Nintendo Switch Sports review – Wii get nostalgic
Motion control classic Wii Sports is revamped for the Nintendo Switch, with three new sports and an extensive new online mode.
Wii Sports is Nintendo’s best-selling video game of all time. That’s largely because it was bundled with the console in the West, but considering most people were buying the Wii specifically to play the game its sales of almost 83 million are clearly no mere accident. Despite that success though it’s hard to find many people that would count themselves as fans of the game, in the same way as Nintendo’s other long-running franchises.
The Wii and, by association Wii Sports, saved Nintendo from the declining fortunes they’d be experiencing ever since the ‘90s but almost everything from the Wii era is slowly being forgotten and ignored. The entire ethos of the Switch and Wii consoles are almost polar opposites, with the newer console embracing Nintendo’s roots in traditional gaming as much as the Wii tried to move away from them, with non-games like Wii Music and Wii Fit.
The equivalent of Wii Fit on the Switch is the thoroughly gamified Ring Fit Adventure, and while the Switch does have motion controls they’re rarely used in the same intrusive way as on the Wii. All of which makes the idea of bringing Wii Sports back seem a little strange. It can never be a trendsetter again and there’s not really been enough time for nostalgia to be a major factor. Against such a backdrop Nintendo Switch Sports struggles to feel relevant but at least it’s still fun, in certain circumstances at least…
It’s hard to known exactly how to describe Nintendo Switch Sports. It’s more than a simple remaster or remake (Wii Sports Club on the Wii U is closer to being that) but not that much more. It’s not really being marketed as a sequel either, but if you want to apply a label that’s probably the most accurate one.
The idea is that the game contains three sports from the previous entries, namely tennis and bowling from Wii Sports and swordplay from Wii Sports Resort. These look and play similarly, but not identically, to the originals, while the soccer, volleyball, and badminton games are brand new. A version of golf, implied to be similar to the original Wii Sports, will be added later this year as free DLC.
Joy-Cons are the only control system available and work similarly to the original Wii Remotes, although a Joy-Con is more precise and consistent than even the Wii Remote Plus, which provides an immediate upgrade in terms of accuracy and realism. The returning games don’t take full advantage of that technological improvement but the new games do, with more complex and nuanced controls.
In general, Nintendo Switch Sports is more skill-based than any of its predecessors, so while you could previously win at Tennis merely by waggling the controller at roughly the right moment you now have to time your hits more carefully and angle the controller so that it mimics holding a real racquet. Your on-screen characters still move automatically though, so there are limits to the realism.
There’s still nothing much to Bowling but Swordplay, which is here referred to as Chambara, does have an interesting array of options, including the ability to use one or two swords at once. You hold the Joy-Con to your chest to guard and hack and slash to attack, but against the computer you have to be very cautious and considered in your movements. This makes the sport feel a lot more engaging than the random flailing that characterised the now absent Boxing game of the original.
Badminton is obviously similar to tennis but not as much as you’d think, with a wider range of moves that, surprisingly, make it the most physically strenuous of the games. It’s a welcome addition to the series but Volleyball is less successful, since it relies on more traditional, in a video game sense, pre-set moves that seem very much at odds with the rest of the package; this makes it hard to get into for those not already familiar with both the controls and the sport itself.
Soccer is also a questionable inclusion, as the need to use a second Joy-Con to control your movement means it’s the only game that can’t be played in multiplayer without having more controllers to hand. There’s also the intrinsic problem that while serious simulations of the other sports are now rare it’s hard to not keep comparing Soccer to FIFA, with the game occupying an awkward halfway position between a serious simulation and a knockabout arcade game.
This means that two out of the six games aren’t really that much fun, an issue that’s exacerbated by the bare bones single-player options. The training mode from Wii Sports, which consisted of a series of imaginative challenges and mini-games, has mysteriously disappeared and the only vestiges are things like Soccer’s penalty shootout mini-game, which uses the Ring Fit Adventure leg strap. (Using your leg to kick in the standard game is arriving as DLC.)
There’s no structure at all for playing on your own and yet there is if you’re online, which is the only way to unlock the game’s selection of cosmetics. The online mode only switched on a day ago, so we’ve had less time to experiment with it than the rest of the game’s options, but as well as ranked matches there’s also an extra 16-player elimination mode for Bowling.
Online works fine, at least pre-launch, but the most enjoyable part of Wii Sports is playing with other people in the same room and it really isn’t the same when you’re just staring at a screen, wishing Nintendo would embrace voice chat via something other than their mobile app.
It may feature some odd choices, and we’ve no idea why it’s been rushed out with so many missing options, but Nintendo Switch Sports isn’t a lazy cash grab. It’s a perfectly reasonable attempt to reimagine the original game for the modern world. The question is whether that attempt ever made sense in the first place.
All it really does is underline that Wii Sports is a product of its time and that whatever its true successor is, it’s probably going to be something very different. Nintendo Switch Sports can be a lot of fun, with the right people and the right games, but what improvements it boasts are mild and it’s telling that the most entertaining sports are still Tennis and Bowling, precisely because of their simplicity and old-fashioned charm.
Nintendo Switch Sports review summary
In Short: A muddled reimagining of the groundbreaking Wii Sports, with an unwarranted focus on online play and new game additions that are never as much fun as the originals.
Pros: The simple fun of Tennis and Bowling are as endearing and accessible as ever, and Swordfighting and Badminton are enjoyable too.
Cons: Two of the six games are not very good. The lack of single-player content is less than the original Wii Sports, with all the progression and unlockables tied to the online multiplayer.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: 29th April 2022
Age Rating: 7
*Physical version is £39.99
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