‘Nintendo Switch Sports’ review: an exhilarating – if slightly lacking – joy

Just don't forget the wrist strap

Nintendo Switch Sports has some big wrist straps to fill. A creatively-named offspring of Wii Sports, Nintendo Switch Sports takes the same premise – playing virtual sports games from the comfort of your living room – and brings it into the modern day.

There have been two more entries to the Sports series since it debuted in 2006, though neither quite managed to reach the same heights as Nintendo‘s first sporty outing. A lot’s changed in those 16 years however, and the Nintendo Switch is a fantastic platform for showcasing that. The first and most obvious improvement is the technology, and Nintendo Switch Sports‘ setting – the sun-soaked Spocco Square – is bright, crisp and colourful.

More importantly, motion controls have come a long way since the Wii. Just as Nintendo improved Skyward Sword‘s controls when it was brought to the Switch, the console’s Joycons show that motion controls have come a long way. Nintendo Switch Sports launches with six sports – and whether you’re battering hapless bots in chambara or wielding a tennis racket like an extension of your arm, controls are crisp and interactive enough for everything to feel satisfying. During the review, there were zero issues with responsiveness – every input was replicated smoothly in the game, and there was never any awkward haggling with Joycons.

Nintendo Switch Sports. Credit: Nintendo.
Nintendo Switch Sports. Credit: Nintendo.

The controls themselves ensure that nearly all of Nintendo Switch Sports‘ six minigames are all incredibly enjoyable. It’s supremely satisfying to curl your Joycon in an under-arm flick and watch a bowling ball sail smoothly down the alley, or snap your wrist to send a shuttlecock hurtling back across the court. In certain cases – particularly with tennis and badminton – having to wildly flail your wrist around for prolonged periods can ache a little, but it’s nothing that a five-minute break doesn’t clear up.

As for the sports themselves, it’s a bit of a mixed bag – mostly good, but partly disappointing. Bowling remains as fantastic as ever, and has benefited from the improvement to motion controls: curling a heavy bowling ball down an alley and watching it go exactly where you planned (for better or worse) feels wonderful, and a separate game mode that adds obstacles to the alley offers an extra bit of challenge for anyone looking for it.

Nintendo Switch Sports
Nintendo Switch Sports. Credit: Nintendo

One surprise hit is Chambara – a sport where you’ve got to whack your opponent off the edge of a platform with a sword before they do the same to you. Despite the cutesy graphics and foam weapons, Chambara feels oddly similar to Dark Souls or Chivalry: bouts are brief and frenetic, and things get particularly bloodthirsty (or desperate) once one player approaches the dreaded platform’s end. Parrying your opponent temporarily stuns them – opening them up for a hit – so Chambara’s back-and-forth trading becomes an intense test of reflex.

Another big win for Nintendo Switch Sports is Football. Responsive motion controls mean that once you get the hang of it, you can kick the ball soaring over players’ heads or just…headbutt it as hard as humanly possible. One-on-one game football matches are frantic clashes for the ball, but the game’s four-on-four mode dials things back to a slightly more realistic pace. The attention Nintendo has paid to football (there’s even an additional penalty shootout mode) feels like this is the flagship minigame for Nintendo Switch Sports, and it’s hard to argue with the impressive results. Although multiplayer wasn’t available to play during the review period, football feels like an assured triumph if you’ve got enough mates to fill a pitch.

Nintendo Switch Sports. Credit: Nintendo.
Nintendo Switch Sports. Credit: Nintendo.

Unfortunately, not all of Nintendo Switch Sports‘ minigames were made equal. It feels like a questionable decision to include both badminton and tennis, as both minigames are played nigh-identically, and to be slightly reductive, you’ll spend both matches just routinely swinging your Joycon left and right. Both game modes would be vastly improved with the ability to actually move of your own free will, but instead your character automatically paces left and right, so you’re only controlling the racket. Both modes are  still entertaining – especially when the ball starts to pick up real speed – but could do so much better by handing a little more over to the player.

Finally, there’s Volleyball. For some reason, Volleyball’s tutorial automatically completes when you’ve struggled with it for long enough – regardless of whether or not you’ve actually mastered the game mode’s awkward timings. This one also feels like the game’s weakest single-player offering – you’ve got to work together with a partner on this one, so if you’re short on pals you might struggle to make your AI-human pairing work. With a bit of practice Volleyball does improve, but it still feels like a slightly more underwhelming – and floundering – version of tennis.

Despite that, the better parts of Nintendo Switch Sports‘ roster easily outshines its weaker elements. Some of the above quirks can definitely be frustrating, but the game’s weaknesses aren’t dramatic enough to smear what is almost always an exhilarating experience.

Nintendo Switch Sports launches on April 29 for the Nintendo Switch. 

The Verdict

Nintendo Switch Sports brings a beloved series onto modern platforms with aplomb. Though some minigames are slightly weaker than others, some impressive standouts – namely Chambara and Football – deliver an exceptionally good time. Better yet, Nintendo Switch Sports‘ £31 price tag is cheaper than most Nintendo games, and that sort of value’s hard to argue with.

Pros

  • Graphics are sharp and suggest that Nintendo isn’t done pushing the Nintendo Switch’s technical limits
  • Motion controls are responsive and fluid
  • Nintendo Switch Sports’ brand-new minigames are complimented by a platter of fan-favourites

Cons

  • Volleyball isn’t as compelling as the other five minigames
  • Players will have to wait for games like golf to be added at a later date
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