Nintendo Switch Sports opens with the familiar reminder to ensure the wrist strap is securely fastened. That nostalgia fades quickly as it becomes clear the brand new Switch Sports is entirely different from either of its predecessors, Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, making both notable additions and omissions.
The sports included are the familiar bowling and tennis from Wii Sports, swordplay from Wii Sports Resort — which is renamed chambara — and the all new soccer, volleyball and badminton.
Beyond the new sports, the first major difference you encounter is the inclusion of online gameplay. All of the sports can be played as online matchmaking, online with friends, or locally solo or with friends.
After selecting which of the above you would like to play, you are taken to a games menu designed as a sports complex called “Spocco Square.” Nintendo may be trying to do something similar to Wuhu Island from Wii Sports Resort, but this lacks any of its depth. Through the flying games, wakeboarding and more, the island was integrated into the gameplay. Wuhu Island felt as if it had a real geography. Spocco Square is a fun theme but is not much more than a menu design. The lack of depth illustrated here will be the central issue of Nintendo Switch Sports.
By using new technology to bring the concept into the modern day, bowling is everything a fan wants from a video game sequel. Beyond the obvious visual upgrades, the controls feel much more accurate and sophisticated due to the technological improvements between the motion detection of the Wiimotes and the Switch’s Joy Cons. While there were times I found the motion detection frustrating, I was much more inclined to blame my own error than a faulty remote — a significant difference from the Wii.
As far as I can tell, tennis feels almost exactly the same as it did on the Wii. It’s not too complicated of a game. It’s doubles tennis just like the Wii, and the computer still moves your character for you. Like the Wii, all you have to do is swing at the right time. There does seem to be more complexity in timing the swing intentionally to send the ball in your desired direction. A mistimed swing may lead to hitting the ball out of bounds or missing entirely.
Chambara — formerly swordplay — now includes a charged sword mode and a duel wielding mode in addition to the plain versus. In the former, your sword charges each time you block. In the latter, each of your Joy Cons is an individual sword, enabling you to wield two swords — assuming you have two hands or are skilled with one or more feet.
The soccer game takes place on a massive field with an oversized ball in the model of Rocket League or Overwatch’s Lucio Ball. It lacks the intricacies of either, which makes it significantly more accessible. Additionally, the controls are intuitive. The header animation is cartoonish and fun.
Lastly, badminton and volleyball are distinct from tennis and from each other. Both are quite fun and utilize the motion controls well.
As one plays online, they earn points that, when a hundred are collected, unlock a random character customization option from a themed weekly set. These include new hairstyles, shirts and eye colors. Unfortunately, this means the character creation at the beginning of the game is severely limited in options. Much of the fun of making a Mii in Wii Sports was creating a character for yourself that you could play as immediately. To get your character to look and feel like yourself in Nintendo Switch Sports, you either need to play the game for quite some time or get a haircut.
While all the sports are quite fun, Nintendo Switch Sports lacks several features from previous games that would make this one feel complete. First, the world is lacking. Spocco Square of Nintendo Switch Sports is nothing compared to the Wuhu Island of Wii Sports Resort. I would’ve loved to see some more ways to explore this environment.
However, this is far from a big deal compared to the lack of gameplay variety. The minigames from both Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort are nonexistent here. There is no hundred-pin bowling minigame, there is no speed slice or showdown sword minigame and there are no escalating difficult CPU battles like that of Wii Boxing.
There are also only six games, and three of them are net sports. Wii Sports Resort had twelve games, and each had multiple game modes. The first time Nintendo Switch Sports reminded me I had been playing for an hour straight — suggesting I go take a break — I couldn’t avoid asking “is this all?” Without the minigames or game diversity, it seems Nintendo Switch Sports expects to be carried by the ability to play online.
After playing a handful of online games, you get added to a tiered ranking system reminiscent of pretty much every online competitive game. This is a confusing addition for Nintendo who are not typically known to encourage formal competition in their games. Nonetheless, it’s far from enough to keep me engaged in Nintendo Switch Sports for as long as I’d like for a near full-price game.
A personal gripe I have is the removal of baseball. While tennis and golf are available on the Switch as Mario games — as will soccer in June — there is no Nintendo baseball game like Mario Super Sluggers or the one in Wii Sports. Hopefully it is in the works – but I’m taking this personally, Nintendo.
Despite all I’ve already said, the most notable omission is that Matt of Wii Sports is gone.
Disappointingly, Nintendo Switch Sports adds to the lengthening list of recent first-party Nintendo games that lack the depth necessary to make them feel complete. Hopefully there will be updates in the near-future to make Nintendo Switch Sports feel like it has more content than the game included with the Wii when it launched sixteen years ago. I know I’m harsh here, but I have higher expectations for Nintendo and for a beloved sequel like this.
Nintendo Switch Sports doesn’t need to have an explorable location, a dozen sports AND a bunch of minigames. The problem is that it doesn’t have any of these.
If you want to relive Wii bowling and don’t think it’s something you’d get bored of as quickly as I did, you should probably pick this up. If you have friends you’d like to play virtual badminton against, this may be for you as well. If you’d like to climb the rankings of Switch Sports Soccer even though Rocket League is more complex and free, this could be for you too. However, if you’re expecting much more than these, Nintendo Switch Sports doesn’t have it.
Jeffrey Brown is a former Arts Editor for the Daily Cardinal. He writes for The Beet occasionally and does some drawing and photography too. He is a senior majoring in Sociology. Do not feed him after midnight.