Nintendo Switch Sports is a great board game. All six minigames are great fun, perfect for families or a night out. But unlike its spiritual predecessor, Wii Sports – the most popular title in the entire Wii library – Nintendo Switch Sports doesn’t feel like a must have game, just a good one to have around in case company comes along.
In Nintendo Switch Sports, there are six sports minigames: football, badminton, tennis, bowling, volleyball and chambara. Each game supports solo or multiplayer, with some games allowing up to four players at a time.
Before starting a game, players can create their own character by choosing from a menu of customization options or by importing a Mii. There aren’t many choices available (there’s only one natural hair option, boo), but it looks like there will be a way to potentially earn more outfits and hairstyles, although I didn’t come across that while playing.
Ever since NSS is a board game, I threw a party. My partner has a niece and nephew, Jane and Jude, and I’ve invited them to help me play. I wanted to see how children experience the game as I thought a majority of people were interested in Nintendo Switch Sports will be families with children. They loved it. Jude, the younger sibling, is the gamer of his household, so he got to work right away. Jane, the chilly older sister, took some time to “get it,” but by the end she was smiling and screaming along with her brother.
Of the six games, Jane and Jude declared clear winners and losers. They didn’t seem to like tennis very much. The game requiring you to play double and give them control of two characters at the same time got confusing. I thought volleyball wasn’t going to get high marks either as the punch, set and spike controls seemed a little complicated to even me, but that was one of their favorites.
Both kids loved football, but found the controls too finicky. NSS soccer involves chasing an oversized ball across a high field (kinda like) Rocket Leaguee), which requires a full Joy-Con controller configuration for each player. It was a lot of chasing a runaway ball, bouncing shots off the walls and goal posts with very few runs scored. But football wasn’t all ho-hum. It’s one of the few games that has dedicated game modes, and the shootout mode is where all the fun is hidden. Jude got a kick (heh) swinging in my living room, physically kicking the ball using the Joy-Con strapped to his leg.
Chambara is the NSS version of sword fighting. In it, you have to remove your opponent from an elevated arena before the time runs out. Each successful attack pushes your opponent back to the edge of the arena, and each successful block stuns your opponent for a few seconds, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
Chambara was the undisputed champion of the six minigames. It made for some of the most exciting matches with my volunteer playtesters, with many quick defeats and lengthy duels decided in the last seconds. Chambara is the most strategy dependent minigame, and that’s where it’s most appeal lies. The other games are knock-down, drag-out point bonanzas that reward who is the most aggressive player. Try that strategy in chambara and you will be amazed at a quick defeat.
Chambara requires you to read your opponent’s body language and make split-second decisions. It is a thinking person game where you also have to be wickedly fast with your sword arm. I waved my arms and played chambara with the kids and loved every second of it. If you’re an older gamer and feel the need to humble yourself over your decades of gaming experience, play chambara with a 12-year-old.
Bowling was fun, albeit unobtrusive, for the kids, but it ended up being one of the better games that my partner and I enjoyed alone. My partner was on the high school bowling team and is still damn good. His bowling in real life seems magical to me. My mind just can’t comprehend how he can throw a ball straight down the middle of a lane and then make it suddenly deflect left or right just as it reaches the pins. It’s witchcraft – I should burn him at the stake. And somehow he can do the same in a video game. It’s wild.
In bowling you can choose between playing on a traditional flat course or a special course with obstacles that change with each frame. Playing the special course made the most use of my partner’s ball bending skills. Just like in real life, a twist of his wrist would hook the ball around barriers in the middle of the lane as if controlling the movement with his mind. He destroyed me easily, and I didn’t even mind; I was simply impressed with my partner’s bowling ability and the fidelity with which this particular minigame was created.
One of ‘s most glaring annoyances Nintendo Switch Sports is inconsistent with its tutorials. With chambara, football and volleyball you have the option to play or skip a tutorial. With tennis, badminton and bowling you are immediately thrown into a game, and it’s up to you to figure out how to play it.
That’s okay for the most part. At least in bowling, a little pop-up will occasionally remind you to hold down the Z trigger while winding and releasing, and there’s an always-on control legend at the bottom to remind you how to get your shots should be set up and placed in a corner .
Tennis and badminton have no such hints. There are different ways to hit the ball/shuttle with different speeds and trajectories, and the game refuses to explain how to influence the direction or speed you want. You just wave your arm and hope.
In both games, there is a colored stripe that runs behind the projectile, depending on how it was hit. A normal hit gives a blue stripe. A bad hit will make the projectile with a purple streak wiggle high in the air. A yellow stripe seems to indicate a faster, more aggressive hit, and a pink stripe means “you’ll be damn lucky to hit this.” Without a tutorial I have no idea how to trigger a non-default hit. When my opponent sends me a wobbly, high-air lob, perfect for a pink-striped volley, no matter how hard I swing the controller or what time I hit the projectile, it’s completely random what kind of blow I get. The games are still fun, but I wish I had had more strategy playing them than “wave your arm and pray”.
Nintendo Switch Sports feels like it’s come a little too late. Wii Sports was a launch title and confirmed that the Wii was the motion control console. And while the Switch has some of that DNA, it feels like games designed to take advantage of that control scheme are an afterthought. I liked it Nintendo Switch Sports – it’s a fun little game that will be a hit with kids, but it feels like something designed to remind people that the Switch has motion controls that are actually pretty good.
Wii Sports was crucial to the enormous success of the Wii. While I don’t think Nintendo Switch Sports will have the same impact on the Switch, I know it will come in handy at a party.