America - Front
America - Back
By Paul Broussard 23rd May 2022 | 2,182 views
I'll admit that there are days when I don't feel like working. Usually this means doing just enough to appear like I'm not slacking off, but mostly just sitting around putting in as little effort as possible so that I can still collect a paycheck at the end. I've struggled with how to describe these types of days to other people who ask how I'm doing. I've tried everything from calling them "bleh" days, to saying I'm "just not in the zone," to something probably offensive with multiple curse words included, but thanks to the fine folks at Nintendo I no longer need to worry about this anymore. I can just say that I'm going to be putting in exactly as much effort as Nintendo did with Switch Sports and everyone will understand that I couldn't care less about any of my work that day.
It's hard to review Nintendo Switch Sports without mentioning Wii Sports first. Wii Sports was of course a cultural phenomenon back in 2006, and for many people was their first introduction to the idea of controlling a video game with motion controls. It was easy to pick up, simple to control, and a nice novelty. But the problem with novelties is they don't remain novel for long, and as such future Nintendo Sports games had a shelf life comparable to a dissident journalist in a Saudi consulate.
This isn't inherently a bad thing; as I've mentioned before, I think games that put a real effort into refining concepts and mechanics are just as important as games that introduce them. The problem is that the mechanics of Wii Sports are so simplistic that it's very difficult to "refine" them in any meaningful way. There's not too much one can do to the process of swinging a remote to make it more engaging. In short, motion control sports are something of a concept with a short shelf life. Wii Sports Resort tried different sports to switch things up and keep things fresh to varying degrees of success, but even the best lost their luster pretty quickly.
So I came into Nintendo Switch Sports by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch with relatively low expectations, but even those Nintendo managed to fall flat on with such a lazy offering I feel like I should be insulted. Six sports, three of them copied wholesale from prior installments, with a fourth that plays very similarly to a third already present, for $50. This is the sort of thing that I might expect in a $15-$20 expansion pack, and charging almost full retail price for this is frankly insulting.
But, as the comments sections on these things often demonstrate, insults are often part of reviewing video games, so I grabbed a group of friends and we gave it a try. Bowling, Tennis, and Chambara are all pretty much the exact same as they were the previous time around, although the Joy-Cons seem slightly more accurate in reading inputs than Wii Motion Plus was for Chambara. Badminton is a slight variation on Tennis, and wound up being a little less frustrating to play. Both games don't give you direct control over the movement of your player, but Badminton has less territory that the AI can move around, so there are fewer chances for the game to annoyingly move your character into a position where a shot is hard to return.
Volleyball and Soccer are where the new content is and both are decently fun distractions for a little while. Volleyball plays much how you'd expect, with having to make different motions to bop, set, and spike the ball. The game seems to have particular trouble here reading inputs (particularly the timing), which resulted in us making a variety of different motions to try and get it to understand our commands consistently. Games eventually dissolved into a series of out-of-shape people uncoordinatedly making awkward hand motions, the likes of which haven't been seen since the most recent North Korean military parade.
Soccer (or Football as you European fans call it in your brief moments of lucidity before setting fire to another car) is somehow probably the most enjoyable of the lot, and that's entirely due to the fact that you can actually control your own character's movement. There's a neat little element of stamina management as well; your character has a fairly large stamina bar, but it's also painfully slow to recharge, and knowing when to use it and when to hold off can be the difference between getting a scoring opportunity and not. There are also no goalies, which means that you don't have to wait 40 or so minutes inbetween goals being scored, another substantial benefit over the real world equivalent.
However, again, with the simplicity of these concepts, it's only a (short) matter of time before things get old. Switch Sports runs out of entertainment value a couple of hours in, and at a $50 price point it's a terrible value proposition. Even if Switch Sports carried some of the most amazing gameplay ever designed by mankind, I might balk at recommending it at that price to content ratio. I'm old enough to remember when Metal Gear Rising's DLC got flak for offering a couple of hours of gameplay for $10, and that seems like the steal of a lifetime compared to this now.
Online features do exist, and if this review has convinced you that you desperately need this game in your life, you'll be pleased to know that you don't necessarily need real world friends to actually play it against other humans. You do need them to play it well, however, because the online is Nintendo's usual affair; delay-based netcode that is often laggy and frustrating to play in, especially with sports where precise timing is needed like Volleyball. I won't claim to have the greatest internet in the world, but even if everything I've said so far hasn't dissuaded you on the merits of the game alone, I don't think this is a worthwhile investment for anyone unless they plan on having people over consistently.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Switch Sports is somehow worse than Wii Sports was back in 2006. Maybe Miis just weren't feasible for games where you'd be running around, like soccer (although Wii Sports Resort had Miis with legs), but the weird character designs in Switch Sports just don't have the same simple charm as Miis did. You can, in fairness, create a Mii head and slap it on the body of an otherwise standard Switch character, but it looks frankly bizarre. The general design of arenas and the movement of characters is fine, but nothing inspiring, and the music is pretty unremarkable.
So that's Switch Sports. Just like the crown prince of Nintendo's newest investor, it's short, unengaging, and isn't nearly as impressive as it thinks it is. The price point is unreasonable, the games on display don't have nearly enough new content, and what is new has some charm but ultimately lacks staying power. Now all that's left is for me to hope that unlike the aforementioned individual, Switch Sports won't send assassins to kill me because I didn't like it.