A bland art style, unimpressive button inputs and wonky motion controls, Hyper Sports R is a reimagining of a 1984 classic that might be best staying there.
Though I understand and appreciate Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort’s impact on the casual arcade sports title, those games best worked due to the variety of casual games that made use of your virtual avatar with a cute, simplistic sense of art style. Hyper Sports R for the Nintendo Switch, however, combines Olympic track and field sports with simple gameplay mechanics to cash in on a long-dormant franchise that seems loosely connected to its 1984 predecessor.
I got the chance to try the game out, just hours after its reveal on the day of the E3 2018 show floor opening up to members of the industry. Only three of the minigames were available; 100-meter dash, long jump, and the javelin throw. The developers at Konami had beach volleyball in the demo, but it was AI-only at the time. That should tell you just how deep into development this demo is at its current stage.
Thankfully, motion controls are only active in the 100-meter dash (they’re totally optional, too), requiring you to hold onto a Joy-Con controller in each of your hand as you alternate full body gyro swings as if you’re running. It feels (and looks) absolutely ridiculous, but it’s better than an alternating left and right on the D-pad to mimic the same thing.
In fact, most inputs for each of the Hyper Sports R minigames on the controller are simple left and right inputs to sprint into a run, followed by a single button prompt to complete a task. The long jump forced you to get that same jump, press a button to launch yourself and press the same button to nail the angle. A javelin throw included the same mechanics, except this time the button prompt had you aim your javelin down the middle of the field. It feels awkward due to just how close the D-pad is grouped together.
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None of these minigames feel smooth or in-depth, as they all seem rather simple and mundane. Furthermore, the cartoonish art style produces some comically disproportioned characters with weird models, and zooming into them reveals just how much effort needs to go into improving the character design.
Speaking off, Hyper Sports R has players representing themselves as various teams, instead of countries. This plays into a teased expansive story mode where players can create their own teams, logos, face off against rivals and recruit more athletes as you complete quests to obtain sponsors plus better equipment and coaching. There will be 20 characters and seven track and field events, leaving just under half of the sports revealed so far.
I imagine the beach volleyball mode will be fun to play both by yourself and with other players in local multiplayer, and I’m sure the single-player campaign can derive some enjoyment (depending on how in-depth the experience is). However, if it focuses on three basic sports with limited gameplay depth, it will be hard to see its long-term viability.
I’m also aware of how early in the development process this game is, but Hyper Sports R doesn’t even handle its frame rate well. It chugged at sub-30 FPS often, which is quite frankly unacceptable when most sports games that value precise inputs need to be at a solid 60 FPS. It’s hard to time your long jumps if you’re dropping frames.
Konami seems to be doubling down on its sports titles, making brilliant use of the FOX engine for the future of PES titles. Brilliance in that franchise only makes me question what the hell went wrong to make Hyper Sports R feel so lackluster on the day of its announcement.