Author Topic: Nintendo Switch Sports Review  (Read 524 times)

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Offline NWR_Neal

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Nintendo Switch Sports Review
« on: May 05, 2022, 06:02:02 AM »

UPDATED: Online adds legs to Switch Sports, but we’re still waiting to see how long those legs will be.

Update (May 5, 2022): Here's thoughts on the online component of Switch Sports and a final score. Scroll below for the original review-in-progress before the online was live.

After a week playing Nintendo Switch Sports online, I came away engrossed and happy with the experience but also longing for more. As assumed during our review-in-progress from before the online servers were live, online is a substantial part of the game, but aside from providing a wider variety of opponents and a unique mode, it doesn’t bring as much to the table as I hoped. Nintendo Switch Sports has the fundamentals down pat, but this set of six sports might not be perennial All-Stars.

Online itself adds a lot more to strive for in the game. By playing sports online, you earn points that can be used to unlock a piece of gear or equipment from a revolving set of themed items. The items range from sports equipment to new hairstyles. You can even unlock new in-game titles through these assortments. Time will tell how engaging and cool these items will be as more become available. We do know that animal costumes are coming in the future, so get excited (I think).

One of the coolest parts of the online is that even if you don’t have a Nintendo Switch Online account, you can still engage with the online modes a bit. While you only compete against CPUs, you can play all of the online modes, including the online-only Survival Bowling, and also unlock some of the gear and equipment. When all is said and done, this no-subscription-required mode is a gussied-up offline experience, but it’s still good to have some amount of unlockables for predominantly offline players. It's worth noting that in order to play online with two players, you both need to have an account with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription, which is a bummer.

Ironically, the best online sport is the one with the least player-to-player interaction. Bowling is playable in Survival Bowling form, where 16 players bowl simultaneously with the field narrowing down every few frames. When you get into it, this mode can be electric as you’re trying to make sure you pick up your spares and stack up strikes while nervously watching the other players hoping that they miss a split and stop marking. However, playing bowling online has revealed something about the way the game plays on Joy-Con that could make this the new snaking in Mario Kart DS. If you figure out the right approach, you can truly just strike nearly every frame. There’s a different feel to the bowling on the Joy-Con than on the Wii Remote, and that seems to have removed a little bit of variance and nuance.

Survival Bowling will also randomly put you into a special obstacle course lane, which can be frustrating since you have no choice in the matter, but as an occasional change of pace, I found the challenge of the obstacle-laden lanes amusing. Overall, it’s the only mode at the moment that offers a significantly different experience online.

The other five games all are basically online versions of their offline modes. Soccer, which has a one-on-one variation offline, is only available in random matches in four-on-four. Online Soccer is thrilling with the right group, but a recurring trend showed off a failure of the in-game tutorials. The concept of passing to a teammate is never explained well in game and when you’re on a team that uses it well, you can be extremely efficient. In general, it’s weird that only half of the games even have walkthrough tutorials because even Tennis could benefit from some deliberate explanation of how your Joy-Con’s angle has an impact on the spin and direction.

I was excited to play Soccer online and it still remains arguably my favorite after Bowling, but I have some longevity concerns if the player base doesn’t know how to pass. This was also one of the games that often had enough lag issues during gameplay, which were sometimes heartbreaking because it would be lag that would impact whether or not a goal was defended or not.

Another game I had semi-regular issues with was Volleyball, but some of that came from people dropping mid-game. I get the sense that Volleyball might not be the preferred sport of the player base. I made a reference to this sport being like a rhythm game in my in-progress review and that comment stands here, making some of the laggy moments worse because timing is so crucial. I did gain more of an appreciation for Volleyball online, especially with the mind games you can play with people with where you aim your spike.

Tennis and Badminton both work well online. My personal preference of Badminton over Tennis has grown while playing both online because the intimate back and forth of Badminton makes for some really heated moments. Maybe Tennis with its 16 years of Wii Sports legacy has grown a little old for me. I don’t really have any complaints with Tennis; I just prefer Badminton right now.

Lastly, there’s Chambara, which is what it is. It’s a one-on-one swordfighting game online. It’s almost a shame that this mode has no clever riff on it like Survival Bowling because it’s neat in practice, but I haven’t unearthed a rewarding depth to it yet. Maybe others have. Clue me in if it’s out there, but it’s the sport I go to the least. Consequently, my 3-year-old loves it and if you’ve played me on my account and lost, congrats! You probably lost to a toddler.

I see a lot of potential in Nintendo Switch Sports’ online, but as of this moment, it’s heavier on the potential than the reality. I see myself lingering around Bowling and Soccer, as long as neither of them become completely broken, but hopefully a compelling array of gear and outfits will make revisiting online play more enjoyable. While Nintendo has made no promises, hopefully there will be more variant online modes, because if they’re going to lean heavily into Switch Sports as an online game, they should at least make the online modes more distinct. Overall, Nintendo Switch Sports is an enjoyable return to the classic Wii Sports style that is incredibly fun to play both online and off, even if it does leave a little bit to be desired.

Below is the original review-in-progress posted on April 27, 2022, before online servers were live.

When Wii Sports launched back in 2006, the joy of all five sports was immediate. Picking up a Wii Remote and swinging it like a tennis racket or mimicking a bowling motion was natural and downright enchanting. There was nothing like it. Focused on personal high score chasing and local multiplayer, Wii Sports was a revolution.

