Nintendo Switch Sports is everything I wanted – even if I’m stuck offline

Oath. Note: Nintendo Switch Sports‘core online mode was not available prior to the review embargo, but should be available to players on launch day. We will publish a more traditional review, along with considerations on Polygon Recommends when the entire game is live. In the meantime, here’s our feelings about Nintendo Switch Sports after playing its local modes.

Alchemy does not exist, but Nintendo does.

Shuntaro Furukawa can at any time give the green light to a new Metroid or Animal Crossing or Zelda or 2D Mario or 3D Mario or Mario Kart or Mario learns to write, and in a few years, that decision will have produced the closest the entertainment industry comes to a guaranteed profit. Nintendo’s treasure chest is so deep that it will go years, even decades, without creating a successor to many of their hit franchises. I’m watching you, F-Zero and Golden Sun and Wave Race and Earthbound.

This sparse attention to franchise – franchise that other game publishers would make an agreement with the devil to do annually – has more to do with practicality than stinginess. Nintendo has only so many in-house studios and trusted partners, and only so much room in a year to release games without competing against itself. And yet, for more than 15 years, I’ve been amazed at Nintendo’s decision to put one of its biggest hits ever on the back burner. Surely, if any franchise deserved priority, then this was it.

Nintendo shipped nearly 83 million copies Wii Sports. For context, the latest Elden Ring has sold 12 million copies, and Animal Crossing: New Horizonsthe game, which consumed the early days of pandemic lockdown, has sold 37 million. Wii Sports benefited from being bundled with almost every Nintendo Wii, but the pair lifted each other up in the delicate air of pop culture phenomena. People bought the Wii for Wii Sportsmaking it a $ 250 game for some.

In the mid-2000s, Wii Sports was that mainstream video games. Rainy day break meant Wii Sports tennis in the classroom. Medical journals examined the potential benefits of Wii Sports bowling at nursing homes. Another investigated whether time with or not Wii Sports improved skills of physicians performing laparoscopic surgery. was Wii Sports literally making the world more engaged, healthier and smarter? Probably not! But this enthusiasm, spanning generations and professions, shows how this one game touched almost every corner of American pop culture.

A decade ago “more Wii SportsSounded like a no-brainer. Nintendo released smart Wii Sports Resort in 2009, along with the Wii Motion Plus dongle, which added some extra precision to the Wii’s motion controls. But from that moment forward, Wii Sports became little more than a reference in Super Smash Bros.

A player jumps to hit badminton badminton in Nintendo Switch Sports

Image: Nintendo

After more than a decade since the pop culture test, I have finally had the opportunity to play a new contribution: the appropriate title Nintendo Switch Sports. It debuted on the Nintendo Switch months after the hardware surpassed the Wii in total hardware sales, with as many as 103.55 million switches sold – and that’s in the middle of a global semiconductor shortage. In theory, there is no better time for Nintendo to unfold its money magic.

So with all that in mind – and I know it’s a lot – why has Nintendo been so subdued? In an era with several Nintendo Directes dedicated to Animal Crossing or even Xenoblade, the company has provided Change sports a short message and a five-minute explanatory video, and then sent it to critics with no option but to enter the main mode. Great choice!

But after sinking a week into its six mini-games, I think I get the “classic Nintendo logic” of it all. Nintendo does not know surprising alchemy, certainly better than I do – and it has again spun gold.

A player hits a ball with his head in football in Nintendo Switch Sports

Image: Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Sports is not so much a successor to Wii Sports as it is the franchise’s delayed development from a technical demo to a proper video game. The original Wii Sports, despite all its historical significance, felt like a new but thin test of the Wii hardware. Its gameplay lacked depth and possibilities; half of the sports mini-games were duds; and the art style was a rudimentary 3D setting with Miis instead of original characters. And in 2009, Wii Sports Resort felt like Wii Sports … just more.

Nintendo Switch Sports, on the other hand, feels complete, which I admit is a silly thing to say considering that the heck’s online mode is not available yet. But I speak relatively. Unlike its barebones predecessor, Nintendo has put all its typical polish into each of the discrete mini-games. I expect all six of them will have their dedicated fans declaring that theirs is the best in the pack.

The sport is…

  • Volleyball: 1-4 players
  • Badminton: 1-2 players
  • Bowling: 1-4 players
  • Football: 1-2 players
  • Chambara (sword fight): 1-2 players
  • Tennis: 1-4 players
  • A golf update will be available this summer.

