Motion controls return in style in the supremely satisfying Nintendo Switch Sports. Here’s our review…
It’s honestly a surprise that it’s taken five years into the hardware’s life before Nintendo finally decided to bring back its game-changing killer app from the Wii era. Naysayers may believe we’re over motion controls, but once a Joy-Con is in your hand and you’re swinging it like it’s a racquet, the simple joy of virtual sports comes back to the living room.
Just like it was the perfectly intuitive proof of concept for Wii Sports over 15 years ago, Tennis remains a classic, as does Bowling, the latter’s mechanics making one minor change in that you no longer have to take your finger off the trigger to release the bowling ball. Sword fighting also returns from sequel Wii Sports Resort, albeit renamed as Chambara (a Japanese term, often relating to samurai films, except here the loser gets knocked off into a pool of water rather than drowning in their own blood). The three other sports however are brand new, and just as compelling in their own ways.
Badminton is another racquet sport, but its long rallies make for more tense matches. Volleyball, meanwhile, follows a pattern where you bump, set, and spike the ball, which sounds overly simplistic but is made by the teamwork it relies on (in contrast to Tennis, which is always played as doubles, but a solo player controls both). The four-a-side Football takes obvious inspiration from Rocket League, although it feels the most traditional of the bunch since movement relies on normal controls, and kicks are simulated with your hands, meaning you may as well just play this while sitting down (you can technically do that for the other sports too, but they feel much more fun when you’re really immersing yourself in it).
What really elevates Nintendo Switch Sports beyond its predecessors is taking the experience online for potentially stiff but ultimately friendly competition, with the possibility of unlocking a ranked mode you can freely opt out of any time. There’s a very Nintendo approach to the way you might think of other live-service games, such as the way Bowling transforms into a kind of 16-player battle royale (including your first match so obviously against bots) but where you’ll still get a decent number of points even if you get knocked out in the first round. Points at the end of each sport, with bonuses for achievements like playing into deuces or getting a long rally, go towards giving you the opportunity to unlock a random cosmetic, but unlike loot boxes, you can definitely unlock everything in that time-limited collection, and there’s not a single microtransaction in sight. The one downside is the offline experience’s bare-bones nature, but it’s still a winner whenever you want to indulge in casual party games.
It may not be as revelatory as the original Wii Sports, but you can imagine this becoming a hot holiday console bundle that gets everyone back into the swing of things. Just make sure for your TV’s sake that you’re using the wrist straps.
The new-look avatars may not be as customisable as the importable Miis, though more cosmetics do become available as you play online, and they fit right in with Spocco Square. As a facility packed with wonderful details such as trendy stores and a red bus that shows up every 15 minutes, it’s a shame it’s not its own explorable hub.