When the original Wii Sports hit store shelves it was quite literally a cultural phenomenon. Folks who had never touched a video game in their lives were lining up to buy Nintendo’s iconic Wii console so they could experience the motion-controlled interactive gaming experience for themselves. Families were gathering around the TV for tennis tournaments and senior citizens were getting up and active for the first time in years to go bowling with their Miis. Now, Nintendo is ready to bring that same phenomenon to the Nintendo Switch with a polished new look and a few new games for fans to take for a spin. I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with Nintendo Switch Sports ahead of its launch and I think it’s safe to say that this collection is looking better than ever.
Most fans of the original Wii Sports should be familiar with the first three games included in Nintendo Switch Sports: Tennis, Bowling and Chanbara. Tennis is still a pretty straightforward affair. Players will move their characters left and right while doing their best to time their swings and aim their hits at the ball as they attempt to outscore their opponents. It’s not complex and it gets you right back in the swing of things, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Bowling is feeling better than ever and has a few new quality-of-life features such as the ability to have all the players run their frames simultaneously as opposed to having to wait for folks to take their turns. Players will also be able to adjust their avatars position to line up their shot as well as the angle of the throw line. The JoyCon controller even allows players to put some spin on the throw by putting a little twist in their motion as they wind up and pitch. Bowling felt pretty natural but I will say that it took me a few flubbed throws to remember to keep holding the trigger down through my full motion instead of releasing it, but I had it down well before I got through all ten frames.
Chanbara is still as fun as ever and probably the game that got my blood pumping the most. This Japanese sword battle felt almost like a game of rock paper scissors as I attempted to block my opponent’s attacks by tilting my sword to a position that didn’t match theirs while also firing back with swings of my own. I was even able to knock my opponent out of the combat ring and into the water waiting below in one round. Unfortunately, they were also able to win a round and lucky enough to win the draw in the third and final sudden death rounds. While I was only able to check out a match with a standard sword, the final version of Nintendo Switch Sports will also have a charged sword as well as a dual sword option which involves double fisting a pair of JoyCons in what's sure to be an intense battle.
Along with those three original games, Nintendo Switch Sports will also offer Soccer, Badminton and Volleyball. All three of these sports featured what I would consider more intricate or ambitious controls than their predecessors. Soccer in particular offered a variety of options for games. Along with a few options for actual matches, players can participate in a shoot-out, which involves putting the JoyCon in a leg strap that Ring Fit Adventure players should be familiar with. It should be noted that the physical version of Nintendo Switch Sports will come with a new leg strap, but digital copies will not. However, the straps are available separately and if you own a Ring Fit already it’s the exact same strap.
The shoot-out mode was all about timing a quick and easy kick into a goal that would get smaller and smaller as you scored. Miss a kick and the goal would get wider again. It started off pretty easy, but as the goal quickly became smaller it became apparent just how important the timing was. My kicks started going crazy wide because I was kicking either too early or late relative to the ball’s bounce. I could see players spending a lot of time trying to get that timing perfect.
The more traditional version of soccer I tried out involved me and an AI team chasing a giant ball around as we attempted to out score our opponent. Players will have a stamina meter for running around the field and attempting dive kicks. Players can also jump with a push of a button and aim their kicks high and low and at various angles using motion controls. As of right now there’s no leg strap functionality beyond the shoot-out, but the option to use it for kicking in regular soccer matches should be coming down the line at a later date.
Badminton is definitely an interesting choice to be added to the playable games roster. The game involved a lot of intense volleying and is all about waiting for that perfect moment to hit your opponent with a drop shot. It seems easy, but after a few poorly-timed swings you start to realize just how much it’s throwing you off, especially if you really flub it and end up lying on the ground after leaping for a return.
Volleyball is feeling like the game where the motion controls are really going to shine the most. It definitely had the most intricate range of motions for players to execute. Folks will have to serve, bump, set, spike, and block opponents shots in order to claim victory. Players won’t have to worry about running around the court, as all of that is automated, but they will have to be paying attention to on screen queues to time their various actions properly and get a perfect hit. This is another game that’s sure to get the blood pumping and getting a point off a spiked ball feels very satisfying.
Along with all the new and returning games, Nintendo Switch Sports also features new avatars in the form of Sportsmates. These new selectable and custom characters have a more refined look than the Miis that we’re all familiar with at this point, but players can still opt for their classic Mii look if that’s what they’re feeling. Along with all that there’s also online leaderboards and online play so folks can challenge their friends to both live games and for the best scores. For folks looking to take on random folks online, the game will do its best to match players up with opponents of their skill level. And if all that wasn’t enough, the game will be getting a free update later this year that will add Golf to the list of playable games.
A lot has changed when it comes to technology since the days of the Wii, and it looks like Nintendo is ready to capitalize on that fact with Nintendo Switch Sports. It’s taking some much beloved moments from that era and bringing them to a whole new generation of players and consoles. And if all that wasn’t enough, it’s easier to take on the go this time around thanks to the Switch’s portability. Will Nintendo Switch Sports have the same impact on the cultural zeitgeist that the series did back when it first launched? It’s hard to say, but if you enjoyed them then, you’re more than likely to still enjoy them now. And a fresh coat of paint and a few new sports to play definitely don’t hurt either. Folks won’t have to wait too long to try out Nintendo Switch Sports for themselves as the game is set to launch on the Nintendo Switch April 29. We’ll be ready to bump, set, and spike our final impressions when it does.