Whenever Nintendo releases a new piece of hardware, we normally see experimental and innovative game concepts be born that demonstrate the strengths of the new device. Accordingly, with the release of the Nintendo Switch, an avenue for inventive game design is open for exploration, and Nintendo has just released a pioneering new fighter that ushers in an exciting new way to play. ARMS is the newest release from Nintendo for the Switch, and the game is well-equipped to become Nintendo’s next major franchise.
Much like Splatoon before it, Nintendo is using ARMS to disrupt the foundation of a well-established genre – in this case, the fighting game genre. Traditionally, fighting games have a steep learning curve and can be quite intimidating to newcomers. Conversely, ARMS is quite accessible due to its simple controls and, thus, is able to appeal to a broad audience. Nevertheless, there is a surprising amount of depth to be found in ARMS, as each character and arm type has their own attributes to consider. Whether you are a casual player or a competitive fighter, ARMS is an entertaining Switch release that is fun for everyone.
Featuring multiple control options, an imaginative roster of fighters, character customization options, and several game modes to select from; ARMS provides a well-rounded selection of options for players to explore. Nevertheless, the game’s single-player is less than compelling; but ARMS’ strong multiplayer offerings more than make up for the subpar single-player. ARMS has that patented Nintendo charm and quality that makes you smile and want to play one more match.
On the surface, ARMS doesn’t differ all that much from other fighting games; in the sense that you learn to read the movements of your opponent, devise strategies to exploit a weakness in their defense, and properly defend yourself from incoming attacks. Making use of a third-person perspective, you are able to remain aware of your surroundings and have a better sense of control of your character and the direction of your strikes.
What separates ARMS from other fighters is the style in which it is played. Offering two control methods – motion controls and traditional button controls, ARMS is an accessible fighting game that allows the player to experiment with multiple control methods and to find the one that best suits their style of play. ARMS is built with motion controls in mind, and the game proves that motion controls can and do work well within the fighting genre. The motion controls are simple and extremely accessible, thus allowing players of all skill levels and ages to pick the JoyCon up and instantly feel comfortable playing.
The motion controls require a Joycon in each hand and for the player to make small motions to perform in-game actions. Punching will have the character throw a punch, and then with a slight twist of the wrist, you can alter the trajectory of your punch. By putting an angle on a punch, you are better able to avoid counter punches and catch your opponent off-guard. This style of control provides the player with more accurate precision and control over their punches, but you may feel you have less control over your character’s blocking and movement.
On the contrary, the game’s more traditional control style – in which players use buttons as the primary means of input, grants the player with a greater sense of control over their fighter; however, punches are less precise and it is more difficult to perform a wide grab. With that said, the traditional style remains a perfectly valid control method and you won’t feel exposed against those that favor motion controls. With a better feel of character control, it is easier to dodge and evade incoming punches.
Either control method has pros and cons, but each are functionally sound. It all comes down to personal preference. Experiment with both control methods and use whichever you feel most comfortable with.
Where ARMS surprises is with the amount of depth the game has to offer the competitive fighting scene. There are several fighting mechanics one can master in their time with ARMS – such as countering and dodging. It is the type of game that gradually reveals all its secrets the more you play. On the surface, it may appear to be a casual fighting game; but the deeper you dive, the more you realize there is a lot more left to discover.
Each fighter in ARMS has their own specialized abilities, and taking advantage of these abilities can provide you with an opening to change the tide of a fight. For example – Ninjara can poof into a cloud of smoke while dashing in the air, or disappear and reappear while blocking. When used in tandem with Ninjara’s fast movement speed, these abilities grant the user to play a mind game and deceive their opponent. By jumping and vanishing for a split second, your opponent will lose sight of you; thus allowing you to position yourself on their weak side for a quick strike.
The battle system gets even deeper once you learn how to make use of Charged Attacks. By jumping or holding down the block button, you will be able to charge your arms and prepare a more powerful attack. Much like with character abilities, there is a strategic game to be played here, as each Arm has an elemental and weight quality to them. Heavy Arms move slow but cannot be countered by lighter Arms; whereas lighter Arms are faster, but can be countered by Arms of a heavier weight class.
