One of the eye-catching games when the Nintendo Switch was fully revealed in January was the fighting game, ARMS.
ARMS is a new IP that makes full use of the Nintendo Switch motion controls but what really makes the game stand out is its characters and the whimsical world that ARMS is creating. And while that has led to plenty of fan art and discussion over the lore of the world of ARMS, the one question I had was if it was a worthwhile game for the Nintendo Switch.
Being the “big” Nintendo Switch title releasing in June adds pressure to ARMS to be good enough to make up for an otherwise light calendar. I looked forward to getting into the ring again after having a blast with the title earlier in the year, but underneath the colorful and wonderfully enjoyable gameplay is a new IP I wish had more.
On the surface ARMS is a flashy, vibrant and unorthodox fighting game. You control noodle-armed fighters of different sizes and shapes as you fight your way to be the very best.
A welcome surprise is how deep the fighting system goes. Fans knew that the type of ARMS wielded in each fight mattered, but you really won’t understand just how much until you’re actually fighting.
Players will select two of three types of arms for each character, and you can mix and match them however you like. If you are really keen on using one ARM type, you can have that weapon equipped to your left and right arm.
Each ARM has its own special effects, elemental affinities, strengths and weaknesses and it’s fun to figure out which ARM works best for certain playstyles.
Some of the characters in ‘Arms’
You also have 10 different fighters that all play and look different, from the vanishing Ninjara to the lumbering Master Mummy who can take a licking and keep on punching. The combination of the ARMS and the fighters makes for a lot of experimentation and that’s where ARMS shines, as you try every ARM and fighter to find what works for you.
The controls themselves during battle work well. A left attack and right attack are your main concern in fights but there’s even more strategy to discover. Instead of just frantically punching each other, players will have to maneuver with dashes and jumps while also anticipating attacks and moves.
Each ARM has a charged up attack when you block or jump.It can help you deal damage, get in close or put distance between you and your opponent, it’s totally up to you.
Even the stage designs offer deeper fighting strategy as each level comes with their own obstacles and gimmicks that can change the course of battle. There are stages that are small and don’t have much in terms of obstacles and then there are larger levels that have pillars scattered across the stage making it difficult to get a clean shot at your opponent.
Items appear randomly and can drop health, fill up your special meter or deal damage to someone who gets too close to a blast. There’s a lot to take into account when playing in ARMS, something I never would have thought before the game’s release.
Players will learn as they face higher difficulty AI and opponents (more on that in a bit) that anticipation and patience is key to winning.
Every match feels different and that’s what makes ARMS fun, when you’re not faced with the same fighter/weapon every single time.
ARMS plays equally well on the different modes on the Switch. I enjoyed playing it in handheld mode and the smaller size screen didn’t impair how I fought, but the obvious way to play is in TV mode with a pro controller. It’s just a lot easier to handle and more comfortable.
The motion controls work very well with ARMS. They are responsive and once you get used to some of the funky movements (blocking can be a pain) you’ll be punching the air in front of you and working up a sweat in no time.
While the gameplay of ARMS is a blast, there’s a noticeable lack of content and modes for players who are looking for a single-player experience.
There’s a Grand Prix mode that pits you against 10 fighters to win the championship. It’s your standard arcade/ladder mode that players have the option of competing in two-on-two battles. However, the two-on-two battles in ARMS are actually very frustrating.
Partners are tethered together in 2 vs 2 matches.
You and your partner play in split-screen but you are both tethered together by a red wire. You can’t stray too far away from your partner and if your partner gets thrown you will also be thrown. You can also hit your partner, totally disrupting their throws or attacks. Thankfully, you don’t actually damage your partner with your own strikes but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve disrupted or been disrupted just when we were about to get the upperhand in battle.
It makes sense for there to be friendly fire in this sort of situation (it would be weird if my punches phase through my opponent when we’re focusing on one fighter) but when you’re tethered together there’s just not enough space to punch.
You also can’t team-up with an AI to face the Grand Prix in two-on-two battles, which is an odd choice by Nintendo.
What is a blast, however, are the three and four-man battles. You can have three or four people fighting at once and there’s always action going on. Do you form an uneasy alliance and take out one opponent or do you go for everyone at once? It’s a fun and entertaining dilemma.
There are mini games that break up the fighting formula, also. Volleyball, basketball and skill shot modes are a ton of fun and offer new ways to play and new strategies to consider.
If you enjoy “survival” modes, then the 1 vs 100 mode is right for you. Can you defeat 100 enemies without having your health depleted? It’s a fun mini game that tries to get the most out of playing ARMS alone.
Going online with ‘ARMS’ is smooth and a lot of fun.
I am impressed with how ARMS handled the online aspects. It runs smoothly and I never once experienced any lag. Of course, this was during the review period before it was available to the public so that may change, but playing unranked friendly matches online was great.
If you’re more of the competitive type, you’ll want to join the Ranked Matches but to do that ARMS makes sure you can fight. You’ll need to defeat the Grand Prix with the difficulty set to at least four before Ranked Matches become available.
This may not sound so bad but take it from me, the AI is tough at that level and you’ll need to put in a ton of hours to get used to the game and become skilled enough to take down the Grand Prix on higher difficulties.
It’s a great challenge for those looking to get really good and it helps to add hours to the slim single-player aspects of the game, but it can definitely get frustrating to unlock the Ranked Mode.
However, once you do, ARMS handles the Ranked Matches very well. The game will put you in a queue until they find you an opponent and you can actually do other things while you wait. The title will pause what you’re doing and put you in your ranked match. During the review period it took a while to find an opponent but I can imagine it’ll be much easier and quicker when the game officially releases on June 16.
If you’re looking for a great multiplayer experience on the Switch you don’t have to look any further than ARMS. The fighting system and mechanics are deep and a ton of fun while the characters and world built into this game really immerse you while you’re battling.
However, if you’re playing alone I wouldn’t be surprised if you grew tired of ARMS. The title does an admirable job of including the 1 vs 100 mode to make the single-player experience a bit better and the AI difficulty is pretty high to give fans playing alone more hours of practice time but you’re definitely here for the multiplayer action.
Mini games like the volleyball and basketball modes are a great way to change it up against friends and ARMS handles online modes very well. I can’t help but feel that, as a new IP, ARMS is a good start to build a fanbase but that bigger and better things are coming down the pipeline.
If you go in expecting some massive fighting game you’ll find ARMS lacking but what the game does well it does very well and there’s no fighting game like it anywhere else.