If you remember Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, you already know what to expect to at least some degree. This is a game that lets you play games that are rough approximations of actual sports. Packed in Nintendo Switch Sports (now NSS) you’ll find Badminton, Bowling, Soccer, Tennis, Chambara (aka swordplay), and Volleyball with Golf joining for free this fall. You can create a new character or use one of your Miis. My thoughts are that the Miis look weird and out of place here and either should’ve been omitted or the only character options. The new characters look way better in my opinion although I have a lot of problems with them that I’ll discuss later.
The game lets you play the sports with your friends locally or online for fun game nights. If you don’t have any friends available to play with when you want to play, you can hop online and play with strangers online (provided you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription). One thing I do appreciate here is that you can have up to 2 people per system playing online at a time. That’s great, especially for team games like Volleyball. If you’re playing at home with friends at the same location, NSS is a lot of fun as an active party game-type thing that will remind everyone of Wii Sports.
I’m going to now go through each game and talk about things that I like and dislike. First, we’ll do Badminton. I think Badminton is fun and in NSS, it’s very simple as you essentially just swing your Joy-Con to have your character swing their racket and hit the shuttlecock. The key to this game (and just about every single game on NSS) is timing to not only hit, but to hit it well and get the upper hand. The only button that really does anything is ZR which when held while hitting the shuttlecock it causes it to do a drop shot, but chances are that your opponent will still be able to hit it. You don’t move your character in the game which is nice, but it also makes it very easy to have excruciatingly long volleys as your character is almost always able to get where they need to unless your opponent is a god at timing their hits. I’m a little sad that the Joy-Con try to resemble a 1:1 ratio of movement (or close to it), but then it doesn’t emulate a backhand or front hand hit, it just goes with whatever it wants more or less making it hard to be a bit more strategic as you play. It also seems impossible to hit the shuttlecock out of bounds which is once again a double-edged sword.
Next, we’ll turn our attention towards Bowling. When you play locally, you can choose to play standard Bowling or a version that has different obstacles and twists each frame. I really like this variety! The actual gameplay is simple as you just need to move your characters starting place, choose the angle you’ll throw the ball, and then imitate throwing a bowling ball. Very simple. But the options to play standard or the moire challenging types is a nice way to put some spice into it. If you play online, you play an elimination style of Bowling where it’s all standard, but every 3 frames, the lowest scoring players are eliminated. This is a very interesting twist on the game as you start with 16 players and then go down to 8, 5, and then the final 3. I do wish that you could choose to have the mode with the different obstacles, but I guess this is fine. Bowling might be my current favorite.
Third is Chambara or Swordplay. If you played Wii Sports Resort, this one will feel familiar to you. You have to choose what style you want, Standard, Charged, or Twin Swords. Each one is a little unique, but the gameplay is the same. You swing the Joy-Con to slash at your opponent or you hold ZR and tilt your Joy-Con to block and hopefully stun your opponent so you can get in. This one feels very hard to be good at, at least for me. To land a hit, your opponent has to not be guarding or guarding in the same orientation as your attack which probably just takes more patience than I want to put into it.
Next is Soccer. I will admit that I have not tried the Soccer Shootout which is what the leg strap is for, but the core game of Soccer is essentially a less exciting version of Rocket League. You have a giant soccer ball that you run around and try to kick by swinging your Joy-Con. Oh, and the way you swing your Joy-Con affects how you try to kick the ball. In online, you play in 4v4 matches and it’s a bit more fun if I’m honest, but it made me just want to load up Rocket League instead.
Tennis is next and if I’m honest, this feels redundant. It plays like a very slightly different Badminton. It feels a little faster with the ball instead of a shuttlecock and you play with two copies of your character (one in the front and one in the rear). The controls are basically the same though although you can’t do a drop shot anymore. Also, for some reason, they decided to forego traditional Tennis scoring for a more straightforward point system and I just have to ask, why? Mario Tennis Aces proves they know how to score in Tennis, but now it’s the first to 5 points wins for some reason. On top of this, everything I said about Badminton can basically be added here.
Finally, we get to Volleyball (remember, Golf is releasing this fall). This is a very interesting one. You play 2v2 matches and you do the same upswing action for just about everything which makes it feel less exciting. Once a player serves the ball, you go through the same cycle of Bump, Set, Spike that we all know of, but there is 0 variation. You can’t bump or set the ball over the net. You have to bump it to the other player who then sets it for you to spike. When defending, you can jump and try to block if you’re the front player. Once again, timing is very key to how well you hit the ball in this game. Something that can be frustrating is when you play online and for some reason, your teammate jumps to spike, but then the spike doesn’t happen. I could see it being that they missed the timing or the Joy-Con didn’t register the swing for some reason and either way it’s very frustrating. If you have a good partner that you gel with, Volleyball can be a lot of fun although possibly the most repetitive.
I’m very excited to try Golf when it launches this fall. It was possibly my favorite back in the day and I hope that it gets a nice polish thrown on it. A mini-golf variant would be absolutely incredible.
Okay, now I get to some other problems I have with NSS. When you play online, there’s no ranking system and so the people you play with will have skill levels all over the place. The first time I did Bowling online, I was in the lead by over 100 points. The next time, I was eliminated after the first set of 3 frames even though I had gotten at least 2 spares. Some kind of ranking system would be very helpful. Possibly my biggest disappointment is the character creation tool. You get next to no options (and the ones you get are awful if you want a more male presenting character in my opinion) at the start and the only way that I have found to unlock items is by playing online. After you play a game online, you get X number of points based on the game you played, how well you did, if you met other seemingly random parameters (I think one was to get 5 spares in a game of bowling), etc. and once you reach 100 points you get to do a gacha to receive 1 random item from a set of about 15 items that will rotate every so often. This is an absolutely ridiculous approach. Granted, I wouldn’t mind this so much if the starting options were decent.
At the end of the day, NSS can be fun and sees its peak when you get some friends together to play in one place. A caveat is that I have not played it with friends online, so I’m not sure how everything translates to that. Sadly, you’re forced to play online with random matchmaking to get costumes, different cosmetics, and more. Also, the games are easy for ease-of-access, but it can also make them frustrating as a lot of them become based on timing with no real strategy able to be used. Also, having Badminton and Tennis was an odd choice as they feel almost identical. The game is only $39.99 which does help it and hopefully Golf really gives it a boost. Right now, this is a game I’ll pull out every now and then when I get an itch or have a gathering, but it won’t be a mainstay or go-to.