Nintendo Switch Sports Review: Where’s The Content?
As a pack-in for the Nintendo Wii, Wii Sports sits among the most successful games of all time. It isn’t hard to see why. Its simplicity might seem like a negative to some, but for many others, it was entirely the point. The lack of significant options allowed people who had never touched a video game to step right into it simply by knowing how the sports included worked. It’s perhaps the most unlikely system seller of all time and did more to sell the public on the Wii than any other game.
Sixteen years later, though, the Switch isn’t the Wii, and in some ways, that’s an issue for Nintendo Switch Sports, the first game in the series to dump Wii from the name. Featuring six sports, in some ways, this latest release feels like a step back from more recent games in the series. A generous reading would be that it’s more focused. Another reading would be that it’s severely lacking in content.
Six Sports To Master
The six sports included in Nintendo Switch Sports give it one more choice than the original game in the series. You have bowling, soccer, tennis, volleyball, badminton, and chambara. Golf is set to join the party later this year in a free update.
To the game’s credit, most of these sports are still a lot of fun to play on the Nintendo Switch. Everyone will have their favorites, but bowling is still just as good as I remember it on the Wii. It plays best if you try to truly emulate the movement of bowling, and I found my time with it very rewarding. I also was a big fan of chambara, a sword fighting game that lets you pick one of three sword options and then fight one on one with another foe. Requiring precise movement and timing, it feels like the game that most sells what the Switch can do when it comes to motion controls. Coming back from behind against a tough opponent is incredibly rewarding.
Missing The Mark
While not quite reaching the level of favorites, more of the games are quite good. Soccer won’t be for everyone, but it’s a nice addition to the lineup, though it uses motion controls the least of any of these titles. You’ll actually control your character with the analog stick, with motion only being used for kicks and other attacks on the ball. It allows for some additional depth of gameplay but does make the experience less visceral. That’s corrected in the shootout mode, where you can use the leg strap that comes with the physical version of the game or break out your strap from Ring Fit Adventure if you still have it, but I found it mostly boring and put it aside quickly. Badminton also surprised me with how much time it stole from me. The precise movements and different way of hitting something across a net felt more interesting than the other options.
The other two net-based sports fare a little worse for me. Tennis is still a lot of fun, and I like how in single-player mode, you’re controlling the racquets of both of your tennis players, but it never felt as fluid as I remember it back on the Wii. I’m tempted to blame it on the joy-cons being less precise than Wiimotes, but that would impact every sport included theoretically, yet sports like chambara and racquetball get the feel right. I’m not sure why tennis couldn’t. Volleyball didn’t really grab me either. It’s mostly fine, but the set ups and moves felt a bit too rote to me, and it just feels like a bit of a snore.
In truth though, none of these sports feel bad. Even the weaker ones are still plenty of fun with the right company. The problem is that you’d better have friends to bust out and play Nintendo Switch Sports with. That’s because Nintendo has still not bothered to put any sort of career, goals, or anything of that nature in their game. They’ve seemingly decided the sports themselves are a big enough draw. They may be right, but it makes for a game that quickly gets old if you try to mostly play it solo. Modes have some alternate options like challenging puzzle-based levels in bowling which are fun, but even these won’t keep most players busy for long.
If you don’t have friends who come around to make fools of themselves in virtual sports regularly, there’s at least the option to play online. This is fun enough, though it doesn’t match the goofy thrill of flailing about with your friends in the same room. It’s a nice option, though, and some of the choices made with it, like the elimination style bowling with big groups, are pretty thrilling.
I sure hope you like playing online, though because the closest thing Nintendo Switch Sports has to progression is what basically amounts to a free battle pass that turns over quickly. You can definitely earn a lot of things to customize your character, a relief because of how few options you’re initially given. Still, this is the kind of stuff that shouldn’t need unlocking, and progression is far too slow.
You can have a lot of fun with Nintendo Switch Sports, whether online or in person with friends. If you’re playing alone, though, its severe lack of content won’t keep you busy for long. Of course, that would be forgivable if it were a pack-in like the game that spawned this series, but as a game you have to actually purchase, players should expect more.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Nintendo EPD; Players: 4; Released: April 29th, 2022; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $39.99 (digital), $49.99 (physical)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Nintendo Switch Sports.