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Nintendo Switch Sports review: A nostalgia-filled return with some new twists

Slice, spike and bowl your way to victory in the latest game compilation

<p>Play football in four vs four matches </p>

Play football in four vs four matches

The success of Wii Sports was a crosspoint moment for Nintendo that seamlessly weaved its way into the fabric of everyone’s living room back in 2007.

By combining the familiarity of low-impact sports with (then) novel motion controls, it captured the collective imagination of people of all ages, who were able to pick up a Wii-remote and swing it like a racket or golf club instinctively with very little instruction.

Nintendo followed this success up with Wii Sports Resort and its updated motion controllers. The new Wii MotionPlus accessory gave players access to a number of new games that overcame the limitations of the initial hardware, allowing us to experience new sports like archery and table tennis with a greater degree of accuracy.

Both titles did extremely well during the console’s lifespan. While the original Wii Sports success could easily be attributed to the game’s inclusion with every console sold – a whopping total of 82 million units, no less – the game’s success goes well beyond that. But the fact that the sequel,Wii Sports Resort managed to shift over 33 million units – making it the Wii’s third bestselling title – shows that there was still an appetite for family-friendly sporting games.

So with Nintendo Switch Sports, will that still be the case? The Nintendo Switch has now outsold its Wii predecessor and the hardware of Nintendo’s joy-con controllers has vastly improved the motion-controlled experience. And while the list of available sports games has been updated yet again, it’s the familiarity of the classics that really shine through.

How we tested

We played all six of the sports available in one and two-player configurations against (and with) computer-controlled Sports mates. The online component of the game was unavailable at the time of review, so our experience of the game is based on a local multiplayer and single-player experience of the game. Here’s what we make of it.

‘Nintendo Switch Sports’: £30.99, Nintendo.co.uk

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Consoles: Nintendo Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Release date: 29 April 2022
  • Age rating: 7+

Presentation

Part of Nintendo Switch Sports’s charm is its simplicty. Game options are presented in a pristine sports facility known as “Spocco Square” that resembles an Olympic village but like other Sports titles, acts simply as a backdrop to the real gameplay.

One of six games are simply chosen from a menu with different configurations depending on the number of active players and their access to controllers. The majority of games only require one joy-con per player but others, such as football and a variation of chambara, will require two per player – this is something worth considering if you only possess the controllers that came with the console.

Sports mates, which replace the original Miis, are a stylistically uniform but improved avatar for players to customise, with a range of looks and equipment. Refreshingly, the Sports mates are non-gendered which is a welcome change and will allow players more control over their Switch Sports identity online and locally. Miis can also be imported but the limitations for cosmetic upgrades will likely dissaude some users from adopting an avatar format that is reaching 15 years.

Players can customise their avatars with items unlocked online

Unfortunately, as unlockable customisation features can only be attained in online games, we didn’t get to experience the full breadth of items that players can wear/play with. However, the initial options available meant that we were able to create a simple avatar. It should also be mentioned that the options available didn’t have any bearing on gameplay and appear to be simply cosmetic.

Gameplay

The initial package of Nintendo Switch Sports comes with six games included: Volleyball, tennis, badminton, football, chambara and, of course, bowling.

Bowling and tennis both make a return from Wii Sports, while the swordplay of Chambara makes its way over from Wii Sports Resort.All of which capture the essence of what makes them essential to this updated package.

There’s a notable improvement in the tennis gameplay over the original Wii Sports title, with a better sense of timing and control over the ball. Successfully performing topspins, drop shots and creating openings can lead to some satisfying rallies with careful strategising. Shots are also better telegraphed with audio and visual cues for an easy strike which gives both sides a chance to take advantage of an easy shot or receive something quite nasty on the return.

Tennis requires more precision than it did on the Wii

Bowling also leans into more familiar territory, with a simple follow-through needed to get the speed just right, as well as giving the ball enough spin for a simple strike. Unlike Wii Sports, the trigger remains held down so bowling is less about the timing of the release but the timing of the throw as players move towards the foul line. Challenges also return, presenting players with enough obstacles to work on their spin, timing and speed to navigate towards the pins.

Chambara comes with three configurations of swords for each player to choose from. The standard sword works as a two-handed weapon with plenty of pushback, while the charge sword has a weaker attack power but once a player blocks enough strikes can unleash a powerful counter. Finally there’s dual swords (which requires two joy-cons) and gives players two smaller swords that can be used in each hand to block and attack.

As two players go head-to-head, attacks have to be blocked perpendicular to the oncoming strike in order to stagger the enemy and push them towards a platform edge. Where swordplay stumbles is on the registration of hand movements, that don’t always correctly align with the player’s intended motion. Anyone familiar with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword’s finicky sword controls on the Wii will know the feeling.

Use your lofty sword skills to knock your opponent off a Total Wipeout-style stage

Badminton, as a one vs one sport, is much faster-paced than its racquet counterpart and while not as precise can lead to some interesting rallies.

Like tennis, timing is important and flubbed swings can cause strong counters but players are also more prone to poor court placement, which can be agitated by alternating long hits and short lobs. If players over anticipate a swing from a distance it can cause them to fall on their face and leave them exposed to an easy point. It’s one of the stronger offerings in the package if not for its simplicity.

Volleyball has a different approach with a more complex system of combos and ball strikes but is arguably the highlight of the package.

As a two vs two mode, players can dig, set and spike a ball towards an opponent or block it on the receive and players are rewarded for successive hits with combos that can increase power and speed. It’s varied movesets can make for quick and engaging games that also require good coordination and teamwork.

Use teamwork to set and spike the ball

Football is another highlight with larger game modes on an open pitch – but it might not be for everyone. Requiring two controllers, it will come naturally to anyone familiar with more traditional videogames but might not be as universally intuitive for older or younger players as it requires a greater degree of manual input.

However, it does still use motion controls, with different swings used to kick the ball in different directions. The most obvious comparisons will be with the popular free-to-play game Rocket League, due to its oversized footballs and goals.

Players can use stamina to sprint around the pitch to attack and defend as well as perform headers, bicycle kicks and more. Games only last a few minutes but goals can be scored in quick succession and occasionally a golden ball will appear which gives players double points, giving them a chance to catch up to the rival team.

A penalty shootout mode is also available but the requirement of another Switch peripheral, the leg strap, may mean some players will miss a chance to play this. It’s fairly simple, with carefully timed leg swings used to try and score a goal that gradually gets narrower with each successive goal. It isn’t the most engaging minigame but the novelty can still be appreciated, if only for a short time.

The verdict: ‘Nintendo Switch Sports’

Nintendo Switch Sports is a strong continuation of a tried and tested formula that will find near-universal appeal with anybody who remembers the glory days of the Nintendo Wii, or even younger audiences who will wonder what all the fuss was about 15 years ago.

Playing the tennis and bowling game modes don’t exactly bring anything particularly new to the table, but it’s hard not to let muscle memory kick in after an extended period away. Volleyball and badminton also make for a grand entrance that are suitable additions to a bag filled with varied game modes.

With the promise of even more gameplay being added at a later date, such as leg-strap support for standard football matches and golf coming later in the year, it’s certainly worth investing the time to work on your backhand and dust off the old skills.

If you are hoping to enjoy the full suite of games on offer, then the leg-strap will be required and luckily, plenty of physical copies will include the peripheral (£39.99, Nintendo.co.uk).

‘Nintendo Switch Sports'

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