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Wii Sports launched back in November 2006 alongside the Wii console, and a new phenomenon was born. Here we are now two consoles later, and the Sports series continues on with Nintendo Switch Sports! There is much to love here for both the casual player and the elite gamer, and for what it’s worth, this is the best outing in the series yet. But don’t let that statement fool you. This is not a perfect experience, but it is a near-perfect casual experience.
So is Nintendo Switch Sports the shot in the arm the series needs? Or has the Sports series lost its game and needs to hit the showers? Let’s find out!
Since Nintendo Switch Sports is a collection of games, this review will split up each currently available sport as well as give an overall impression. Let’s start off with a classic: Bowling!
Bowling is back, and it is better than ever thanks to the excellent sensors in the JoyCon remotes. In local play, you can enjoy this sport with up to 4 players, and the nice addition to gameplay here is that you can choose to bowl one-at-a-time or all at the same time. Of course, in order to do the latter, every player needs their own JoyCon, but it makes bowling rounds go so much faster. Honestly, this is a much more enjoyable experience, as it eliminates the massive amount of down time. If needed, though, bowling can be played with one JoyCon and shared with up to 4 players.
But the real play is online. Bowling is the biggest sport for Nintendo Switch Sports online, as it supports up to 16 players. Interestingly, participation is split into 4 rounds where players are eliminated after every 3 frames. By the 10th frame, there are only 3 players left. This means that struggling players do not need to hang for the entire game, as getting eliminated early allows them to bow out and try another game.
Nintendo Switch Sports bowling also controls wonderfully. Throwing the ball straight has never been easier, and spinning the ball feels much more natural than versions prior, making this the best bowling on a Nintendo console to date.
Tennis and Badminton
I’m lumping tennis and badminton together, because they do play and control similarly despite their differences.
Tennis plays very much like previous iterations from past Sports titles, except this time you are not allowed to flail your racket around like a wild person. If you try to do so, you will either tire yourself and miss the opportunity to return, go out of bounds, or in the worst-case-scenario, return a poor shot indicated by a purple, wavy line that can be sent back at insane speeds hard to return. This all also applies to badminton.
What is baffling is that Nintendo Switch Sports tennis locally supports up to 4 players for a fun 2 v 2 experience. However, online is where things get sour, as competition is regulated to 2 players controlling their avatar and a clone in 2 v 2 matches. Considering how much fun the 4-player local matches are, I wonder why this was the decision for online tennis. This is disappointing, but thankfully the sport is still fun and controls great.
Badminton is only a 1 v 1 scenario, so the max player limit is 2 whether it is local or online. Badminton is a new addition to the franchise, and it is a lot of fun! It is basically a slower and more methodical version of tennis, as the shuttlecock does not travel nearly at the same speed as a tennis ball. You can return the shuttlecock normally, or you can hold the trigger button on the JoyCon to lob it short just over the net. This helps to mix things up and give you a little advantage as you look for your opponent to make a mistake.
Soccer is absolutely my favorite new sport in Nintendo Switch Sports! The experience is basically Rocket League with your Mii-like avatars. Unfortunately, the local experience pales in comparison to the online one, as local is limited to 2 players in either 1 v 1, 4 v 4 (Same team or opposing teams), Free Practice, and Shoot-Out. To get it out of the way, Shoot-Out is lame, as it is basically a timing exercise and nothing more. Not a lot of excitement or challenge. But the local 1 v 1 and 4 v 4 are loads of fun! Personally, I think the 1 v 1 is the best for local soccer, as it creates a pretty frantic time between you and a friend.
Online, however, is where things truly glow. Games are 4 v 4, and this is significantly better than the local experience as all players are real and not CPU. There is a lot of fun strategy, as you are able to kick in multiple directions (left, right, up, and down) with the waggle of the JoyCon as well as sprint (Measured by stamina) and jump. Throwing down both JoyCons results in a diving header, which is a powerful strike that also leaves you on the ground for a moment. There is great balancing here, and the inclusion of a random Golden Ball allows for some quick game-changing, as it is worth 2 goals if scored.
Of all the online sports in Nintendo Switch Sports, soccer is probably the one that will have the highest demand for now as it is genuinely the most entertaining and fun to play.
Chambara, by contrast, is probably the least entertaining of the Nintendo Switch Sports activities. It is not a bad addition, but matches are incredibly fast and the experience rarely differs, as action is simplified to attacking and blocking. You can even attack while the other person is blocking as long as your striking motion matches the positioning of their sword. There are also three different types of swords to choose from that offer their own advantages, but I will be honest, the Charged Sword is the best by a country mile as it rewards the player for blocking. Again, not a bad sport but not as exciting as the others.
Volleyball is another great new addition to the Sports series, and the fact that both local and online support 4-player 2 v 2 is wonderful! Teamwork is incredibly important, and timing is another factor that benefits the subsequent setup or return. As is the case for most activities in Nintendo Switch Sports, there is not a whole lot of freedom in volleyball, as your character automatically moves to its necessary position. You can, however, move slightly left and right when receiving to prepare yourself for difficult returns, but like tennis and badminton, a poor hit (Represented by that dreaded purple line) can mess things up tremendously.
The only major problem with volleyball is blocking, but thankfully there are workarounds. Your average casual player will only be so intelligent with their gameplay, though, so they will quickly go for a standard spike when the opportunity arises. However, blocking a standard spike is all about timing, and I found that most of the points that occur online are due to blocks, since the deflection is very difficult to reach most of the time. This makes blocking one of the most important aspects of volleyball in Nintendo Switch Sports, even though in real volleyball, blocking is crucial but not so crucial that it becomes the best offensive maneuver.
Nintendo Switch Sports
Nintendo Switch Sports is an excellent package overall, and although some sports shine brighter than others, there is very little to be disappointed in here. Well, except one more thing, unfortunately. You see, Nintendo Switch Sports has unlockables for your character, but they can only be unlocked via online play. For players that do not have a Nintendo Switch Online membership, this is a bummer, because there is absolutely no way to add new clothes, accessories, and more to your closet otherwise. It would have been better to have a means to unlock locally, albeit make it a bit more different and take longer to do so, but sadly that is not the case.
Each sport, though, offers a decent amount of variety, especially soccer and bowling which provide a little more on top of the standard gameplay. There are some strange omissions, like a lack of 4-player tennis online and 4-player splitscreen in local soccer. Hopefully those will be improved over time, but we can also look forward to golf as a free download in the future, meaning this lovely sports package is only going to get better.
Nintendo Switch Sports may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is one of Nintendo’s best attempts at online gameplay and it is some of the most fun I have had online in years. The lack of golf at launch is a bit of a disappoint, but what we currently have is absolutely worth the asking price. So get ready to have some sore arms and sweat when you invite Nintendo Switch Sports into your home! You will absolutely not regret it.
Nice mix of sports
Local and online options are varied
Easy menu navigation and UI
Adorable graphics and lovely soundtrack
Unlockables are subject to online play only
Lack of 4-player tennis online
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.