ARMS is a fighting game that plays from a third person view in a 3 dimensional space and is the newest IP by Nintendo. The game’s unique aspect is that the fighting happens at quite a range, since the character’s arms are extendable. The game makes prominent use of the motion controls present in the Joycons to give the player the ability to finetune their aim to hit the opponent. This gives the game some characteristics of a shooting game.
The game’s basic mechanics are as follows. By tilting the JoyCons you are able to move around the battlefield and by pressing one of the shoulder buttons you are either able to jump or to dash. Throwing a punch in the game is done by throwing a punch in real life with the controllers in your hands. Punching with both arms at the same time allows you to grab your opponent. You are also able to shield by tilting both hands inwards.
All of these abilities combined are the basis of this fighting game. Every character has unique characteristics as they have different movement speeds, punching speeds and unique extra abilities on top of that. Ribbon girl for example is able to jump multiple times in the air, Springman is able to deflect punches and Mechanica is very resistant to flinching. These give the game depth and knowledge and mastery of each character’s abilities is the key to winning a battle.
Story and Atmosphere
Playing the game one can easily see the distinct graphics style of games developed by Nintendo. The implementation of a cell-shaded artstyle along with great sound design is noticeable right away. This sets a fast paced and intense tone; you know you are in a fight. However it is also clear that it is a friendly competition that thrives on mutual respect and sportsmanship.
The story is kept quite light and the main goal is to win the ARMS grand prix, an Arcade like mode. It is told through Biff the ARMS league commentator. Before a fight, he will tell about your opponent or the current type of the match in text form. He will also let you know of the character’s motivation to join the ARMS league and why he wants to win the Grand Prix. While this is nice, it would have been more enjoyable if there were specialized event matches for the characters that go a bit deeper into their background.
While there are just 10 playable characters at the moment, all of them are very good at showing their distinct and unique personalities in the matches. Their body language, sounds and chants they make gives them relatability and allows the player to more deeply engage with them.
ARMS offers a lot of depth with more choices than just the selection of the character. Each character is able to equip different arms, which change the way you need to fight. Some arms are heavier than others like the Megaton and some curve quite a lot, for example the Boomerang. Arms can also parry your opponent’s punches and the heavier they are, the better they are at parrying.
One of the biggest strengths of the game is the ability to counter your opponent at any time. In a way it becomes a game of chess to read and outplay your opponent rather than perform strings of combos. The easiest example for this is shielding. Shielding is very powerful to block single enemy punches. However you are still able to grab a shielding opponent. Grabbing makes you susceptible to punches though, since these always disable and counter the grabs. You could therefore try to bait an opponent into grabbing by shielding yourself and then throwing a punch when the opponent goes in for a grab. These kind of tactical manouvers are what makes this game skillful.
It keeps going from there though as every single weapon also has an elemental attribute like fire, frost or wind. You are able to charge up your arms by either dodging, jumping or shielding for a short duration. This makes the punch stronger and also unlocks its elemental attribute. Hitting an enemy with a charged up frost punch slows him for a short duration. This gives you the opportunity to more easily hit or grab your opponent. Here is yet another opportunity for choice and counterplay. The frozen opponent loses the ability to dodge effectively, but is still able to shield or punch at a decent speed. This means that the frozen player is still able to counter you, so figuring out what the opponent is going to do is key to converting his debuff into extra damage.
ARMS has a variety of modes on display including the earlier mentioned Grand Prix, a training mode, volleyball, basketball, break the targets, 1 versus 100, two on two and a free for all with 3 or 4 players. While the standard 1v1 fighting is what the game was designed for and is where it’s best at, the other modes can give the game some variety and act as a nice break from the standard fighting and add value to the game. These can be played in splitscreen, local connection or online. The problems with those only occur if they are forced upon you like in the Online Lobby.
The Online Lobby is a great idea in practice. You get thrown into a pool of around 8 players who play quick matches with a select few of the members and then get mixed around for the next round. You play a mix of the game modes mentioned earlier and if you enjoy all of them equally, you can find great enjoyment in those. However, it can be quite frustrating if you just want to play a certain game mode rather than a mix of them.
Especially the 3 player free for all is annoying as in this uneven matchup, the other two players teaming up on you can occur quite frequently and there is very little you can do about it. If you just want to play some standard one on one matches online without risking your rank in Ranked Mode, you will either have to find an online friend to play it with you or put up with all the other modes in the online lobby. An option here to put certain game modes as preferred would be greatly appreciated. On the bright side, the Ranked Mode is great. Simple one on one fights against similarly skilled people are very enjoyable, even when losing.
Thinking back to the WII era, motion controls were too inaccurate to be a worthwile control scheme. However, ARMS really shows how far they’ve come. Anyone who takes a shot at playing the game will instantly be positively surprised at how well they actually work.
You are able to use traditional controls to play this game though and it even supports the single JoyCon configuration. These do feel limited though as you are unable to curve your two arms independently. Mapping the curving of the right arm to the right thumbstick and the curving of the left arm to the left thumbstick rather than both the the left thumbstick would’ve been an option that should have been explored by the developers.
Having only 10 characters, it seems that this game would initially have quite a low value for a fighting game. There are however also all the arms that you are able to equip to your characters, of which there are 30 in total. While the differences of stages in other fighting games are only cosmetic, the stages in ARMS have quite some differences in their makeup. There are stages with different levels of elevation and destructible elements, which change up the necessary strategy in each stage somewhat.
Overall the game has a fantastic presentation with its characters, visuals and sound design. While these aspects are quite enjoyable, the game is a bit light on content at the moment, which is why we value it at around $36. However, Nintendo has promised to add more characters, stages and arms as free DLC in the future in a similar fashion to Splatoon, which did add quite a lot of content to the game post launch.
The polish that Nintendo brings to their games elevates the gameplay of ARMS to be more than just a gimmick and gives it some potential to be played for quite some time. The originality of the gameplay combined with the variety of modes that the game offers, make it something really good to pick up. Due to this we decide to give this game a score of 82. If you are interested in the game and find a good deal on it, we can definitely recommend you to pick it up.
(out of 100)
The polish that Nintendo brings to their games elevates the gameplay of ARMS to be more than just a gimmick and gives it some potential to be played for quite some time. The originality of the gameplay combined with the variety of modes that the game offers, make it something really good to pick up.
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