Nintendo Switch Sports Switch Review

I don’t know of a single friend of mine in the UK whose family didn’t own a Wii. And I mean ‘whose family didn’t own’ seriously. This wasn’t something kids were saving their newspaper round money to get, it was a product aimed mostly at parents as a way to bring everyone together. A Christmas gift for all, not just a toy for the kids. Didn’t matter if you were a ’gamer’ or not, everyone wanted a go on those sweet primitive motion controls. It was an epidemic! Nintendo really did it – they created an experience that brought whole families into the living room to play together. There were even family tournaments and cross-family rivalries. The only fair way to describe it would be ‘generation defining’. It took the world by storm and truly embodied the name ‘Wii’ (as a spin on ‘we’, obviously) perfectly. And although I don’t know of any families that didn’t have a Wii, I do know several that never owned a single other Wii game outside of Wii Sports, which came free with every console.

Well, it’s sixteen years later (I think I just fainted briefly checking that date) and the world is now split into two; those that have never even seen a Wii but are old enough to have their own family, and those of us with with great memories of inviting all of their mates around for a Wii Sports bowling party. Will Nintendo manage to recapture that lightning in a bottle for a new audience, or even just pull in their older fans with a generous serving of nostalgia via an innovative variety of enhanced party sports games and next-generation motion controls? Sadly, no. I don’t see that happening at all. Not only is the title not all there anyway but that target audience no longer exists. For one, the whole ‘central living space’ idea has become antiquated ever since the birth of the iPhone. With each family member now consuming media on separate devices, the concept of the central gathering location around the television is long dead. Then on the other hand is the move to online which, as everyone knows, Nintendo just don’t really get.

The game currently only comes with six sports to choose from, alongside the promise of golf releasing for free in the autumn, which is about half of what Resort contained. The new ones are soccer/football (or ‘Rocket Miigue’ as I’ve been calling it), volleyball, and badminton. With bowling and tennis seemingly being directly lifted from the original Wii Sports, and sword-fighting from its sequel, Wii Sports Resort. Immediately disappointing to see so few, especially the absence of archery which I expected to be a given. Worse still however is the lack of diversity in the styles of gameplay. What I mean by that is all three net sports (badminton, volleyball, and tennis) feel a little too similar – like quick-time events with timing nuances. See, the games handle most of the character movements leaving just the hitting to the players. There’s not much positioning to manage or alternate play styles to factor in, so it can come off as almost insultingly basic. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still fun to play. Jumping into any of the mini-games is exciting due to their tight pace and direct head-to-head competitive approach. Even bowling plays out like a tense battle royale, with the lowest scorers getting cut every three frames. The problem is, that due to their insufficient complexity, the initial shine quickly wears away.

Of course, as these are all stand-up in front of the TV and swing your arms around games, they can’t be played on the go. Bowling mimics the action of rolling the ball and adding spin with a flick of the wrist. Badminton merely the swipes and backswings necessary depending on the direction and speed of the shuttlecock. Soccer/football actually does require the players to move themselves around the field, only to wave an arm in the direction of one’s preferred heading when going for a kick (or doubling down with both arms for an awesome and powerful planking header). If you’ve ever played Overwatch’s Lucio Ball, this one will feel very familiar to you because of the slow ball chases and need to conserve boost. Chambara/Sword fighting is about swiftly blocking your opponents attacks by holding your blade perpendicular to each strike and then slashing them back. Tennis I honestly still don’t really understand or feel like I have too much agency over considering how my character approaches the ball or where it ends up. But best of all is volleyball, which consists of bumping, setting, and spiking the ball but also has blocking mechanics, ways to mix up opponents with quick-spikes, and the ability to punish out of position teams. Unfortunately, you’ll experience everything it has to offer within a couple of hours.

Here’s where having a lot of different modes for the games would have really helped but the only interesting one available is the bowling obstacle course, that places all sorts of moving platforms, ramps, and blockades for players to work around. Other attempts include taking shots on goal by kicking the giant football (which requires a leg strap) and alternate sword effects, both of which are generally tiny efforts and end up very forgettable. Perhaps a tournament mode? Maybe any sort of interesting challenge system, such as keeping a rally going for X hits or the silly giant 100-pin bowling mode we had before? I mean, an actual career mode where the player would progress through increasingly tough AI opponents of the different games until all of them have been mastered would have been great, and an excellent way to teach before sending us online. But all of these are just sorry dreams. For crying out loud, three of the games don’t even have tutorials!

Well, I thought, at least I can play doubles online with my partner, which is absolutely the most fun I’ve had with Switch Sports – just crushing at 2v2 volleyball. However, in a stream of totally baffling decisions, ranked modes are only available for a single player and secondaries who don’t have a Nintendo Online subscription are limited to two cosmetic unlocks per week. And oh boy does it love to remind you of that. Let me ask, who is going to have an online subscription for each individual user of their home console? What happened to the whole family togetherness thing they were going for? It’s a real shame that the best way to play (with someone else) seems to have been given the backseat to a more solo-focused experience, even though the games are far too shallow to hold any one person’s attention for long.

I’m aware that this review may come off as particularly negative even though I’ve really had a lot of fun with the game so far. That’s only because it’s so frustrating to know this could have been a fantastic comeback. It had so much potential and was coming off the back of a nostalgia nuke – a total game-changer. To see that squandered on another lukewarm shell experience with the promise of more to come over months or perhaps years is terribly disheartening. The whole thing has made me really nervous for the state of the upcoming Mario Strikers sequel. Please please please don’t half-bake the game I’ve been waiting half my life for a new version of. I want a full campaign, a bunch of characters, and solid online networking. I need the gameplay to be strategic and skillful. I’m begging you, don’t ‘Switch SportsBattle League.

6 out of 10