Developer: Nintendo Entertainment
Release Date: June 16th, 2017
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Grab your controller, select your fighter and get ready to stretch those arms(Get it!?) as we duke it out in this review of Nintendo’s latest fighting game, ARMS!
First thing you’ll notice is that ARMS doesn’t feature a lot of content. The average solo player only has access to Grand Prix, a 10 round mode across various stages that also includes the Skill Shot, Volley Ball and Hoops game modes that can also be played in the multiplayer. Good news is, the AI is incredibly challenging. I went into Grand Prix thinking I could start at level 4, then had to bump it down to 3, then 2 and finally to 1 where I managed to finally win all 10 battles and then I just started increasing the difficulty as I learned the game. Level 2 is where I grind out my currency for more ARMS and the game likes to occasionally remind me that I still have things to learn.
Skill Shot involves players trying to break moving targets that pop up from the ground and move across the screen and you opponent is on the opposite side trying to break more targets than you while also trying to sabotage you. Volley Ball is more like a game of Hot Potato. Players smack a ball over a volley ball net in the hopes that one misses and the ball touches the ground. Spend too much time with the ball in the air though and the ball pops, revealing the bomb within that plummets to the ground of whichever side its on. In Hoops, it’s up to you to grab your opponent, throw them into a large basketball net and be the first to score 10 points. It’s my personal favorite mode as the feeling of dunking your opponent is second only to scoring those sweet, sweet K.O.s during a fight.
Multiplayer gets a handful of modes however. On top of Local and Friend battle, there’s Versus, for those seeking specific game types and includes, the 1vs 100 mode(Players fight 99 clones as fast as possible). Party Fight, where 4 players are randomly thrown together and play various matches of random game types including a co-op fight against a beefed up Hedlock, the games level 4 and up Grand Prix boss and finally the self explanatory Ranked Mode. The only catch to Ranked Mode however, is that you need to beat level 4 of the games Grand Prix mode before you can start trying to rank yourself among the rest of the worlds players.
The game doesn’t include a giant cast of characters either but each of the 10 fighters starts with their own unique ARMS, abilities and traits while remaining within the context of the game’s mechanics. Master Mummy fights with his bandages regenerates health while blocking and doesn’t flinch while being attacked, whereas Twintelle makes use of her long curly locks to do battle and can slow down punches while she’s charging while also being able to charge while dashing in mid-air. I mainly use Min Min, known in the game as the Ramen Bomber, with her noodle arms. Max Brass, the 10th fight in the Grand Prix mode will also be added to the roster later this year. Each character also comes with 4 different palette colors to choose from and there’s a mini-game you can play when you have enough currency to unlock more ARMS for your fighters.
On the surface, ARMS doesn’t seem like a deep, innovative game but that isn’t really the case. While it certainly is a wacky and fun boxer you wanted as a kid, there’s a lot to consider when facing down your opponents. Certain ARMS can deliver a paralyzing shock or push you across the arena when charged and the right combination of ARMS can be deadly in the hands of experienced players. ARMS do have their disadvantages though as some curve, or tend to be slower than others. Punches can be directed in different directions or deflected by your opponents attacks. Rush attacks can supercharge players and anyone caught in the flurry of attacks may regret it. Hitting another players ARM may also disable it for a few seconds if it takes enough damage, hindering them in more than one way.
Some arenas feature obstacles to weave in and around as items drop into the fight. Others have hidden objects like the Mausoleum’s hidden trampoline. Some arenas are just a bout for the high ground, which offers a surprising advantage. Factoring character traits and abilities, ARMS really does require more than just button mashing your way your to victory. Ribbon Girls ability to jump higher than other players, for example, will make her harder to deal with in her arena which features randomly shifting blocks that rise up from the floor.
What I don’t like about the AI occasionally seems stacked against the players. The higher levels are of course incredibly challenging but even on the lower difficulties the AI tends to pull off some seemingly impossible stunts. I’ve experienced moments of them completely ignoring hits(excluding Max Brass who literally has an ability to negate damage), grabs phasing through opponents and the AI rush attacks being uninterruptable. Problems I never seemed to run into in Multiplayer.
The control scheme is also somewhat of a hindrance and it can’t be changed. At it’s start up, ARMS displays the “Thumbs Up” control scheme which is played with the joycon controllers unhooked from the Switch. Problem is, it relies heavily on the motion controls which makes things a lot more unreliable. You can also play with the joycons docked into the Switch, Comfort Grip, or with another controller. I felt it was best played with the Pro controller as the buttons have more space between them and it’s easier to avoid misusing a rush or throwing an unintentional grab at an opponent.
ARMS fits in well with the rest of the Nintendo family with it’s cartoon style and catchy tunes. ARMS almost seems like it could be a satuday morning cartoon or light hearted anime, especially if it actually had more voice acting. Max Brass reminds me of a newer generation of Johnny Bravo and I can’t help but this of Naruto when I play on Ninjara’s stage. It’s the kind of game that will really benefit from an Arcadey story mode and a little bit of real voice acting. Anything that delves into the background of the games adorable, stretchy armed fighters.
If you’re itching for a wonderfully fun and light hearted fighter to play with your friends, ARMS is surly the game for you. Thanks to the portability of the Switch, its the perfect home for the game thanks to the Grand Prix mode and it’s local play features. While it does lack content and have a couple of issues, ARMS is a welcomed addition to the Nintendo family and the fighting genre in general.