Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Nintendo’s latest IP is it’s own take on the fighting genre, bringing back memories of Wii Sports boxing. But will ARMS go the distance or is it destined for an early knockout?
The premise of the game doesn’t suggest spiritual content. Some lore surrounding the game hints at an unknown reason the characters have gained their abilities though.
Given that this is a fighting game, some violence is expected. However, in comparison to other games of its genre, the violence is light hearted and comic, reminiscent of extendable boxing glove toys. There is no use of blood in the game and damage focuses on the brief inability to use the ARMS as well as over the top flips and spins. There are no “fatality moves” and it is clear that characters are fighting until “knocked out.”
There is no language used that could be considered foul.
There is no content that would be deemed sexual, one character, Twintelle, wears a costume that is skin tight in places. Ribbon Girl wears an outfit similar to a cheerleader’s.
Drug / Alcohol Abuse
None was seen during the review.
The limited lore suggests that some characters have an alliance to good and evil values and there are final bosses that are represented as being evil in nature.
ARMS was one of Nintendo’s first announcements for the Switch at launch, a novel take on the traditional fighting game that saw fighters duke it out using oversized boxing glove style attachments. The game borrows heavily from the current trend of using a small number of fighters similar to games such as Overwatch and their hero system in order to garner interest and get players to rally around a particular character, each having their own specific skill set to master.
Now the game is here and the first thing you notice on loading is the music. The soundtrack is upbeat all the way through and the title track itself will be in your head long after you have finished playing. The samba rhythms also fit in well with the colorful theme of the game to give an overall exciting tone that makes you want to jump in and start the game.
As mentioned earlier, there is a range of fighters that fit the traditional tropes of “light,””mid” and “heavy,” and this influences how those characters will hit: light is faster but less powerful, while heavy fighters will take longer to land their hits, but will need fewer of them if you are to win the game.
There are also, in essence, only three ways to battle. Blocks do the obvious and prevent your opponent landing hits, punches throw out a plethora of themed attacks that can be charged with an elemental ability such as electricity or ice, and finally, grabs can be used to throw an opponent and deal slightly more damage, though they are harder to land. The “rock, paper, scissors” approach means that there is an element of strategy to the game, both in fighter and their arms, as both are easily changeable. The game is also well balanced, and the counter system is intuitive.
The game was clearly designed with motion controls in mind, and while it is fun to play with them, owning multiple sets of Joy-Cons is not always possible. That said, ARMS is easy to enjoy in all formats as there is little to no delay in executing commands. The motion controls are fairly well responsive and combined with the delay in landing hits that is built into the game, it actually feels more intuitive when using them. The only negative with the controls is remembering the different button combinations when switching between controller configurations.
Once you have decided on your champion and their loadout, the natural course would be to complete the single player “Grand Prix” mode. This is the standard single player campaign you find in most fighting games and it stands as well as the others. Fight your way through the roster until you reach a final boss and win.
The twist is a number of games are replaced with the alternative “mini-games.” For those familiar with Street Fighter 2, imagine the bonus levels in two player mode and you have essentially the same thing. The game tops this off by adding ten levels of difficulty and making it a requirement to beat up to level 4 in order to play in ranked battles online. This acts as a useful gatekeeper while reducing the need for more detailed tutorials. However, the shift in challenge from one level to the next creates quite a steep learning curve for anyone who considers themselves a casual player.
For the more casual gamer, Nintendo has included a number of games and game modes to prevent you from even noticing that online ranked battles are a thing. The addition of an online party lobby means players can be quickly paired up and playing matches from a variety of the game’s offerings. The lobby is also innovative in that it is possible to dip in and out of a practice arena as well as some hidden easter eggs when pressing buttons.
The game modes are a varied mix and on the whole quite fun. They range from traditional co-op and versus fighting (although co-op is novel in that you are tethered to your partner), to their own iterations of volleyball, basketball and target shooting.
Volleyball is a nice break from the challenge of grinding out to level 4 and is preposterously simple: keep the ball off the floor or it will explode and your opponent gains a point. Target shooting is the same—use your arms to smash as many targets as possible. This is also the premise behind the “Get ARMS” mini-game designed to unlock the additional content for each fighter. Using the points acquired from winning matches you pay to smash targets in the hope a loot box will appear, the goal of which is to smash it open and enjoy your spoils. The rewards are randomised and there is a risk of gaining the same prize twice, but doing so increases the strength of your already existing arms.
Notwithstanding, basketball, is a fun way to learn the basics of beatdown and throwing. The satisfaction of throwing your opponent for a 3-pointer is a feeling unparalleled in the game. There is also the standard 100 Vs 1 game and a training mode to keep you skills honed.
The presentation of the ARMS is frankly stunning. The bright colors and smooth animations are synonymous with a game of Nintendo’s own brand of polish. The game doesn’t suffer from noticeable frame rate drops or lag when playing single player, but it can sometimes experience a drop when more that two characters are being used. As mentioned earlier, the music and audio in general are as pleasant to listen to as the game is to look at. The samba theme behind the soundtrack gives a sense of enthusiasm and a party atmosphere to promote the spirit of the game.
Overall, ARMS is a game that casual and competitive fans alike will enjoy. It strips down fighting games to the basics and then rebuilds them in a way that gamers will adapt to quickly, and will still feel intuitive while giving a platform for newer players to build from. Casual players who are looking for a possible new IP to enjoy, this is a title I would hold off on paying full retail price for, especially with more familiar classes being made available around the same time. For players who are looking for something to keep them entertained until Smash Bros. is released, this will definitely fill that hole.
The Bottom Line
A fun take on the fighting genre that has Nintendo's own level of polish applied to it.