Hands-On: Nintendo Switch Sports’ newest addition is a surprise hit
One of the new sports could prove to be a surprisingly popular addition, while there’s also a pleasing amount of depth on offer
With over 82 million copies sold in its lifetime, the surprise isn’t that Wii Sports is being reimagined for the Switch, but that it’s taken so long to happen.
‘Reimagined’ is the appropriate word, too: while the Wii U port of Wii Sports was very much an HD remaster in nature, Nintendo Switch Sports is more of a modernised take on the Wii original.
Of the six sports available, two of them (tennis and bowling) featured in the original Wii Sports, while another (‘chambara’ swordplay) was in its sequel Wii Sports Resort. The other three sports on offer, however, are completely new to this instalment.
We went hands-on with the game for a brief period in advance of us spending more time with it for a proper review, but while our initial session was relatively short we came away itching to play more of one sport in particular, and for a reason that may prove surprising.
Nintendo Switch Sports - Overview trailer
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The returning sports seem to play about the same as before. We haven’t spent enough time with them yet to properly study if there are any new modes, features or changes to their mechanics, but anyone familiar with tennis, bowling or chambara should know what to expect there already.
The only notable difference we’ve noticed so far is that bowling now requires players to continue to hold the trigger button for the entire throwing motion, rather than letting go to release the ball. Presumably viral videos during the Wii era of people throwing their Wii Remotes through their TV got Nintendo a bit worried about it potentially happening again.
For this preview, then, we’ll focus mainly on the three new sports, with our full review later in the month covering all six in more detail. The first of the new sports is badminton, which plays similarly to tennis but has more of a focus on forcing your opponent forwards and backwards (as in real life).
Much like tennis, player movement is automatic in badminton, but strokes are more accurate. Players can swing upwards to play lobs, downwards to play smashes and hold a button to play drop shots to the net. The best strategy, then, is to continually try to trick the player by making them rush to the net, and then lobbing the shuttlecock over them if they reach it.
At first glance, badminton doesn’t appear massively different from tennis, other than the fact that it’s more fast-paced and the swinging controls are seemingly more accurate. Again, though, we’ll need to spend a bit longer with it to study its minutiae in more detail.
The second new sport is volleyball, which is a four-player affair. Players swing the Joy-Con to perform the three separate volleyball moves (pass, set and spike), and if you can pull off two or three of these in a sequence with perfect timing you’ll trigger a combo which makes your spike more powerful.
Unlike in tennis and badminton, you do actually get to move your player to an extent here. When your opponent has the ball, the player on your team who’s at the net can move left or right to try and get in the way of them so they can jump up and block the spike.
It’s the final sport, football, that took us most by surprise, however. There’s a penalty shoot-out mode where the player straps a Joy-Con to their leg with the strap from Ring Fit Adventure, and has to volley balls that are chipped over to them in an attempt to score goals and beat an opponent in typical five-shot shootout rules.
But it’s the main team mode, however, that really had us impressed and left us eager to play more of it. This mode consists of 4v4 matches and – and we appreciate this may be a little hard to believe – feels like an on-foot version of Rocket League.
“We appreciate this may be a little hard to believe [but football] feels like an on-foot version of Rocket League.”
It’s also the sport that will prove most difficult for ‘casual’ players – the less experienced types who flocked to Wii Sports for its tennis and bowling gameplay, but who would potentially be put off by more conventional games aimed at experienced players.
In football, kicks are controlled by waving the Joy-Con, players are moved with the left stick while the right stick rotates the camera (in the style of your typical third-person adventure game), meaning right away it’s clear this mode is designed with more experienced players with a higher level of general video game ability in mind.
Kicking the ball involves swinging the Joy-Con, and is nice and accurate. Swiping upwards lobs the ball, swiping down hits a low driven kick, and swiping to the side kicks it in those directions.
Swinging both Joy-Cons downwards also executes a diving header, which is the Switch Sports equivalent of a jumping turbo boost in Rocket League. We appreciate it sounds like these Rocket League references are just being shoehorned in but we really can’t stress enough how similar it looks and feels.
The ball is massive and floats like a big balloon just like it does in Rocket League. The pitch is surrounded by a giant wall so you can rebound the ball off it. The enormous goals even trigger explosion effects when you score into them, and you can unlock different explosion styles.
What’s more, the fact that football (like all other sports in the game) can be played online against others means it has the potential to be a real secret weapon in the Switch’s online library if it takes off. We genuinely love what we played of football so far and can’t wait to see the strategies people come up with.
After just a few minutes we managed to set up a ‘chip and diving header’ combo with our co-op partner, and also managed to block a shot on goal by performing a diving header across the goal line, so there’s potential for massively satisfying moments here.
As previously noted, our time with Switch Sports has been fairly brief so far, and we still need to spend a lot more time going through each sport’s modes, seeing what’s new and figuring out what we do and don’t like about it.
At this stage, however, the combination of online play, the dark horse that is football and the fact that players will be able to regularly unlock costumes for their character by playing online makes it clear that Switch Sports likely has more depth than its predecessors.
The proof will be in the playing of the final version, of course, but so far Switch Sports may not only be a entertaining successor to those who enjoy the previous Wii Sports games, but with football it also has the potential to find a new audience of players who were put off by Wii Sports’ simplicity and craved something more in-depth.