Nintendo Switch Sports Impression: The Wii Sports sequel has depth and familiarity

Nintendos Wii Sport was a masterpiece of simplicity in play. The 2006 Wii game taught millions of gamers, both new and experienced, how to use Nintendo’s revolutionary and intuitive motion controller, giving a new generation its first gaming experience. Sixteen years later, the Wii Bowling tournament scene is still flourishing.

Nintendo Switch Sporta sequel coming out later this month brings back the spirit of the original Wii Sports, but is aimed at a slightly different audience. The simplicity and familiarity of the original Wii Sports is still present in the Switch sequel, thanks to simple, motion-controlled games like bowling, tennis and, in a future update, golf. But there are new layers of complexity and depth for Switch owners who want it, a best of both worlds approach that will help differentiate Nintendo Switch Sports from his Wii Sports inspiration.

New additions like badminton and football can offer more heated one-on-one or team-based matches, and even bowling gets some upgrades: Players can enjoy a fast-paced pickup game or play on strange alleys with wild obstacles.

Image: Nintendo

During a hands-on presentation with Nintendo Switch Sports in New York last week, I got to try the breadth and depth of Nintendo’s new sports collection. When I thought I had already gotten fed up with baseball, boxing and bowling like Mii more than ten years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how fun the new collection of games is.

Let us first discuss the presentation. Nintendo Switch Sports is a stylish update to the Wii Sports games that lets players create and customize more realistic avatars. Player characters, called Sportsmates, look more like the cool kids in Splatoon than the toy-like Miis from the Wii and Nintendo 3DS era. That said, Mii diehards can still choose to have a Mii-like look Nintendo Switch Sports; it’s part of the game’s extensive customization, but looks out of place in the middle of the visual upgrades here.)

Now, the games. My first Nintendo Switch Sports the experience was football. The game has four variations, but I only tried two: a two-player goal-kick competition that used a Joy-Con strapped to my kicking leg, and a two-player co-op match against computer-controlled opponents. Shootout, with the exception of whipping out and attaching the leg straps, is perhaps the most pick-up-and-play game here. Players take turns trying to kick a ball into a very large goal, and it’s about timing. The arc and speed of the ball seem random and I ended up kicking far to the left more than once. What makes shootout mode both interesting and balanced is when a player starts to dominate – if you have a streak going on, the target size becomes smaller, making precise timing even more critical.

A player with blue hair kicks to a giant football on a screenshot from Nintendo Switch Sports

Image: Nintendo

In my session, I had my own leg strap, just like my Nintendo-representative opponent, so we rotated a few turns on the court. But for households that have only one strap on hand, one person can play an entire set (on five kicks), pass the strap and Joy-Con, and let the other player enjoy their set. It was an example of how Nintendo Switch Sports‘added complexity brings further considerations to how Switch owners will play the game.

Our second football match was somewhat more traditional. It was a four-on-four match played with both left and right Joy-Cons in hand. My left Joy-Con controlled the movement of my player using the analog stick to run freely in all di, while the right used motion control to kick up, down, left or right. I could also perform a dramatic, endurance-draining dive head for a powerful blow. Like another football video game hit, Rocket League, Nintendo Switch Sports uses an oversized ball and smoothly rounded corners to its stadium edges so the ball is always easily traceable and always in play. It’s football without downtime, and it can offer the most replayable of any Nintendo Switch Sports activity.

Or maybe it will be bowling, which offers the same simple, inclusive pleasures Wii Sports counterparty (and may mistakenly make you think you’re a good bowler in real life). The version of bowling I played was traditional with one exception: All four players in the room rolled at the same time. Nintendo Switch Sports bowling is fast; our four-player game took just over six minutes to get through, but eliminated the usual downtime by playing an entire set. Bowling at home with my Switch is already a draw, but I’m further fascinated by the obstacle options I did not get to try, which include bumpers, lanes of varying heights and bottomless pits.

A player spikes a volleyball while her opponent fails to block it in a screenshot from Nintendo Switch Sports

Image: Nintendo

The three online sports – tennis, badminton and volleyball – offered different levels of intensity. Tennis feels most relaxed, but is still sometimes hectic, especially when playing doubles. Your player character automatically runs to the ball, so tennis is mostly a game of timing and angles. Badminton, on the other hand, feels far more strategic. Players can pat the shuttlecock and smash it, and the goal here is to keep your opponent on their heels in hopes of exhausting their stamina. Badminton seems to be the sport where Nintendo Switch Sports‘Most hardcore devotees will spend their time. Finally, volleyball is a game about timing. Players must bump, put and nail the ball – and block it if it is in defense – with perfect timing. A visual indicator above the head of your player character helps you visualize the best moment to strike.

Finally, there is chambara, a renamed version of the sword game included in Wii Sports Resorts package of activities. Guarding and punching at the right angle (vertically, horizontally or diagonally) is the key to success, but so is the main game. Cheating your opponent in this split-screen game is strategically important, so fighting game enthusiasts are likely to get a shine for chambara in Nintendo Switch Sports. Plus it has depth in its variations. Players can fight with a sword or two, and there is an optional charge feature that, although I did not get to try it, seems to add new strategies for both attacking and defending.

Golf is promised as a free update to Nintendo Switch Sports sometime this summer. Like the rest of the games on offer, it can be played locally or online, either against friends or in random matchmaking with other Switch owners. Nintendo makes the random matchmaking seem very important for the long-term enjoyment of the game, as this is where players will unlock new cosmetic items. It includes outfits and accessories for your Sportsmate avatar as well as new equipment. Apparently, there is a bowling ball that looks like a watermelon, which feels extremely important to have.

Nintendo Switch Sports will be released on April 29.

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