ARMS – Review
Hi, my name is Paul James, and I’m not a fan of fighter games. I don’t like stringing together elaborate combos, and the completely overwhelming feeling of being on the receiving end of a pounding from experienced players who know their way around these combos. Nintendo did an incredible job back in 2015 with Splatoon, a game that made for an excellent point of access to shooters for younger or more casual players, and they’re looking to do the same to the fighting genre with ARMS.
Courtesy of the ARMS Global Testpunch I’d already had an opportunity to build some familiarity with the game’s mechanics so upon launching the game I dove headlong into the Grand Prix mode. In the Grand Prix players will make their way up the ranks tackling eight fighters before progressing to the finals, a series that culminates in a fight with Max Brass, a quite proficient fighter who will put your skills to the test. Setting the Grand Prix to higher difficulty levels will also create more challenge including one special twist at the conclusion of the event. At the end of the day though, the Grand Prix mode is still quite simple and doesn’t possess the depth that you’ll see in most other fighting game campaigns.
Beyond the Grand Prix there’s much more for players to enjoy including training, the games multiplayer mode and much more. Each fight or competitive mini-game earns you credits which can be spent in the game’s store which will then allow you to buy new arms for your fighters. Outside of the fights players can complete in V-Ball, a quick-fire game of explosive Volleyball, Hoops, where you attempt to grab and then throw your opponent into a basketball hoop for points, and finally a “Hit the Targets” event where you and an ally attempt to outscore your opposition based on punches landed and targets destroyed.
The online party mode is quite impressive and is probably the best take on online that we’ve seen from Nintendo to date. With 20 players in each party mode lobby, you’ll get to experience all of the different gameplay modes in no time at all, and the diverse nature of these modes means almost endless pairings of players and characters all competing and collaborating with a win placed at the forefront of their minds. Ranked matches, which are only unlocked after successfully completing the Grand Prix at a surprisingly hard level pit the best of the best against one another, are a great alternative for those players looking for some extreme challenge out of their fighters, while setting up a match with a friend is also quite easy to do.
Gameplay itself is also an intriguing and always riveting experience. Players have the option of selecting from ten characters with there being seven types of arms, each imbued with different elemental perks. Some arms are heavy damage dealers but consequently move slower, while others are much faster but pack less of a punch. ARMS is playable using both traditional and motion controls, a fantastic setup that allows for both casual and more serious play. Those who are hosting friends/family and are looking for some silly fun will thoroughly enjoy waving their arms as they look to beat up their competition while more hardcore players will appreciate the precision of dual sticks and the lack of motion control.
The cast of playable characters instantly gave me Overwatch vibes, not because of the visual aesthetic, though the game does look quite striking, because of their diverse nature and their lack of narrative background provided. The latter point there meant that as I played I was crafting my own story, and thinking up my own history of each combatant. Combining two different arms of differing elements can provide players with the necessary 1-2 punch to snatch a victory. Each character also has their own ultimate attack that can be unleashed upon building up enough tension, these attacks can be dodged and interrupted though so the onus is on the player to cleverly time their assault lest they be met with a swift counterattack.
Despite many highs, ARMS isn’t without its weaknesses. There’s a noticeable lack of content present here. There are ten fighters available, then excellent fighters, but that isn’t the widest range; the ARMS you unlock for your preferred fighter are just the same ARMS possessed by other characters and the variety of modes, while enjoyable, are limited in number. Nintendo has promised free post-game content that will include more ARMS, stages and weapons, a similar model to what we’ve seen in Splatoon.
ARMS is a game that boasts both depth and accessibility, instant fun and a gratifying level of challenge. Learning to play, how to arc your punches and when to lay back and defend, and then executing in a tight contest is one of the more rewarding things I’ve experienced in games this year, and while there’s not as much meat on the bones as I would have hoped, the potential for growth both through post-launch content and in a future sequel is enormous. ARMS in its current state is a solid start and is a game that any Switch owner should investigate. For rookie fighters such as myself, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for