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Nintendo Switch Sports hands-on preview: A nostalgic follow-up with great promise

We got a chance to play all the new games in the spiritual successor to ‘Wii Sports’

Jasper Pickering
Monday 11 April 2022 14:00
<p>Six game modes will be available locally and online</p>

Six game modes will be available locally and online

Wii Sports was nothing short of a phenomenon when it was first released as a launch title for the Nintendo Wii back in 2006. It was the perfect tech demonstration for Nintendo’s, then novel, motion controls that simulated the feel and motion of swinging a tennis racket or rolling a bowling ball.

Now, the Nintendo Switch has much more sophisticated hardware in a compact form factor thanks to its more ergonomic joy-con controllers. With “HD rumble”, gyroscopic motion and an accelerometer built in, the potential for a worthy Wii Sports successor seemed obvious. And a follow-up is now on the way with Nintendo Switch Sports.

Announced in a Nintendo Direct, the familiar gameplay of tennis and bowling are making a welcome return with notable improvements. And the number of different game modes has been broadened to accommodate some of the console’s new features.

An updated appearance also replaces the traditional Mii characters that have been commonly used across multiple Nintendo titles, which are now referred to as “Sports mates” in this game. The new avatars appear more detailed than their Mii counterparts with customisable appearances and outfits but Miis can still be imported into the game, just with less customisable options.

In a hands-on preview event, The Independent were invited to play all of the new game modes on offer with local multiplayer. To find out more details about the new features in Nintendo Switch Sports,then keep reading the rest of the article below.

Overview and customisation

Nintendo Switch Sports: Overview trailer

The new setting for Nintendo Switch Sports is Spocco Square, a modern sporting facility that plays host to the six games on offer. Much like Wuhu Island for Wii Sports Resort, the area acts as a hub to decide which sport to play before acting as the idyllic backdrop for each.

With Sports mates, Nintendo has made a conscious decision to slow down the ubiquity of Mii characters across titles such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxeand Miitopia. While the option to import them into the game are still available they clearly aren’t the favoured choice for customisation, with limited facial expressions and assets available for them.

Sports mates can be customised with different hairstyles, outfits and facial expressions with the promise of points scored during ranked matches being used to redeem new accessories. During our demo, these customisation were fairly basic but a number of different sporting outfits, trainers and facial features were already available to choose from.

Volleyball

Bump, set and spike your way to victory

One of the most noteworthy additions to the list of new game modes is volleyball, which makes excellent use of the joy-con controls, with precision movements needed to replicate the basic fundamentals of the sport: Bumping, setting, spiking and blocking.

Volleyball can be played in a two vs two formation with up to four players. In our preview session, two players faced off against a team of AI opponents in a seven-point game, with a two-point lead required to win. The act of serving requires an upward swing of the controller with a well-timed downward return telegraphed by an action prompt from the serving Sport mate.

Serving too early or too late can affect the ball’s path and give opponents ample opportunity to set and spike the ball for an easy point. Bumping also replicates the motion with interlocked arms pushing upwards to prevent the ball from touching the ground before setting.

Read more: 13 best Nintendo Switch games for every kind of player, from Mario Kart 8 to Breath of the Wild

Like real volleyball, one side can touch the ball up to three times before sending it back over the net, and working as a team of two requires one player to set the ball and the other to jump up and spike it. Setting is as simple as pushing your arms upwards to launch the ball in the air, with the other teammate jumping up and bringing the ball down with enough speed before the opposing players can react quickly enough.

Using the three-touch rule, teams can set up a combo modifier and if followed through correctly and with enough variety of moves, can increase the speed of the ball, making it even more difficult to return.

Receiving players can also block spikes by timing jumps shortly after their opponent hits the ball. Team placement has a big impact and while Sports mates will mark their opposing players, jumping too early will offset their position and cause the ball to pass by unchallenged.

Badminton

Utilise drop shots to offset your opponent

Badmington is another addition to the Switch Sports catalogue that wasn’t available in Wii Sports or Wii Sports Resort. As another racquet sport, it plays much like tennis but at a much faster pace. Like with the volleyball mode, a seven-point game was played with one player on each side of the court.

Anyone familiar with the swinging mechanics of the tennis game mode will find badminton familiar with some subtle, but important, differences. The nature of a shuttlecock’s drag and travel when hit means swings are fast and frequent with a higher chance for sustained rallies. By holding down the trigger, players can perform a drop shot to bring the shuttlecock as close to the net as possible, creating enough space behind opposing players to throw them off their game.

