Wii Sports and its resort follow-up were watershed moments for motion-control entertainment. Game simulators usually undercut realism. And yet Nintendo’s family-centered approach to the genre has led to a selection of competing activities with accessible dialogue, lighthearted art direction, and catchy jingles. Switch Sports attempts to replicate that magic for a contemporary audience with engaging visuals, minigames that feel distinctive but familiar, and avatar customization coupled with ranked multiplayer. The Switch is a slam dunk option for sports gatherings, but the mechanical depth and lack of repetitive material make the hand-swinging, leg-kicking thrills short-lived.
The infectiously cheery vibe of Wii Sports is back as soon as the Switch launches. A bright color palette and spectacular musical crescents complement the inviting, upbeat atmosphere. Humanoid sportsmates (the selectable equivalent of the Miis) and Spokeo Square athletic facility with customizable cosmetics parallel the sport’s enhanced aesthetic. Each area boasts futuristic architecture, from the platforms above the turquoise pools to the sleek courts with breathtaking views of the city skyline. Switch Sports is undoubtedly attractive, but these six mostly empty fields lose their charm after a few matches.
The same can be said, in part, for the scattered events in Spokeo Square. Offerings are tailored for all age groups and competencies – some activities require simple wrist flicks or arm strokes, while others are appropriately complex, mixing Joycon movements with button presses. Tennis and bowling remain impressively polished; Powerful slams and obstacle courses add a welcome challenge to the mix. Volleyball is refreshingly team-oriented, emphasizing clear communication to block, get, or score. Chambara (the Wii Resort’s swordplay) suffers from occasional finicky input, but turns into a sweaty one, with chaotic, swordplay throughout most of the bout. Badminton is my favourite; The floaty shuttlecock forced me to consider timing and shot combinations, leading to some spectacular comebacks and heart-wrenching defeats. In contrast, football’s wide pitch and grueling stamina meant I spent more time trying to catch the ball rather than interacting directly with the ball. In addition, the leg strap-reliance “shoot out” mode – kicking the incoming ball into the net – was stalled because it lacked the strategic intensity and exciting hyperactivity of other games.
Switch Sports shines the most in local and global playlists. Competition against loved ones brings cruelty and glee in equal measure. Matchmaking with random players leads to protracted battles and gift currency. Every 100 points, I opened gift boxes and received random gear, including multicolored tennis rackets, clothes, and emotes, among many other personal items. Fortunately, these points come in bunches and are guaranteed regardless of the result, encouraging me not to lose hope or give up a match early, even if a loss has been decided. While many vanity pieces were unremarkable—monochrome baubles like silver earrings or goggles—this simple progression system kept me busy and eager to dive back into the action. Throw in Pro League, a ranked mode that unlocks after you finish any game ten times, and online multiplayer becomes a proving ground for anyone who can stand above the rest. I enjoyed testing my strengths against equally dedicated competitors and trying to out-smart/outplay them in down-to-the-wire rallies.
With a Golf update planned for the fall of 2022, it’s safe to assume that Nintendo sees Switch Sports as a worthy successor to Wii Sports. And in some ways, it is. An endless supply of rotating collectible packs and skill-based intensity drives the game’s online multiplayer. Even classic games like Bowling and Chambara have been improved with elimination rules and charge/twin swords respectively. However, after a few fun hours, I experienced all the playable components of the Switch Sports and sometimes lost interest after long periods of playing. Switch Sports doesn’t break out of the long shadow of Wii Sports, but it’s still a solid runner-up.