At some point more than 80 million homes had a copy of Wii Sports, the motion-controlled collection that transfixed non-gamers for a time in 2007.
The hat’s title came to define the plucky little Wii console as a friendly machine on which playing games was as simple and intuitive as wielding a controller. There’s little at stake for the Nintendo Switch Sports, a more elaborate re-run for a console that’s already become a wild success.
Yet while the NSS is no clone, it is essentially the same set-up with the Joy-Con motion controller enabling players of all abilities to participate in six sports: tennis, badminton, football, fencing, bowling and volleyball. . Naturally, the Joy-Cons are more accurate in their tracking than the original Wiimote. But the specifics of your controls aren’t always clear, not least because some games don’t have full tutorials, unlike Nintendo.
Considering the 2013 sequel Wii Sports Resort had 12 (the original Wii Sports had just five), even just six games might sound a bit pathetic. Nintendo promises to add Golf to the NSS in a free update later this year, but at least accepts the value proposition with a mid-range price tag.
Nevertheless, NSS provides an important center of multiplayer entertainment that should again attract the attention of non-gamers. In single-player mode against the CPU, it has a fleeting charm that lacks enough variety to challenge. But this friendly with a bunch of other humans turns into a perfect party game filled with bickering, yelling and competition.
Those humans no longer need to be in the same room, with online multiplayer now an option, albeit via Nintendo’s clunky matchmaking system and awkwardly using voice chat via a smartphone app.
The games themselves are a mixed bunch. Tennis reminds me closely of the Wii Sports original, though confusingly where you control two doubles players at once. Badminton adds more subtlety but is poorly explained to newcomers. Bowling enables up to 16 players to compete online in simultaneous play but again resembles the 2007 version. Fencing demands that you read your opponent’s angle to counter his stance and prepare for a good challenge. Volleyball probably offers the most complexity, ensuring that you master the spike, block and serve, and thus provide the most longevity.
However, soccer proved to be my favorite because it doesn’t behave like soccer, instead relying on Rocket League using a giant ball. With eight players online, it gets delightfully chaotic and yet requires a lot of skill and team coordination. If you own the leg strap from Ring Fit Adventures, it can mimic the act of kicking in a penalty shoot-out, with an upcoming patch allowing its use in the full game.
Some sports require more exertion than others, with volleyball, football and fencing causing sweating far more easily than others.
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The NSS has already topped the charts, but won’t dominate it the way Wii Sports did 15 years ago. This partly makes up for the changed gaming landscape, but the novelty factor is also lacking in the NSS. We’ve seen it before and even though it’s never done so well, the overall package feels a bit slim.