Switch Sports is almost guaranteed to be in my GOTY list at the end of 2022, but I'm not sure I'll ever play it again. I have an odd relationship with the odd little Switch title. When I reviewed it, I found it a desperately shallow experience that, while good in the moment, had no sense of progression, creativity, or anything beyond the very basic 'play some sports'. While gameplay was more refined, as a total package it was a major step back from Wii Sports. It offered only five sports, and while golf was promised to be coming shortly after launch, some delays have meant we're still waiting. The only thing that might get me back now is if it takes some lessons from Wii Sports Resort.
When playing online, Switch Sports is a little closer to where it should be. There are ranks you can climb in each sport, and a lot of consistent play allowed me to reach the top rank in football and to be within a few wins from it in tennis. Mostly though I played to unlock things. Switch Sports, bafflingly, worked on a rotating battle pass policy wherein getting enough points unlocked a random item from one of the three sets. Get all the items, and get the bonus costume. For the first eight costumes, I did this religiously, unlocking everything. Then, because of a summer holiday, I missed a week and it was gone forever. There suddenly felt like no reason to play, and I've hardly touched it again since.
These unlockables themselves were not all that exciting. A few good costumes, some neat hairstyles, and a very fetching tennis skirt, but mostly they were Wii clothes with graphic designs vomited onto them. One even let you be a furry. I was in the cycle of needing to unlock them all, and once that ended, I saw no reason to go back. Gameplay was decent and earning ranks or avoiding relegation was tense and exciting, but it gets a little old when there's nothing else to it. There was no indication of when, if ever, these items might come back in the rotation or might be in the store, which is especially annoying considering in the earlier weeks I earned more credits than I could spend, only to see these wiped out in the next rotation rather than carrying over.
My point is, as fun as it might be to play football with Joy-Con akimbo, Nintendo was relying on a lazy sense of FOMO to keep us coming back. The only gameplay update of note is that football can now be played with a leg strap, which no one playing seriously is ever going to do anyway. In Wii Sports, you had offline progression in all five sports, as well as minigames for all of them and training exercises for all of them. Much like Brain Training, there was also a Gym Mode that randomly selected three of the training tasks and pitted you against them. None of this is present in Switch Sports, but the bare bones feel of the game only becomes more apparent when you look at Wii Sports Resort.
Wii Sports Resort had 13 distinct sports, and a huge amount of variety too, ranging from table tennis, to wakeboarding, to basketball, to even flying a plane (that's definitely not a sport, mind, but it was fun). The titular resort also felt lived in, with the Island Flyover mode letting you see all of the arenas from above. Here, each sport had at least three variants, and each variant had five specific challenges to complete, as well as a ranking system. Switch Sports has just five sports, and they're not even that different. Put volleyball and tennis in and blender and you get badminton, so why are all three of them in Switch Sports? Why, given the massive popularity of NBA 2K, did basketball not make the cut?
Switch Sports might look better graphically, and it's still a good game to play if someone hands you the controller and tells you it's your turn to bowl, but it's embarrassingly empty compared to the rest of the series. I'm almost annoyed that I had such a good time with it, because there's an excellent game in here if it asked you to do something other than play football over and over with online randoms circumventing the profanity filter to call themselves racist names. Switch Sports needs to learn from Wii Sports Resort, and it needs to do it quickly. Golf isn't going to be enough.
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