Nintendo has platforming down, they have adventure RPGs down, and they have 2D fighting down, they even have third person shooters down. In comes ARMS, Nintendo’s latest new IP to take on the 3D fighter genre. Think Tekken cross between Stretch Armstrong, with that little added extra Nintendo flair, and you get ARMS.
Set in the not-so-distant future, fighters with extendable arms compete in boxing matches with an extra twist, to claim victorious in the ARMS Grand Pix. Will ARMS stretch its way to victory, or is it just a tangled mess? Find out in our review, after the break!
Developed by Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo
Released: 16th June 2017 (Worldwide)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
As soon as you boot up the game, you’ll go through a quick tutorial session, to help get you accommodated to the controls. There are five different configurations. In the thumbs up grip, you hold a JoyCon in each hand, thumbs on the triggers, and the joysticks facing each other. The thumbs up configuration is fairly easy to use, but it can take a bit to get used to, especially for those who are not used to motion controls.
You punch by, well, punching your arms forwards. You can also curve your arms by tilting the hand your are punching. Tilt the JoyCons synchronously to move in that direction, or tilt both inwards to raise your shield. Pressing R or L will allow you to jump or dash respectively, and press ZR or ZL to unleash your rush attacks (once your Rush meter has been filled). Finally, punch both arms forward at the same time, and you’ll go and grab your opponent and throw them across the arena. There’s been quite a few times where I’ve mimicked the whole throw motion just because I got a little carried away… minimal furniture damage received.
For those who prefer the more traditional controls, you are still able to play ARMS using the JoyCon on it’s side, the JoyCon Grip, handheld mode, or the Switch Pro Controller. Personally, I like to alternate between the thumbs up grip and the JoyCon grip. Though the thumbs up grip is a lot more fun to use (and can be a bit exhausting), I feel like I have more control using the JoyCon Grip. If you are still having a few difficulties, you can undertake training, which will help teach you basic controls, as well as some useful techniques.
ARMS is actually very approachable to newcomers. With most fighting games, there are loads of advance techniques and combos which, frankly, can become a little overwhelming. There are no combos in ARMS, you mainly just have your punches, grabs, and blocks. A big part of the strategy involved comes down to which arms you equip into battle, as well as choosing who you’ll actually enter into battle. After a while in the game, you’ll likely have decided which ARMS fighter is best suited for you. Light fighters, such as Ribbon Girl and Twintelle, are quick and nimble, and can jump pretty high. Heavier fighters, like Master Mummy, throw slower punches, but they will also flinch less, making it easier to get up close. Every fighter plays differently, adding to the variety of the game.
At the beginning of each round, you can choose which arms you’ll use during that fight. You have a set of three to choose from, and you can even mix and match arms. Use your left arm for the defensive with a Guardian, then slap them silly with your right Slapamander, the choice is yours. Most arms will also contain one of seven attributes. When you’ve charged up your arms by guarding, jumping, or dashing, your attacks will contain special effects for a short period. For example, the Slapamander will scorch your enemies (Master Mummy is particularly vulnerable to this), and the Blorb will blind your opponent with a weird blue sludge. At first, each fighter will start with three signature arms, but as you progress through the game, you’ll earn cash to spend on the ARMS Getter.
Just purchasing arms would be to easy, instead you are thrown into a target range like mini-game. Hitting the targets will both increase your personal score and the chance for arms boxes to appear. Spend 30 cash for the short timer, 100 for the medium timer, and 200 on the longest timer. You can also punch timers to increase your current timer.
There is very little story involved with ARMS, which seems to be a bit of a missed opportunity, especially from seeing how well it was executed with Splatoon, another recent new IP from Nintendo. You can, however, compete in the Grand Prix, either on your own or with a friend. In Grand Prix, you work your way fighting ten other fighters in order to claim victory. There are seven difficulty levels to compete in, level one is ideal for novices, whereas level seven will really test your mettle.
There are six other modes of play, all but two can be played with up to four players. First there is Fight and Team Fight. These are regular fights, where the rules can be modified. You can either have a free-for all, or fight in teams of two. V-Ball is essentially volleyball, except if the ball hits the ground, it explodes. This mode is a great distraction from the main fighting gameplay, and is quite fun too.
Hoops is yet another ARMS twist on a beloved sport. Think of basketball, but instead of slam dunking a ball, you slam dunk your opponent instead by grabbing, or landing a massive blow. Only up to two people can play Hoops. Skillshot is rather similar to the Arms Getter. Each team is either side of the target range, and targets will appear randomly. You’ll have to move side to side and get the highest score by destroying the most targets, while avoiding incoming punches from the other team. Finally there’s 1-on-100. This is ARMS’ version of 100 Man Smash in Super Smash Bros. Your task? Defeat a horde of 100 enemies as quickly as possible. Sounds simple, but each wave becomes more and more difficult.
While playing in Party Match, you, and an optional local friend, are thrown into a lobby of up to 12 other players online, and are seamlessly matched against opponents. The mode and stage you play will be random, and while you wait for your next fight, you can train up on some Helix dummies. I’ve rarely come into any problems while playing online, it really has the ‘legs’ to run smoothly!
Once you’ve completed the Grand Prix on level four difficulty, you will unlock Rank Match. This mode is for the more serious competitive players. Win some fights, your rank will increase, and you will be matched with more appropriate opponents. Lose, and the exact opposite will happen. What’s great is that, if matchmaking takes a while, you can choose to play one of the other modes while you wait. Once an opponent is ready, you’ll be taken right to them. No more waiting around for others, unlike the original Splatoon!
You can also set up your own private lobbies for friends. These lobbies work a lot like the ones in Party Match, however, this time you can choose which modes and rules you want to play. The same can be done with up to eight players when connecting Switch consoles locally… why not host your own 8-Player LAN Party!
Though there are plenty of options of play available, with a varied fighter roster, I can help to feel that ARMS is missing something. Maybe I’ve gotten the ARMS bug and just want more. Who knows. One thing that definitely needs improvement is the Replay function. You can only view a replay at the end of that fight, and there is no way to save them (yet). Plus, when going into slow motion, all of a sudden it becomes fairly jittery, which just doesn’t feel right to me. I mean, look at how smooth slo-mo is in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe!
ARMS is definitely a great new addition to the fighter genre from Nintendo. The gameplay is fun and addictive, and there is a lot of choice when it comes down to fighters, modes, and arms. Plus, the online so far has been very smooth. ARMS is also great for newcomers of the genre by not including combos and complicated techniques and mechanics.
If you are looking to get started in the fighting genre, or if you are up for a fun twist on games like Tekken, then we would definitely recommend ARMS.
ARMS is out now for the Nintendo Switch.