The review embargo for Nintendo Switch Sports has lifted ahead of its April 29 launch, and critics’ impression is that the sports game is a spiritual return to Nintendo’s remote-waggling classic Wii Sports. Its predecessor was a cultural phenomenon, so the Switch version has massive shoes to fill. Is it more satisfying to play? Well, sort of, critics say.
Nintendo Switch Sports is a party game that can be played solo or by up to four people at a time. There are six individual mini-games in total—badminton, volleyball, soccer, tennis, bowling, and sword fighting. Many reviews attempted to score each individual mini-game, while others only discussed their favorites.
Reviewers noted that the game was able to take advantage of the Switch’s motion control capabilities while retaining approachability, but didn’t have real depth of gameplay. However, this didn’t dull many players’ enthusiasm for demolishing their friends in digital tennis matches. It turns out, Nintendo Switch Sports just didn’t need a ton of bells and whistles to capture the appeal of playing with friends and family who don’t have a lot of gaming experience. Being able to physically compete with people in real life helped smooth over some of the reviewers’ frustrations about the simple gameplay.
As well-reviewed as Switch Sports is, the mini-games seem uneven in their appeal. Reviewers noted that the soccer and volleyball events somewhat missed the mark. Soccer felt “undercooked” and unsatisfying. Volleyball was the “least intuitive,” and required players to cycle through all the different positions. Reviewers were not able to access the online mode ahead of launch, so some outlets decided to hold their reviews until Nintendo turns it on. That being so, here’s how the current, offline-only review landscape looks:
Nintendo Switch Sports, like Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort before it, is best played as a party game, broken out for any gathering that needs a quick injection of goofy, active fun. While its sparse mixture of old and new sports varies in quality, Switch Sports largely sticks the landing on what made its predecessors memorable: intuitive motion controls, the ability to effortlessly get a group of people up and moving, and some killer menu music that’s liable to get stuck in your head all day. Just don’t expect to spend a whole lot of time with it before the novelty wears off.
This game is a blast with other people, whether they love video games or, like my spouse, have no interest whatsoever. It captures that feeling of the Wii at its best: that you could pretend to be a great tennis player in your living room, and the motion controls would make you feel like you actually were. Are the motion controls as precise as the Wii Motion Plus? I don’t think so. A handful of times the game didn’t register my immaculate bowling motion, prompting me to try again. Still, I don’t think 99% of the people who play this game will think about that slight loss of precision when they’re spiking a volleyball into their friend’s face.
Nintendo Switch Sports is, at its core, the same as Wii Sports was all those years ago: a game in which you swing your arms around and reenact a sport. If you’re a Wii Sports (and Wii Sports Resort) veteran, the feeling of tennis, bowling, or chambara (sword fighting) will be second nature. Even with the addition of new sports like volleyball and soccer, there’s very little innovation in what Switch Sports attempts to do, and I think that’s a good thing. The game doesn’t feel like it’s trying to revitalize a trend. Instead, it recaptures the simplicity of the original and, in doing so, rekindles the same magic. It’s straightforward, unadulterated, and, above all, approachable.
Nintendo Switch Sports feels like it’s come a bit too late. Wii Sports was a launch title and solidified that the Wii was the motion control console. And while the Switch has some of that DNA, it feels like games designed to take advantage of that control scheme are afterthoughts. I enjoyed Nintendo Switch Sports—it’s a neat little game that’ll be a hit with kids, but it feels like something designed to remind people the Switch has motion controls that are actually pretty good.
Six sports may not sound like much on paper. (Seven if you count golf, which is on the way.) But actually, even without the online stuff, which promises wild ideas like 16-player simultaneous bowling, Nintendo Switch Sports is a delightful thing and has kept me busy all week. The setting is wonderful—a dreamy sports campus caught in an eternal spring morning—and the new Sportsmates avatars are surprisingly charming. (You can bring in Miis, which look a bit weird to be honest, and it’s going to be interesting to see what the unlockable customisation items that you earn online are like, since the offline starter options are pretty threadbare.)
Critics’ reviews have floated at around a 7/10, though it’s unknown how much the forthcoming online multiplayer features will change that. Hopefully, it’s the party-making sports experience people have been craving from the series since Wii Sports first hurtled into the mainstream 16 years ago.
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