The original Wii Sports
is somewhat synonymous with the console that it debuted on, the Nintendo Wii. Released as the pack-in game when the decidedly non-HD console hit the scene back in 2006, it also doubled as the
motion control game. An experience that would become synonymous with waving about whilst sitting or standing in front of a TV. That is, moving a controller and then having an on-screen avatar do exactly that; swing to hit a tennis ball, swing to bowl a bowling ball, swing to, err, throw a fist.
Motion controls and the Nintendo Wii went hand-in-strap-and-then-back-in-hand, and even though the Nintendo Switch hit the scene with its own slice of motion (with the all-but forgotten 1-2-Switch), the console has become something of an everything everywhere all at once. A handheld home to many amazing first-party releases, a place to dive into wonderful indies, a digital hub to fire up classic N64 games and then marvel at how there was a time when looking at 1996-era 3D graphics was mind-blowing. A console you can take online and play a competitive action game. Full 3D Pokemon, finally.
Now, aside from setting the scene, this little ‘... and here comes Nintendo Switch Sports’ is best served as a reminder of how iconic the original Wii Sports was. How much time has passed and how we’re at a place where a Nintendo Switch revival feels like perfect timing. The Switch can be anything, and that includes a portal to a special waggle-motion-powered time from well over a decade ago.
"... we’re at a place where a Nintendo Switch revival [of Wii Sports] feels like perfect timing."
Nintendo Switch Sports sees the return of a few fan favourites (namely, Bowling and Tennis) plus the addition of a few new sports in the form of Volleyball and Soccer (or, “Oi mate, it’s called Football innit”). It carries the same sense of local co-op insanity, with an added dose of online. At a recent hands-on event we had the chance to go hand-in-strap-and-then-back-in-hand for all six sports available at launch, in what was a fun digital stroll through the vibrant Spocco Square.
Of Volleyball and Bowling
The days of motion being how you go about controlling every Nintendo game are gone, but each and every Joy-Con comes packed with an accelerometer and gyroscope to track motion. So right off the bat, Nintendo Switch Sports takes advantage of the hardware that slots into either side of the console. And even though we’re also beyond the time when elaborate physical movement was the thing you did when playing Wii Sports, it’s the sort of habit that’s hard to shake when the results are immediate and fun.
"As a new sport for the series, Volleyball is all about multiplayer action with up to four players serving, setting up the ball, spiking and blocking."
As a new sport for the series, Volleyball is all about multiplayer action with up to four players serving, setting up the ball, spiking and blocking. Simple hand gestures that mimic the real-world sport, plus jumping, becoming a stand-in for the real deal. Coloured trails and on-screen notifications let you know if your timing was too early or too late, and building up combos ensures that skill and teamwork are rewarded in kind. Accessibility has always been at the forefront of Wii Sports as a unique experience, and volleyball keeps that in check with the complexity coming from the sport itself.
On the flip side to this is Bowling, which elevates the original’s ten-pin setup thanks to being able to bowl simultaneously with other players - significantly improving the pick-up-and-play quality of the excellent mode. Setting up angles, adding a spin, its motion control at its simplest and more intuitive - and with the original now falling under the “retro game” category in terms of age, a necessary and very welcome addition.
The Return of Tennis and Badminton
Wii Sports Tennis was the one sport from the original that became a household name the world over, and in terms of execution Nintendo Switch Sports doesn’t so much mess with a classic as it simply expands and refines it. With the added hardware grunt of the Switch, the vibrant HD visuals serve as a great reminder of how far the medium has come even when you’re talking about something as simple as Pong 2.0.
"Wii Sports Tennis was the one sport from the original that became a household name the world over, and in terms of execution Nintendo Switch Sports doesn’t so much mess with a classic as it simply expands and refines it."
Badminton might have the air of Tennis but with strange looking balls, but the slow then rapid movement creates a more immediate and tense match when played with others. A flurry of fast hits and smashes is brilliantly executed, and even though elaborate hand movements aren’t required - going from forehand to backhand and then overhand to smash in a matter of seconds feels as timeless as the sport itself.
Simple hand movements and timing, this could sum up the majority of Nintendo Switch Sports - until you get to Soccer. Here, Nintendo takes a page out of the Rocket League playbook by making full use of both Joy-Cons, one to move as you would in a traditional game, with the other taking various motions as different types of kicks. It’s done so in a way that makes the motion-controls feel tacked on or secondary, and that’s a good thing. The result requires traditional controller-in-hand skills with the timing and swiping that is Switch Sports.
"Simple hand movements and timing, this could sum up the majority of Nintendo Switch Sports - until you get to Soccer. Here, Nintendo takes a page out of the Rocket League playbook by making full use of both Joy-Cons."
For simplicity Nintendo includes a penalty shoot off style mode that makes use of the Nintendo Switch leg-strap which is a lot of fun, but it’s here where the most robust sport of all the offerings could make the leap from same-room blast to online mainstay. The fast-paced and very technical sword combat of Chambara makes a return too, for those looking for something where skill trumps random waggle. Coincidently enough time has passed that using the word ‘waggle’ no longer feels like a strange functionality descriptor.
With Nintendo Switch Sports making its debut later this month, again, the timing feels right. A new generation of players will get to jump into motion-controlled tennis and bowling in what is probably destined to become another party favourite. Back when Wii Sports hit the scene people debated as to whether or not its swinging of a remote was a for reals
game. A silly notion to begin with but Nintendo Switch Sports does serve as proof that the concept of motion sports works. And the execution is as still sound as ever, and you can even import your old school Mii’s. Best of all the new sports build on what has come before, and with the addition of Soccer we’ve got the merging of Rocket League and Wii Sports that we didn’t even know we wanted.