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Hyper Sports R might be the Switch’s missing next-gen Wii Sports game

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Motion controls, refined

Hyper Sports R on the Nintendo Switch Konami

To its creators at Konami, Hyper Sports R is the continuation of a franchise that began as an early ’80s arcade game, and they’re not wrong. But when I saw the Nintendo Switch exclusive at E3 2018, I immediately connected the dots between Hyper Sports R and Wii Sports, and I don’t think I’m wrong, either.

Hyper Sports R is a compilation of relatively simple sports games. There are more to come, but right now we know about beach volleyball, swimming events and several track and field sports, like the 100-meter dash and hurdles, long jump and javelin throw.

It’s a Nintendo Switch game largely because of the Switch’s motion control abilities.

“The reason it’s a Switch exclusive is because it’s such powerful technology,” Konami brand and media manager Benjamin Kinney said at E3 2018. “We were at [the Switch’s] launch with [Super Bomberman R], but even then the devs and the teams were looking at what the Switch could do, watching what Nintendo was doing with motion controls and the way Joy-Cons work — there’s potential. For sure, that’s one of the reasons we chose the Switch.”

The Switch’s motion control fidelity was obvious during the first sport we played at E3 — the 100-meter dash.

Not so long ago, on a console like the Wii, you could fudge motion controls. Controlling boxers and bowlers with motion controls in Wii Sports was less about precision than it was about broad motions that you could reasonably associate with whatever action you character was taking on the TV. To run the 100-meter dash in Hyper Sports R, I needed to clutch two Joy-Cons (one in each hand) and pump my arms back and forth as if I were actually running. On the Switch, there’s less room for fudge, and Konami is building the game around that fidelity.

“And even look into the sports that we have coming out — volleyball and stuff,” Kinney said. “You can see that the motions that are going to be involved are going to be more sensitive. … The devs are working on all those motions to make them as natural as possible … more of a natural motion.”

There wasn’t much to play during E3 — Konami just announced the game shortly before my appointment, and there’s no release date yet — but my time running down the track and throwing a javelin with a combination of motion controls and buttons showed promise, though it was also a reminder that Joy-Cons have really small buttons, which is obvious when you’re holding them horizontally like tiny controllers.

In the best case scenario, Hyper Sports R seems like a natural successor to Wii Sports — the kind of game that scales from kindergartner to grandparent. But there’s still much we don’t know.

Its 20-plus character roster and campaign at least hold the potential to make this a viable game to play alone or with a group. But whether the single-player campaign, buoyed by a roster of athletes from which players can build a team, will hold players’ interest remains to be seen.

Konami also needs to tune motion controls for sports like volleyball so that their potential precision doesn’t feel cumbersome. And it seems to me that, however Konami tackles motion controls, they’ll need to be particularly easy to master — because Hyper Sports R has at least one disadvantage: Unlike Wii Sports and the Wii, it won’t come packaged with every Switch.