ARMS takes the fighting formula from classic Nintendo franchises like Punch-Out! and gives it a complete overhaul to create a new and exciting way to duke it out with strangers and friends alike.
In firing up ARMS I was incredibly eager to try the wide variety of different play styles the game offers. Whether it be the purely motion control based style offered by using the joy-con with the thumbs up grip, or using a more traditional button entry based method, this game really caters to each individual player. In using the motion control method, I found it tough to get used to moving your character by simply tilting the joy-con and I also had a hard time with the guard mechanic. These subtle issues weren’t there for me when I played the game with a controller or in handheld mode, but I think with some more practice using the motion controls the two systems can be used interchangeably with tremendous success.
What drew me to ARMS was the wide variety of playable characters available to gamers from the moment you boot up the game. Each character takes on a unique identity and has two enhanced abilities that are specific to that character. My current favorite character, Ninjara, is able to teleport when dashing in the air and also teleports after you successfully block an attack so you can quickly grab a retaliation punch. As you can see, the individual abilities of each character can help immensely during matches. It’s all about being able to harness the power of each character, and find one that fits most with your individual play style.
In addition to the 10-character roster, players are able to select a different arm for each side (left and right) and are also given the opportunity to unlock more arms throughout the play through of the game. This allows for a very in depth level of customization for a fighting game and helps Nintendo to cater to an even wider variety of play styles. As stated at E3, Nintendo does plan to release more fighters as DLC and are planning to have the first released character be the commissioner of the grand prix, Max Brass. He will become available next month.
While I was initially unsure of what Nintendo could do to really innovate the gameplay style that is often associated with fighting games, I now see some of the changes they made that really created a unique a fast pasted fighting game. One of the first things I noticed when firing the game up was the great necessity for constant motion around the arena, which is quite different from the fixed camera norm. If you aren’t constantly moving around the arena and dodging punches that are thrown by your competitors you’re a lame duck that will get completely destroyed. While this would make sense when playing online, it was completely unexpected when playing in the Grand Prix mode. However, for having such a steep learning curve, ARMS never really punishes you for losing and you’re able to simply try each fight or game mode again until you complete the task and move on to the next opponent. Other factors that greatly play in to the success, or failure, of each match are the players ability to quickly charge up and execute enhanced punches. These unique charged punches allow for certain arms to stun your enemies, start them on fire, explode in their faces, or even completely deflect incoming punches. It’s important to know how each charged shot impacts the fighting environment and also how to time each one out if you want to become champion of the ARMS ring.
In addition to the traditional 1 v 1 versus battle style, ARMS incorporates some new gameplay modes that prevent this game from ever feeling old:
- Expanded Versus Mode: Allows for up to 4 players to duke it out in the ring. This can either be a complete free for all for up to 4 players, or you can split in to teams and have a 2 v 2 slugfest.
- Grand Prix: Players take on a set of 10 matches against computer-controlled fighters and make a run for the championship belt! This game mode offers a mix of versus matches and new Battle Mode matches which I will detail below.
- Battle Mode: A different way to battle with the ARMS characters. This mode includes V-Ball, which is a volleyball style spin-off where you have to prevent the exploding ball from touching the ground and damaging you; Skillshot, which is an ARMS spin on a ‘break the targets’ style of mini game where you can also attack your opponent to prevent them from hitting targets; Hoops, which is a grab-based game that challenges you to hurl your opponent through a basketball hoop; and 1-on-100, where you attempt to take on a series of 100 enemies.
- Party Match: Take the fight online and battle it out with up to 20 players in a constantly shifting lobby of games and fights. There can be up to 10 Nintendo Switch consoles per lobby, and each console can have 2 players connected to it online.
- Ranked Match: Take the fight online (again) and battle it out for ranked glory! This is a slightly more structured version of the Party Match and allows you to even select the stage of the battle.
In the Party Match (or open online mode) players are also able to take in each event going on around them until they are paired in a battle mode themselves. This unique twist on the lobby allows you to be invested in more than what is just going on with your own character and is actually makes waiting for a match fun in its own right.
ARMS is Nintendo’s idea of what a fighting game should be like in this new generation of home consoles. The colorful, quirky, fast-paced, and action packed game continues to provide hours of enjoyment and never really gets old. Even after you think you’ve mastered the gameplay, the learning curve will ramp up and ARMS will keep challenging you until you truly claim that top crown.
A native of Minnesota, Brandon has been an avid Nintendo fan for as long as he can remember and enjoys being able to escape into the vast worlds offered in their games. Some of his favorite games include: Pokemon Blue & Silver, Earthbound, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Risk of Rain 2, and of course LoZ: Breath of the Wild.
Outside of gaming Brandon enjoys riding motorcycle, listening to music or podcasts, cooking, watching movies, and is a big sports fan. He is always carrying his Switch with him wherever he goes, so feel free to add him if you’d like to lose at MK8D.