Flash forward 16 years and after nearly a decade of dormancy, Wii Sports is back in the form of Nintendo Switch Sports. In the interim, motion controls were milked to death and nearly killed as the Wii name faded away. Nintendo Switch Sports appears to continue Nintendo’s Switch-era trend of repurposing popular Wii concepts as fresh titles, a la Ring Fit Adventure to Wii Fit. In terms of immediacy, Switch Sports sticks the landing. Bowling, tennis, and chambara are all just as easy to pick up as they were in the Wii era, and the three new sports (soccer, volleyball, and badminton) are all accessible and varying degrees of fun. With the Joy-Con and motion controls, the sports play wonderfully well. It’s just that Switch Sports is essentially an online game now.

That makes it tough to review before launch because, as of this writing, the online portion of Switch Sports isn’t accessible to reviewers. To that end, this won’t be a full review. We’re going to hold out until we get time with the online portion to see what’s all there because that’s where unlockables are found, where equipment is earned, and where you can enter Pro Leagues. That’s where the points matter. That’s the only place any kind of meaningful progression is. In fact, that’s where the overwhelming majority of Switch Sports is.

Switch Sports is, for better or worse, a heavily online experience. This is not the local multiplayer wunderkind that its predecessor was, although it’s still fun slapping around balls and shuttlecocks in the same room as a friend. New tweaks, such as bowling happening simultaneously, vastly improve the local play. But if you want more than the stock character clothing or more than the default equipment for each sport, you have to venture online. You can still play all the sports with somewhere between one and four players, but there’s a good chance that there are entire modes (like Survival Bowling shown in previous videos) that are strictly online. I’m looking forward to playing it online and expect to play a bunch when the time comes. That time is not for this review-in-progress.

From raucous single-player and local multiplayer matches, I am enthralled by the suite of sports available so far. Bowling is still the undisputed king in my eyes, with the Joy-Con doing a good job of replicating the feel of the Wii Remote. The trick lane mode where every frame has unique obstacles is one of the few variants offline and makes for an amusingly chaotic experience as some lanes are borderline impossible. Tennis is fine, though I found myself more amused with what amounts to a Tennis variant in Badminton. The latter almost feels like Table Tennis from Wii Sports Resort, but with a different enough spin to stand out from the familiar Tennis. Tennis also benefits from being playable for four players whereas Badminton caps at two. Chambara, or swordfighting to the Wii Sports Resort player, is enjoyable and the three different sword types add a decent amount of strategy.

On two ends of the spectrum are the last two sports: Soccer and Volleyball. Soccer is electric - it’s essentially simplified Rocket League with motion controls. It’s one of the few that requires two Joy-Con to play as the left analog stick moves your player and the right is used to send out motion-controlled kicks. Soccer has the most vibrant amount of offline options as well, with one-on-one, four-on-four, and shootout. The head-to-head modes are short and tense timed affairs where you need to be aware of your teammates and opponents’ placement while also feathering a stamina meter to try to set up a shot on goal. The shootout mode is goofy, as you make use of the leg strap (available with the physical release of Switch Sports or Ring Fit Adventure) to time shots on goal. A future update will add leg strap functionality for the main game of soccer, which sounds like amazing chaos and also a decent workout. Nothing else in the games support the leg strap that we know of.

Volleyball, on the other hand, is the closest Switch Sports has to a dud. It’s a good representation of the sport in video game form, but it’s more rigid and structured. Playing Volleyball feels more like rehearsing a dance than playing a game. It’s always played in two-on-two and after a serve starts play, every side goes into a routine bump, set, and spike routine where you just need to time your Joy-Con swing up and/or down to move the game along. Adding more depth to the sport might have gone too far into making it more complex for the pick-up-and-play immediacy of Switch Sports, but the end result is still merely okay at best when compared to the other five on offer.

Switch Sports will be adding golf in a future update, so there will be more than the six sports available on launch day in the future. While the online could sway the eventual review score one way or the other, I’m extremely positive on Switch Sports and look forward to playing it more with friends and family locally as well hopping online and unlocking new gear and equipment and trying to join the Pro Leagues. We’ll be back soon with a final verdict on Nintendo Switch Sports.

Neal Ronaghan
Director, NWR

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Offline Mythtendo

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Re: Nintendo Switch Sports Review-In-Progress
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2022, 07:07:44 PM »
I tend to mostly play games offline, so it's very disappointing to me when a game basically locks progression behind an online wall. It honestly can make me decide not to get a game sometimes.

Offline Bungle4

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Re: Nintendo Switch Sports Review-In-Progress
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2022, 02:54:27 PM »
I just got around to Wii Sports Club recently and the achievement system in it made playing the AI quite enjoyable and gave me plenty to do without online. I was hoping for something similar with the switch release but it sounds like that is not the case. I guess I shouldn't wait for the offline to be abandoned before picking this up, like I did with the Wii U game (which still has online, just nobody playing)

Offline Azagthoth

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Re: Nintendo Switch Sports Review
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2022, 12:02:58 PM »
After a couple of months of playing this off and on I have to say that an 8 score is WAY too high for this game. The sports selection is lacking, the controller responsiveness is worse than the Wii, and the ai is atrocious.
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