports island. Still, if the player is looking for an overarching plot, Nintendo Switch Sports fails to deliver on that front. Then again, I didn’t expect any explanation other than: “it’s a sports center, for sports!”
Speaking of Spocco Square, some of the arenas look pretty. Volleyball, for example, has this court surrounding it that has a library-esque section, a place for the other patrons to relax, and lovely-looking shrubberies that make the scenery stand out.
One significant addition to Nintendo Switch Sports is the unlockable customization options. When the players finish an online match, they will get points that award prizes. The prizes are randomized in a gacha-esque fashion. At the time of this writing, I want to point out that there is no way for the player to use real money to unlock these cosmetic options. While most of the options I unlocked already aren’t my style, I do like that there is a way to get more costumes for the in-game avatars, something Wii Sports didn’t have.
I will take a page out of my Kirby Super Star review here and give a mini-review for each sport included in Nintendo Switch Sports. I will also rank each sport based on my favorites.
At first glance, Volleyball looks like a simple game to play. While the movements are easy enough to understand, it became clear that positioning, timing, and teamwork are all crucial for victory. I like the easy-to-learn and hard-to-master approach since it keeps the barrier of entry low but adds just enough depth for the player to keep coming back to it to discover new strategies. The gameplay flow is a tad on the repetitive side since it does have the player make relatively the same motions to set up, block, and spike the ball. Overall, a solid sport that is worth coming back to from time to time. I rank it as my 4th favorite.
I have a bit of a bias when it comes to Badminton since I used to play a lot of it back in high school. It is my favorite sport to play in real life, so seeing it here is one of the reasons I got Nintendo Switch Sports. As for the game itself, while it lacks the visceral feeling of smashing the birdie into the other player’s field, it does a fine job of scratching that Badminton itch. While the motion controls are relatively accurate, the Joy-Cons tend to decalibrate quite often, potentially interfering with the intense gameplay. Fortunately, calibrating the Joy-Con is easy, and it is something I usually do when I notice the motion is off. Badminton is an excellent game that earns a spot as my 3rd favorite.
Bowling came as a shock to me. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wii Sports bowling since I found it overly simple, but somehow, Nintendo Switch Sports makes it one of the more entertaining games on the list. It might be because the motion controls are accurate enough that the player can add a sizeable spin to their throw, making tricky shots possible. The online mode where players need to place at a certain rank or face elimination is challenging but exciting. Earning spares and strikes are pivotal to winning. I am pleasantly surprised by Nintendo Switch Bowling, placing it as my 2nd favorite.
Soccer games can work if there is something fantastic about it (like the players have superpowers, or the players are rocket-powered cars). Nintendo Switch Sports Soccer does not fall into either of these categories. It feels slow-paced, and the motion controls for the game don’t make sense to me, especially since the game has the player use two Joy-Cons, leaving most of the buttons unused. That puts it as my least favorite game in Nintendo Switch Sports.
Chambara (Sword-Fighting) has players try to push the other out of the ring using one of three swords: the standard sword, the charge sword, and the twin swords. Players swing their sword(s) by swinging the Joy-Con vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Players can also block by holding the ZR or ZL button and positioning the Joy-Con perpendicularly to the opponent’s swing. Successfully blocking an opponent’s attack will stun them, giving the defending player a free hit.
Chambara is one of my go-to games in Nintendo Switch Sports. I’ve always been curious about motion controls with sword-fighting games. Chambara, in this regard, delivers. It does suffer from the same de-calibration issues that Badminton has. While it does make the player recalibrate the Joy-Con before every round, there are times when I swear I tilted the controller appropriately, only for the game to disagree. I would still place Chambara as my favorite since I tend to squeeze in a few rounds every time I play Nintendo Switch Sports.
Finally, we have an old Nintendo Sports classic, Tennis. At first glance, I thought that Nintendo Sports Tennis was much slower than its Wii predecessor until I played against someone online. The Joy-Con’s added motion functionality allows the player to slice the ball, add topspin, lob and drop the ball. What’s more, the game will register much more accurately how hard the player swings the Joy-Con. I tend to gravitate away from Tennis since, despite this version adding more nuance to the game, it still plays mostly like Wii Tennis. Therefore, I put it as my 5th favorite on the list.
While I did touch on this point a bit in a few of the games, the most prominent issue with Nintendo Switch Sports is its decalibrating motion controls. I often find myself having to regularly recalibrate the controller so that the moves register more accurately. I find the calibration issues odd since Ring Fit Adventure, a game that came out a few years ago, had very few problems when it came to registering motion (save for a few exercises).
While the games themselves might have more depth than previously thought, there are only six sports (so far) that can make the game feel a little shallow. Those who don’t care to learn the ins and outs of the game will probably run out of steam with Nintendo Switch Sports rather quickly.
The retail version of Nintendo Switch Sports is more expensive but comes with Ring Fit Adventure’s leg strap. Since I already had the leg strap, I decided to get the digital version, which was less expensive. I’m glad I got the digital version, as I have never used the leg strap so far. I know that Soccer uses the leg strap for its penalty kick game, but that hardly justifies the additional cost for an extra accessory one would barely use.
Nintendo Switch Sports is a fun experience. Barring the calibration issues and the lack of games currently, it offers a lot of casual fun when played with friends or online. The game is a little on the pricey side for what is now on offer, but the fact it is not full price makes it easier for me to recommend Nintendo Switch Sports.