Back in late 2006 when the Nintendo Wii first released, easily the system’s biggest draw was Wii Sports. A party game where players used motion controls to engage in various sports with their friends and family, the combination of simple controls and colourful characters made it a mainstay at group gatherings for years.

Wii Sports has had several sequels and remakes over the years. The most recent of these, which released last week, is Nintendo Switch Sports. While not a direct remake of the original Wii Sports, the game features a few of the same sports as well as some new entries, given a fresh HD coat of paint.

While Nintendo Switch Sports has some accessibility limitations disabled players may need to work around, it also has a wider range of accessibility support options available than prior games in the series, as well as new games that have their own unique accessibility support options to keep in mind.

So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to be talking about Nintendo Switch Sports. We’re going to talk about which accessibility settings have been added to the game, which of the new sports can be played one handed, and which support options the game still unfortunately lacks.

So, first up, before we dive into any of the specific sports available in Nintendo Switch Sports, I want to talk about some of the game’s overall settings that apply regardless of which sport is being played.

First up is the game’s per-sport dominant hand settings. The first time you boot up each game in Nintendo Switch Sports, you will be asked if, for that sport, you wish to use your left or right hand as your dominant. The fact that you can select a dominant hand at all is great to see, as Nintendo has a bit of a history of catering their motion controls specifically to right handed players in games like the original Wii Sports, or The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Additionally, the ability to change your dominant hand at a later date without needing to create a new profile is appreciated, as it means if you injure your previously dominant hand, or lose the ability to use it entirely, you can switch which dominant hand you use without losing cosmetic unlock progress.

On that note, Nintendo Switch Sports contains a series of randomly unlocked cosmetic items, earned by playing the game. While some disabled gamers may struggle with the mental pull of randomised rewards, it is important to note that there is no way to spend real world money to speed up gaining access to these randomised reward pulls.

Nintendo Switch Sports does not explicitly gender player characters during character creation based on their choices of more masculine or femine character models, and no cosmetic items are limited by gender. Any player can wear any cosmetic item they like at any time.

Nintendo Switch Sports also features a setting to turn off stickers displayed on screen by online multiplayer opponents, which appear at the sides of the screen. If you are a player with a disability where frequent small pop ups around your screen might be a distraction from play, such as players who are autistic or those with ADHD, you can turn these off in settings.

Lastly, Nintendo Switch Sports features a settings option titled Alternate Color Mode, which is not explicitly labelled as being designed for colourblind players, but is clearly aimed at those players.

The settings option is very unclear in its execution. It’s an on / off toggle, and doesn’t feature different settings tailored to players with the various different types of colour blindness. While it’s a little hard to immediately notice what had been changed by the setting, it seems like a lot of colours are washed out and less vibrant, with colour trails behind objects such as balls reduced, and some colours slightly tweaked.

It is important to note that none of the sports playable in Nintendo Switch Sports feature any kind of alternative control schemes. The default motion controls are what they are, and there is no changing them in any way supported in game. This is a shame, as most sports do not use both analogue sticks, and as demonstrated with Skyward Sword HD last year, Nintendo is capable of mapping one analogue stick to replace motion controls in a game.

Text in Nintendo Switch Sports is decently sized in a nice legible font, and most games feature large clear animations to demonstrate how to play, for players unable to read in game text.

In offline single player, you can tweak the difficulty of AI between a few different presets.

Lastly, if you prefer navigating menus with a D-Pad rather than analogue sticks, you’ll be out of luck here, as the D-Pad does not navigate menus, and is mapped such that you can accidentally back out of menus by trying to use it.

So, with that out of the way, let’s talk a little about some of the individual sports.

Tennis plays much the same as it did in Wii Sports. The game is playable one handed, relies much more on timing than angle of motion, and can be played with small flicks of the wrist rather than grand motions.

Bowling plays very similarly to its Wii Sports incarnation too, but with a slightly greater degree of control over your throw angle. The game can be played one handed, and while it encourages full swinging motions that replicate real world bowling swings, it can be played with a more restrictive swing. It will require you to start with the controller raised pointed toward the ceiling, swing it so the front of the Joycon faces the floor, then back up toward the screen. This can be done while seated.

Chambara, the Sword Fighting game from Wii Sports Resort, is largely the same as it was there, with some tweaks that add additional sword fighting styles. While Sword and Charge Sword are fairly self explanatory sword styles that can be played one handed with wrist flicking motions, I want to talk in a bit more depth about Twin Swords style.

While Twin Swords does in theory require the use of both Joy-Cons, it is actually a surprisingly playable one handed mode. You lose some of the style’s flexibility by not being able to take advantage of increased attack targets for the enemy to keep their eye on, you can only ever block with one sword at a time, or swing with one at a time, and you can’t attack with one while defending with the other. So, if you can find a grip where you can hold both Joy-Cons at once, and hit either ZL or ZR, you can attack and defend, building up your spin attack metre. Spin attacks are activated by swinging both controllers together once your metre is built, so it’s possible to activate one handed, though you may be limited by not being able to hold your spin attack for later, having to use it on your first attack swing after it is ready for use.

Moving onto the newer sports, Volleyball and Badminton are both single controller sports, but they are both a bit more complex than their nearest comparison, Tennis.

In volleyball, you’ll need to move your character left and right using the analogue stick, engaging in multiple different types of motion controls to set, spike, or block the ball. While most of these motions are very similar, they centre largely on raising your arm or bringing it down quickly at a precise time, there is also a degree of aiming involved too.

For Badminton, timing is the least relevant of any of the comparable sports on display. You’ll be using ZL or ZR to change between regular and drop shots, while trying to aim your hits side to side, using underhand and overhand swings of varying intensity. This seemed to be the game most resistant to being played with small wrist flicks.

Lastly, let’s talk about Football / Soccer. This is the most complicated sport on offer, as well as the one least able to be played one handed. The game features dual analogue controls for running around the pitch and manipulating the camera, while face buttons are used for actions like jumping and passing, with motion controls used to directionally aim how you’ll kick the ball.

Football also features the least clear tutorial of all sports in the collection, not explaining before your first game that there is a stamina metre, or how jump and pass controls work.

You can invert vertical and horizontal camera controls in Football, as well as set the mini map to either be static, or rotate to match the direction you are looking mid play.

Having spent some time playing through Nintendo Switch Sports, I fundamentally feel like the game is a step forward for the Nintendo Sports series in terms of accessibility, while still feeling like it falls short of what I would ideally hope for from a studio of this scale.

I am glad we have some sort of colourblind support, but tailored options for each of the most common colour blindness types is a standard we should be aiming for. Most of these games have no alternative control schemes, and there is no way to play the game without using motion controls, even for offline play with friends and family.

I am glad Nintendo is catching up to the fact that gender locking outfit pieces is needless, and that left handed people play motion controlled games too. This is a step forward, but not in any way groundbreaking when compared more broadly to other video games that are available.

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