During one contested point, a way-too-early swing caused our Sport mate to dive headfirst across the court and lie facedown in defeat as the shuttlecock gently fluttered back over. The humiliation was worsened by the unflattering action replay and slow zoom in.

Football

Play four vs four or one vs one matches

With large goals and oversized balls, the comparisons to Rocket League (Free, Playstation.com) are inevitable. But Switch Sports brings enough balance and new ideas to make this game mode feel fresh.

Football requires two controllers to play with the analogue stick used to move players around the pitch and swings used to kick the ball in different directions. In our play-through, we played a four vs four game with two players on the same team and the rest of the roster populated by AI teammates and opponents.

Players can pass the ball to each other or kick the ball up and down the field over great distances. A stamina meter depletes when players sprint towards the ball and slowly replenishes over time when moving at a standard pace. Hilariously, headers can be performed by swinging both joy-cons in a downwards motion, causing the Sport mate to dive headfirst with their arms at their side before eating a mouthful of freshly cut grass. It’s wonderfully chaotic.

Every so often, the football can be replaced by a golden ball which, if scored, nets the scoring team three points instead of one, meaning that if one team is dominating, it’s a good chance to level out the playing field.

Penalty shootout

The one game mode on Nintendo Switch Sports that requires a leg strap, much like the one that came bundled with Ring Fit Adventure (£54.99, Johnlewis.com), plays more like an additional mini-game than the other modes.

Footballs are kicked from the opposing corner and by using a kicking motion with your legs, players must time the receive to kick the ball on-goal. There’s no keeper to block incoming shots but with each successive point scored, the goal becomes narrower making shots more difficult to complete. It’s a nice addition along with the current football offering but the necessity for another Switch accessory may not be to everyone’s taste if they are buying the game as a standalone.

Chambara

Try and push opponents off of a raised platform

Making its way over from Wii Sports Resort, chambara is a combat sport between two fighters wielding foam swords. Opposing players stand on an elevated platform above a pool of water and must attempt to push the opposing player off the platform, Total Wipeout style.

There are three different options for weapons, a standard sword, charge sword and dual wielding swords. On our play-through, a standard sword was used by each opponent. The joy-con’s gyroscopic controls were able to accurately follow the motion of blocks and sword strikes in quick succession and successful blocks would cause players to stagger back.

Charge swords can increase attack power by successfully blocking incoming strikes and as you might expect, dual wielding requires two joy-con controllers. It’s a rewarding back-and-forth with moves requiring mediation without wild swinging and shows how far motion controls have come since the days of the original Nintendo Wii.

Tennis and bowling

Two classics are making a return from the original Wii Sports. Not much can be said about these two game modes but in the best possible way, these modes are spiritually identical to their respective predecessors.

Read more: Are the new tracks that come with the Mario Kart 8 Booster Course Pass worth the price?

Doubles tennis feels intuitive with improved gyroscopic controls having a bigger impact on lobs, topspins and backspins by twisting the controller during swings. We experienced tennis matches taking place on a hardcourt but as evident in gameplay videos, other court types such as grass and clay are also available, which are likely to have an impact on ball behaviour.

Bowling is also similar with only a few notable differences. A challenge mode makes a return where lanes are lined with obstacles that require trick shots to overcome but a standard ten frames are also playable. Rather than releasing the trigger during bowling like in Wii Sports it remains held down, similar to Nintendo’s more recent 51 Worldwide Games (£26.99, Amazon.co.uk).It also appears that bowling balls cannot be thrown into the gallery to the terrified screams of onlookers jumping out of their chairs.

‘Nintendo Switch Sports’ release date and how to pre-order

Nintendo Switch Sports will be available 29 April 2022 on Switch consoles. Motion controls are required to play, meaning it will not be compatible with the Nintendo Switch lite.

The game is currently available to pre-order through the Nintendo website (£39.99, Nintendo.co.uk), Amazon (£35.95, Amazon.co.uk), and Game (£39.99, Game.co.uk).

Bundles from Very (£37.99, Very.co.uk) and ShopTo (£34.85, Shopto.net) also come with a free wristband as well as the leg strap required to play penalty shootouts.

Voucher codes

If you’re looking for discounts on technology or videogames then try one of these codes:

Looking to get your hands on the latest Nintendo console? These are the best deals on the Switch this month

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