The elemental nature of the Arm will dictate the type of damage and subsequent punishment inflicted. For example: The Homie Arm is of the Explosive element class, and when fully charged it will explode and cause extra damage. Other Arms can cause burn damage, freeze opponents and slow down their movement speed, or even disable their Arms and leave them vulnerable to attack.
Blocking incoming attacks may sound like a viable strategy; but by favoring blocking over dodging and countering, you leave yourself vulnerable to Grab Attacks. Grabs cannot be blocked, but they can be broken up with a quick punch. A missed Grab Attack will leave you susceptible to incoming attacks.
The final technique available in your move set are Rush Attacks – think of these as Special Moves. To activate a Rush Attack, you must first fill your Rush gauge by throwing punches and landing hits. Rush Attacks inflict high amounts of damage, and can quickly end a match.
To date, ARMS has a total of 10 characters to select from. Each character starts with a set of three Arms that are unique to their character. As you progress and play the game, you will earn in-game currency that can be used to unlock new Arms for each character. So far, there are 30 Arm type available in the game, and unlocking them all for each character requires a substantial time investment. Nevertheless, the game invites the player to customize the style of Arms they want to use with their character of preference. This permits for experimentation and strategic planning to be conducted, as you learn which Arms best suit your play style.
In terms of game modes, ARMS offers the basic essentials that you have come to expect from any fighting game. Grand Prix serves as the game’s single-player Arcade mode, as it takes you through 10 matches against each fighter featured in the starting roster. This mode serves as a great introduction to the game and it quite challenging – you are required to beat Grand Prix on Difficulty Level 4 if you wish to partake in Ranked online matches.
Regrettably, Grand Prix isn’t an absorbing single-player affair. It is serviceable as an Arcade mode and does a fine job of introducing you to the style of matches offered in the game, but it doesn’t provide much of a reason to play once you beat Rank 4 and unlock Ranked. Aside from challenging the higher Ranked CPU opponents in a quest for self-improvement, there is little incentive to play Grand Prix above Rank 4.
Aside from Grand Prix, there are the ARMS Test, Training, and 1-on-100 game modes to play solo. These are fine secondary distractions.
On the other hand, ARMS is an engrossing and addictive multiplayer experience. There are three main online modes available – Ranked, Party, and Friends Mode.
Ranked Mode is the competitive online mode of ARMS. Winning matches will fill your rank meter and eventually lead to you leveling up your rank level; meanwhile, a loss will deplete the meter a slight bit, as numerous losses in a row will cause you to drop a rank level. Matches in Ranked are conducted in as a ‘Best of 3’. Prior to the start of the first round – and between each new round, you can select which Arms you will use for battle. Your selection is limited to the set of three you assigned prior to battle, so be sure to put together a trio of Arms that best suit your fighting style.
Party Mode is the game’s casual mode and emphasizes fun over competition. Party Mode cycles players in and out of randomly designated match types in a way that keeps the game moving along at a brisk pace. Match types offered in Party Mode are – 1-on-1, 2-on-2, Volleyball, Basketball, Skill Shot, free-for-all for three or four competitors, and team battle against Hedlok. Each game mode is plenty entertaining and easy to sink hours into.
Friend Mode features all the same game modes as Party Mode, but players can customize their lobby to remove certain modes and stages. Friend Mode also has an Arena setting, in which players in the lobby can spectate matches.
Local multiplayer is also present in ARMS and provides the player with plenty of game options. You can participate in all the match types of Party Mode,
ARMS may not offer much in terms of single-player content, but its online and local multiplayer focus are the game’s true strength. ARMS is able to stretch its reach to both the casual and hardcore fighting audience, as it delivers a fun and compelling fighting game for the Nintendo Switch. With the promise of free DLC to come, Nintendo has positioned ARMS to be their next big online franchise and it is off to a great start. We present ARMS with a score of 8.5 out of 10.
Stick around here at We Write Things for more on Nintendo. Nintendo of America provided We Write Things with a Switch review code of ARMS for the purposes of this review.