The costume selection screen features face masks in Nintendo Switch Sports

Image: Nintendo

You should read a complete overview of how each sport plays, in our practical impressions from earlier this month. My favorite sport has changed day by day. Yesterday I was convinced that I would spend the rest of the week playing volleyball. Then I woke up this morning, played a game of football and then just kept playing football. It’s paused on television at the moment and waiting for me to fit in a new round. Which I’m about to do right now.

OK, so I’m back. Some of the sports include alternative modes, such as a shootout mode in football and double-swing in chambara. They can be played solo against AI, which has three levels of difficulty. I swear this is not a tacky humble brag: I’m a fan of the toughest mode, Powerhouse, which has felt like playing against another person. It’s challenging, but not unfair. That said, the game is clearly meant to be played with others, and that’s probably where you want to have the most fun.

The first person I played with was my four-year-old son. Now I want to be in advance with you; he only played for half an hour before demanding that we switch to Sonic. And by “play” I mean he wandered around the living room shouting “I bowl! I bowl! I bowl!” But any video game that keeps my kid away from Sonic the Hedgehog for more than five minutes is a miracle. Thirty minutes is a world record.

This game is a blast with other people, whether they love video games or, like my spouse, have no interest whatsoever. It captures that feeling of the Wii at its best: that you could pretend to be a great tennis player in your living room, and the motion controls would make you feel like you actually were. Are the motion controls as accurate as the Wii Motion Plus? I do not think. A handful of times, the game did not detect my immaculate bowling motion, prompting me to try again. Still, I do not think that 99% of the people who play this game will think of the small loss of precision when they put a volleyball into their friend’s face.

A player prepares to play volleyball in Nintendo Switch Sports

Image: Nintendo

These feelings – send a shuttlecock over your husband’s head but just inside the line, bowl a perfect game against your annoyed daughter, or draw a Jar’kai on your grandfather – do Nintendo Switch Sports particular. And those are the moments that will spread the game: guests trying out this silly video game and deciding, Hi, I should get one of these for my home. I also want to humiliate my loved ones in virtual tennis.

All to alleviate my own unnecessary worry: the hype surrounding Nintendo’s biggest game to date in 2022 is fundamentally different from how we get excited about more Fire Emblem or Metroid.

In some ways, the video game culture looks completely different today than it did then Wii Sports became a cultural phenomenon in the mid-2000s. I figured that with a big gap between the contributions, Nintendo would have to rethink the series to serve a wider audience that is far more readable in video games. It’s weirder now, if any has not played Fortnite or Among us or even Dungeons & Dragons. I assumed a game like this would need more meat, more mood, more, yes, to be honest, marketing.

I was mistaken. Despite all the change in the game world, it is and will always be great to throw an imaginary ball against imaginary bowling needles. Wii Sports did not need more mini-games or the endless to-do list for a “live game” or the depth of an RPG. All it needed was a little more polishing, a little liberal trimming of the weak bits and a quick boot out into the world.

A player throws a volleyball into the back corner of the court in Nintendo Switch Sports

Image: Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Sports feels so nice in 2022 because the joy knows Wii Sports never really disappeared – and neither did the dream of motion controls and games that invited even the most cynical non-gamers. You can still find dusty Wii’s and Microsoft Kinects at nursing homes, hospitals and even some school A / V closets across the country. Throughout the pandemic, my dad dug a Kinect up to the neighborhood backyard gatherings. When I took him to a retro game store this winter, the clerk broke his spirit and informed him that not even original Xbox One games would be associated with Kinect. Nor were his Kinect classics backwards compatible with the latest Xbox hardware. I’m ecstatic that I can push this game into his life, for reader, I promise it’s better than literally every Kinect game … and almost every Wii game too.

Nintendo Switch Sports targets this audience, from retirees to the newlywed parents, nostalgic for a type of gaming experience that has not been completely recreated since. These are the last generations who are largely unfamiliar with modern video game controllers. And for Nintendo, that audience is perhaps more than enough.

That said, I hope younger people give this game a shot. I think they can, when the online mode of the game is available, a place where people under the age of 35 are far more likely to play games. Until I can try these features, though, I’m happy to think of this as Nintendo’s love letter to the old and the old at heart. The company took over a decade to make the game, but maybe they were waiting for people like me to age into it.

Nintendo Switch Sports will be released on April 29 on the Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed on Switch using a pre-release download code provided by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find further information on Polygon’s ethical policy here.