One could look at the playful and colorful aesthetic of Nintendo’s new fighting game ARMS and mistake it for a novelty. After spending time with the game you’ll realize that it’s awesome cast of characters and bizarre take on the genre are not only unique, but refreshing. It may not reach the ranks of a Street Fighter or a Mortal Kombat , but ARMS is likely to find itself quite a following and establish a good foundation for Nintendo in the genre of fighting games.
ARMS gives the player very little information on just exactly what this tournament is or even how it came to be. All that is really known, is that ARMS is a fighting tournament held by the best fighter in the stretchy appendage sport, Max Brass. We are given seldom hints in the Grand Prix mode about fighters and their origins by Biff, the lovable yellow fist commentator who we have come to know from the ARMS Nintendo Direct presentations. Unfortunately he lacks all the personality and charm from those presentations as in the game he has no voice and only emits chirps and noises as you read what he has to say about the tournament.
This becomes ARMS biggest strength and weakness, because while it does sport an awesome cast of characters there is a lot left to be desired about their back stories and just exactly what the point of this tournament is. And while I don’t think the answer to this would be a story mode, as I could only imagine that story would become pretty cheesy and destroy the wacky intrigue of this world, I could have used an opening cinematic that lightly gave me a little more backstory. It also would have helped to give Biff that same level of personality as we came to know him from the Directs.
ARMS And Dangerous:
ARMS manages to capture the heart of games like Power Stone and Ready 2 Rumble, by taking elements of arena style fighting and fusing it with boxing. The twist is the fighters extendable arms, which changes the formula of the traditional fighter. This means that merely keeping a distance from your opponent will not be enough to keep you safe. You will have to rely on your quick reaction time to respond to all of your opponents threats. The game can be played with a controller or the detached joy-cons with motion controls. While the controller is my preffered way to play ARMS, the motion controls are actually really great and very accurate. I never felt at a disadvantage playing with motion controls while my opponent used a controller.
The frantic crazy combat of ARMS doesn’t rely on complicated inputs to release furious attacks much like a Street Fighter or Guilty Gear. Instead there is a rock, paper, scissors system of blocks, grabs, and punches. A block cancels a punch, a punch cancels a grab, and a grab cancels a block. This all sounds simple until you are in the heat of battle and having to make split second decisions. You cannot go into a fight just throwing a flurry of random punches or your opponent will immediately punish you. There are also a number of other factors to figure in as well, such as your load out of arms. Each character starts with a basic set of three unique arms that all have different abilities. Some are slower, but heavy so they go through oncoming attacks, some have a wider spread, and others can curve easily around obstacles.
What makes this system of choosing different arms load outs great is that you can unlock more with in game currency. This is done by using the currency to play a mini game in which you can win random arms, which is a little bit like playing a slot machine as you have no idea what arms you might receive or even how many. While it is not the most effective way of retrieving upgrades for your character it does give you plenty of motivation to go through the Grand Prixs and play online to earn more upgrades. These upgrades will give each fighter a multitude of different arms combinations, making one person’s Spring Man completely different from another person playing as Spring Man. Which provides a lot of depth to the strategy of picking the best load out for you.
ARMS gives you several different modes of play. The Grand Prix mode is essentially like playing one of the cups in Mario Kart. You and another player if you choose, will pick a fighter and go through ten rounds, before you start you will have to choose a difficulty level of one through ten. At first you might think you can jump right in at level five, but trust me you want to start at level one. This game doesn’t play around. The CPU fighters are really smart about countering your moves and will absolutely obliterate beginners. This is a much welcome challenge as many of Nintendo’s newer games tend to hold your hand throughout. Not ARMS, it will beat you senseless if you do not learn how to properly prepare for each fight. And before you are even allowed to play an online ranked match you must beat a level four Grand Prix with at least one fighter. This is awesome because it means that everyone playing ranked matches has somewhat of an idea how to effectively play the game, weeding out the players who play mindlessly. This is something that I think other fighting games could learn from.
In the Grand Prix you will not only have one on one fights, you will also be challenged in hoops and v-ball. Think of these as Street Fighter’s car destroying mode, something to prevent the straight on fights from getting stale. Hoops will have you using grabs to slam dunk your opponent trying to get the highest score before the timer runs down, which actually takes a bit more skill than it sounds. V-ball however, is a little less skill based and can sometimes come down to the luck of the ball exploding before you can knock it back to the other side. Both are fun though and do help the pacing of the Grand Prix mode.
ARMS For Everyone:
A versus and party match mode are featured for some local couch competition. Versus is a straight head to head mode between you and another player, but party match will allow up to four players to go head to head. This is where I think one of ARMS greatest weaknesses lies. Four on four or two on two matches are extremely frustrating as your character will only lock on to one opponent while the other pummels you from behind. This may be a fun novelty just to show to a group of friends, but it is by no means the way you will want to play a majority of this game. The only time the four player mode is actually fun is the two on two v-ball. I found playing a four player v-ball match was actually more fun than a game of one on one v-ball.
The best multiplayer modes are the ranked matches and the online matches with friends. I never was taken out of a match due to poor connection. Every match ran smooth and the load times were extremely fast. You could turn on ARMS, and within a minute be in an online match with an opponent. This makes ARMS a perfect pick up game for when you only have a few minutes to kill. Although fair warning its so addictive you’ll likely be there for far more than a few minutes.
If Nintendo has proved anything, its that they have a great arsenal of characters, and I am happy to say that ARMS is no exception. Every character in ARMS has a unique style and attitude that will no doubt have everyone rallying behind their favorite. From Kid Cobra’s snake like body to Master Mummy’s hulking ghoulish figure, there is a character for everyone. And the interesting design choices will have you curious as to the origin behind each and everyone of ARMS ten character roster.
The soundtrack is also fantastic. You will be humming the theme song all day after starting up the game. And every stage features an awesome restyled version of the theme song to set the mood for the fight. The menus are easy to navigate and everything has that level of polish that has come to be expected of a Nintendo product.
If Street Fighter is the Forza Motorsport of fighting games, then ARMS is the Mario Kart. It is by no means the most strategic or hardcore fighting game on the market, but it is still an absolute blast and will no doubt find its own audience among the fighting game community. While there are some improvements to be made, like the lack of personality from the commentator Biff and the frustrating four player fights, I’d be lying if I said those minor issues kept me from enjoying the core of ARMS.
Much like Splatoon there is certainly a future for this new IP, especially with Nintendo’s promised support of free DLC. If you have a Switch and enjoy fighting games then ARMS is a must own. Even if you are a newcomer to the genre ARMS is a great place to start teaching you the basic fundamentals of timing and counter attacks that are essential in other great fighting games.