Arms Review – Nintendo Switch

On the back of the breakthrough success of Splatoon, Nintendo has found a new outlook into game development finding value in new properties and ideas. Previous criticism thrown at Nintendo for it’s over-reliance on its established franchises no longer bare any weight. Fresh ideas are coming to the forefront of their design principles and it is quite evident in the games in show. Arms has the distinct honor of being the first showcase new IP for the Nintendo switch. It is by promise a fresh new take on the fighting genre, offering accessibility and depth with it’s distinct Nintendo twist. It is a game similar in philosophies to Splatoon and by extension, much like Splatoon, Nintendo is banking on Arms to be another breakthrough success. Will Arms claim the title of a champion fighter? Or will it get knocked out on the first round? Read more to find out.

At it’s core, Arms is built on the major principles of most moderns fighting games. The rock-paper-scissor formula of attack, block and grab serves as the core foundation. However, Arms offers a quirky take on a fighting game. The twist (forgive the pun) here is that the fighters have extendable arms that twist and bend when propelled forward by a punch. Essentially you can manipulate the trajectory of the punch to find an opening. It is an interesting mechanic that adds extra nuance to what is a very complex and layered combat system. Players have to contend with timing, movement, defense and also precision of the punch in order to find an opening. As a result, Arms has higher learning curve and entry point for a fighter game, something I found surprising when I first picked up the game. In my most humble opinion, it is a game for the more avid fighter fans will enjoy and not so much the casuals.

Arms offers a diverse albeit small array of playable fighters. Each fighter are distinct from each other with their own unique tactical characteristics and ability. They are not reskins of each other like other fighting games particularly the licensed titles are guilty. Players will enjoy testing each fighter, getting a feel for their movements and finding a main that fits perfectly to there playstyle. I was particularly drawn to the more nimble and elusive fighters who can easily weave in and out through a barrage of punches such as Min Min and Ninjara. However from a purely fun perspective, Byte & Barq and Helix are absolute blasts to play.

Nintendo has delivered a robust customization system for Arms. Each fighter has a dozen or so different Arms (essential gloves type) available to them to select before a battle, each offering an elemental attribute and tactical use. What’s impressive about the system is the variety and strategy it offers to the core gameplay. Players can select standard gloves like the toaster if they want a more balanced approach to fighting. Or maybe you overwhelm your opponent with a barrage of projectiles with the revolvers. Or perhaps you like to catch players off guard with a tricky boomerang shot that curves into an opening. The beauty of the system is that it allow you to come up with your own distinct combination, strategy and playstyle. Smart cookies can use a counter combination to combat the opponents own. It really is brilliant. However – unfortunately it does require grinding to obtain all Arms. In this instance, I’d prefer having everything available from the start and begin experimenting to find the right combination. I found it superfluous to grind money in order to obtain more arms. My impression was that this choice was to serve as padding to extend the life of the game.

The gameplay systems of arms are tied together by tight and responsive controls. For the first option, player can opt with the detached Joy-cons in each hand to utilize the motion controls. Simply thrust your arms forward like a punch and twist your wrist to bend the trajectory. From my experience the motion controls are responsive as long as ii did not flail my arms like a madman. However if motion controls are not your cup of tea, there is the option to use standard controls which are equally viable. Personally speaking, I do prefer the standard controls, but I do recommend at least give the motion controls a fair go.

Unfortunately, Arms lives and dies on how much mileage a player can get out of local and online multiplayer. As it stands, Arms offer barebones in terms of content. Aside from obligatory Grand Prix mode, Players can attempt to extend the life of there playtime through a number of quirky mini game modes. Trick shot is a target shooting gallery like mini game which tests the precision and accuracy. V-ball is a bizarre attempt to make a volley ball game out of the gameplay mechanics. The problem here is that these mini games are simply forgettable, a bit of fun for the first few tries, but are never fun enough to come back for more. The value of Arms comes down to how much time spent in local and online multiplayer. If you have friends and families to play with you then Arms is an absolute blast. If you love the thrill of online competition then Arms is an absolute blast.

Arms is a peculiar title. If Arms doesn’t appeal to your gaming sensibilities then there isn’t enough here to justify a purchase. The style of fighting here is methodical, technical, slow tempo and rhythmical. It lacks the style and flashiness of the Street Fighters and Tekken of the worlds, but it does offer an extremely deep combat system. I can appreciate the substance, the depth, the strategy and the complexity of it’s gameplay systems. However, from my experience thus far it lacks the satisfaction and exhilaration of other fighters. The ecstasy of pulling off a devastating combo or the adrenaline of pulling a clutch blow to finish off a match is somewhat missing in Arms.   Perhaps what I am saying is that there is a lot of substance in Arms but it needs a bit more style.

As it stand Arms isn’t going to reach the mass market like Mario Kart, Smash Bros and Splatoon, however I have full confidence it will carve it’s own audience. It’s unique take on the fighting genre will surely catch the eye of avid fighting fans and gamer’s general. For those who do take the dive and invest time into this title will be greatly rewarded with a deep, complex and more importantly fun combat system. With more content in the form of free DLC to come, Arms will only get better.