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I've spent the last few weeks much like how I did in 2006 — firing up my gaming console and playing some virtual bowling or even tennis. The big change? I wasn't using a first-gen Wii to play Wii Sports. Instead, I've been playing Switch Sports on my Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo Switch Sports is out now for $49.99 — or $39.99 if you opt for a digital download — and is an absolute joy to play. It's not just a blast from the past and a nostalgia-fueled adventure, but it keeps you active and is suitable for single or multi-player and sports updated graphics with groovy tunes.
Six Sports And Three Ways To Play
Once fired up, Switch Sports gives you instant access to six sports — Tennis, Badminton, Volleyball, Soccer, Bowling, and Chambara. Much of these are familiar, though you might be scratching your head with the last one. It's a new sword fighting game purpose-built for Switch Sports. These are all pretty fun, but you'll likely find your favorites. Nintendo has also announced that a seventh sport — Golf — will arrive as a free update this Fall.
There are also three game modes within Switch Sports — globally, locally, and online with your friends. And I'll be honest; it seems that Nintendo prioritized the connected experience here. When playing with friends or in random matches, you have the chance to climb a leaderboard and earn swag for your character. You won't find those in local mode, though, and you do need a Switch Online subscription to access these two online modes.
The good news is that finding a global match is simple and has happened pretty quickly in my testing for over a week. Once you select it, you then pick a sport, and it will match you with a player somewhere in the Nintendo world. It's pretty fun, and I didn't notice much delay depending on the console — Switch or Switch OLED — I was playing on either.
It took just under a minute to find a player and then toss me into a match. I will say Soccer does take longer, considering it does require more than just two people. Same with bowling. And unlike Wii Sports, which gave you an extended training tutorial, Switch Sports offers you a quick mini mechanics demo that you can breeze right through. That's just fine, and it's nice to have the choice, but you'll be hard-pressed not to find the motions to be at least similar to the real-life counterparts for each game.
Like with Wii Sports, the name of the game is exaggeration. When you swing your racket in Tennis or Badminton, you'll have to give it some oomph. The same goes for smacking a volleyball or serving one. It's fun and keeps you immersed in the game.
In terms of my favorite sport to play, I'd have to go with Volleyball. It's not just one dynamic of either swinging from left to right, but there's some variety to it. Namely, you can spike, set, or serve, making it a bit more engaging, entertaining and challenging.
And be sure to secure the Joy-Con with the strap that came with your console when you're playing Switch Sports. Much like with the Wii, you don't want to lose grip on the controller and have it go flying during an intense match.
Tennis and Badminton are both fun to play, kind of the macro and micro equivalents of each other. In my playing, I found that Badminton seems to be the most responsive and the best at mimicking my desired action. With Tennis, I frequently found it telling me my swing was a little early or a little late with most swings, while Badminton was much more on the nose.
Bowling is the return of the classic, and it's just as fun as the original version in Wii Sports. There are a few different modes that place obstacles on the lane. You might encounter a few cubes that raise and lower or just a blockage on one side. It adds more depth to the game and is especially fun when playing with friends online to see who can perform the best.
And that brings us to the other essential mode of gameplay, which is playing with friends online. Much like in Mario Kart 8 and other titles, you'll create a room and have control over who can join. Namely by setting a password. Here you can choose the sport and some variations over the game. In most matches with friends, I found it to be responsive.
I haven't found my stride with Soccer just yet, and being the only sport you'll need the optional Joy-Con leg strap for at launch, I'd say most users will be alright with the option for a downloadable version of Switch Sports. It's a fun time, and I liked the team nature, but it's not as plug and play as the other sports.
Lastly, Chambara is an engaging sword fighting game that's like a medieval version of fencing in that the swords look like long jousting poles. And similar to Volleyball, there's more than just one mechanic to learn here. It makes for an eventful match as, in some cases, you'll be on offense and other times on defense.
Create your "Sportsmate"
While Wii Sports was filled with Miis, Nintendo Switch Sports has you creating a "Sportsmate" — essentially a souped-up version of a Mii that stands as your in-game character. You'll get plenty of customization over the physique, outfit, and hair. Adding to the fun is the ability to customize your title as well.
And as you play online — globally or with friends — you'll earn points. These arrive whether you win or lose and for different in-game occurrences. Depending on what type of sport you're playing, you can use these to redeem in-game items and even put them towards special limited-edition gear. It'll be interesting to see how this evolves in the future.
You'll need a Switch or Switch OLED
The biggest caveat with Switch Sports is that it doesn't work on the entry-level Switch Lite. You'll need a standard Switch or a Switch OLED to play. And with either of these, it works in portable mode but is much better when docked. You get a bigger screen, but you also have more space to spread out. In my testing, Switch Sports plays just fine on both the Switch and Switch OLED. I've primarily played with them docked but will say that playing in portable mode is especially a stretch on the standard Switch. The screen is tiny, and it doesn't offer the contrast or vibrancy of the OLED.
What's the reason for no Switch Lite support? Well, it's likely the Joy-Cons since they are exclusive to the Switch and Switch OLED. These proprietary and removable controllers pack a ton of onboard sensors — like an accelerometer and gyroscope — to track movements. When you swing your arm as if you're holding a bowling ball or hitting a tennis ball, the Joy-Con recognizes this and triggers the activity on-screen. It's all pretty responsive.
Nintendo Switch Sports is a blast, even with a shifted focus on online play and a smattering of new sports. It runs smoothly on either the Switch or Switch OLED, and given the random nature of who you'll be playing, each match is refreshing and might have a few surprises. The added benefit of this video game is that you're also active while playing, and that's a nice win.
So whether you spend your days reminiscing about Wii Sports or are looking for a new title for your Switch, Nintendo's Switch Sports is an excellent title with a long runtime ahead of it. I'm just hoping that Baseball arrives shortly after Golf so I can continue my streak of home runs from Wii Sports.
Nintendo Switch Sports is available now for $39.99 as a download or $49.99 as a physical edition with the Joy-Con Leg Strap.