Earlier this year it was revealed that the Switch had overtaken the Wii in terms of total sales, making it the company’s best selling home console ever.
One of the driving factors behind Wii’s success was the global appeal of Wii Sports, one of the most influential, accessible and inclusive launch games for any console.
At the time of writing this review, Nintendo has still yet to turn on the online servers for Switch Sports, meaning our time with the game has been offline-only.
Nintendo Switch Sports review in progress | VGC
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This wouldn’t necessarily have been an issue with previous Wii Sports games, but because the offline component of Switch Sports is probably the least feature-packed of any game in the series, we really do have to wait until we can test the online modes before we can deliver a definitive verdict on this one.
For now, we can at least take a look at the six sports on offer as local-only experiences.
The first is volleyball, which can be played by 1-4 players and is a strictly doubles affair. The aim here is to get the timing right when performing the pass, set and spike moves, all of which are done by flicking the Joy-Con. If you can time two or three of them well, it’ll increase the power of the spike.
Of the three net-based sports in the game, this is the only one where you have some degree of control over your character. If you’re defending at the net you can move left and right before jumping up to try and block a spike.
Volleyball is one of the weaker sports in the game. Once you get the timing down right there isn’t really much more to it, and you don’t really feel like you have much control over your spike.
Badminton fares a little better, if only because there’s a more obvious feeling that you have a degree of control over your strokes. You have no control over your player in these 1v1 matches, and the only moves you really have available to you are lobs to the back of the court, drop shots to the front and smashes.
Playing this one well involves mixing up lobs and drop shots in an attempt to make your opponent stumble (which happens if you swing too early or late). This opens them up for an easy smash.
Although badminton’s controls are generally satisfying, there are occasions where you may need to quickly swing and the game doesn’t pick it up well, meaning you just don’t swing at all and lose the point. It can be a frustrating affair, especially against the AI on the hardest difficulty. Like every sport in the compilation, though, things are obviously improved when you’re playing against another human.
“Because the offline component of Switch Sports is probably the least feature-packed of any game in the series, we really do have to wait until we can test the online modes before we can deliver a definitive verdict on this one.”
The only real exception to this is the third sport, bowling, which is perfectly enjoyable as a solo affair. It plays much the same as it did back in the Wii days, except now you don’t let go of the trigger button to throw the ball (presumably to avoid reports of accidentally thrown Joy-Cons).
As well as the option to play a standard 10-frame game, there’s also a mode called Special, which has three difficulty levels and places various hazards on the lane. Sometimes you’ll have to deal with bollards rising and falling, sometimes there will be spinning barriers on the lane, and sometimes the whole lane will have a large dip in it.
This is a great mode, and makes for some entertaining multiplayer games where a badly-timed throw can see even a skilled player’s ball hitting off an obstacle and landing in the gutter.
Next up is tennis, which is one of the main sports that kicked off the Wii Sports craze in the first place. Nintendo has adopted an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” policy with this one so, as was the case 16 years ago, matches are doubles-only and players can’t control movement, only their swings.
It feels like it plays a little slower than the Wii Sports version, but other than that it’s pretty much business as usual and anyone who got a kick out of the original back in the day will feel right at home with this new version.
Chambara is the fifth sport, and is similar to the Swordplay event in Wii Sports Resort (specifically the Duel mode in that). Players can choose to use a single sword, try out a special chargeable sword or dual-wield two at once, with the aim being to knock the opponent off a large platform.
In theory the idea is that swipes can be blocked by holding the sword perpendicular to the attack. If your opponent tries a downward swipe, then, you can block it by holding the sword horizontally. In practice, though, this is Switch Sports’ equivalent of the boxing game in Wii Sports in that strategy goes out the window right away, with both players flailing around like maniacs until someone wins.
The package is rounded off with football, which is easily the biggest surprise and most entertaining sport, at least for experienced video game players. The shootout mode which uses the Ring Fit Adventure leg strap is fairly throwaway – the main event here is the fantastic 4v4 mode, which locally can only be played by 1-2 players with AI bots making up the rest of the numbers.
“As it stands, with no online, the game is woefully lacking in features. Volleyball and badminton are the first to five points, and that’s it. Tennis is one, three or five games, like it was in Wii Sports.”
In our previous hands-on preview, we said our initial reaction to football was that it’s basically Rocket League on foot, and having spent much longer with it, we can confirm that’s absolutely the case. It’s a giant floaty ball in an arena with walls and a huge exploding goal, where massive mid-air strikes are the order of the day. It’s Rocket League.
It does take some getting used to, however, because shots aren’t performed by simply ploughing into the ball, but by swinging the Joy-Con, with the direction of the swing determining where it goes.
It soon becomes clear that this isn’t exactly the most accurate way of doing things, but it does add a bit of anarchy of proceedings when apparent open goals aren’t always a done deal. We can’t wait to try football out online with a full eight-player game, and that’s exactly why our review of Switch Sports is incomplete.
As it stands, with no online, the game is woefully lacking in features. Volleyball and badminton are the first to five points, and that’s it. Tennis is one, three or five games, like it was in Wii Sports.
It’s even more lacking for solo players. Wii Sports had a progression system in which AI opponents got increasingly more difficult as players got better at each sport. That isn’t available here – you choose one of three difficulties and that’s it.
It doesn’t even have the fun training mini-games that were on the Wii, where you could practice your tennis skills by trying to hit targets, or try to bowl over a massive 91 pins with one throw. There are no medals to earn, no special achievements to unlock, nothing like that. Just six sports, in barebones fashion.
That’s not to say there isn’t some sort of progress to be made here, it just appears to all be online. Your character can technically be customised, but there’s only one outfit to choose from in a variety of colours. There are separate menus for hats, glasses and what appears to be facemasks, but they’re all empty. As far as we can tell, these are all unlocked by playing online.
If you weren’t planning to play Switch Sports online, you may want to slap a three-star rating on this (or maybe even two if you’re playing alone and football doesn’t appeal). It’s slightly absurd that – offline at least – the game offers even less than the original Wii Sports did (and Wii Sports Resort, the best in the series, blows it out of the water).
It’s clear, however, that the online play at least promises some degree of progression and variety. For that reason, we’re holding fire until we can see how much depth there is online before delivering our final verdict.
At this stage, Switch Sports feels like an unambitious re-tread of a 16-year-old game with very little in the way of options. All eyes are now on the online modes when they go up, to see if they breathe new life into it.
- Football is an absolute winner
- The new 'Special' bowling mode is great fun
- Still a good laugh with friends
- Volleyball is a bore
- Complete lack of any meaningful options for each sport
- Seemingly no offline player progression at all