Barbaric in nature it might be, but Arms is stylish in design, showcasing a side of Nintendo that we’ve not seen before. It’s crazy, it’s tactical and – like most fighters – lacking in modes, but what Arms fails to have in options it more than makes up for in its technique.
Right from the title screen Arms is in your face with colour. A theme that runs throughout its 10 characters and many stages, each providing their own unique personality and vigour that only adds to the charm of the game.
Arms main gameplay will see you face opponents one-on-one, with your view coming from over the shoulders of your chosen character. In order to deplete your opponent’s health bar, you’ll need to use weapons on your arms (although fan favourite Twintelle uses her hair) to hit your opponent and, eventually, incapacitate them. These weapons are interchangeable and can offer a wide range of different strategies depending on how you want to fight and who you might be facing.
Master Mummy’s Megaton will push your opponents punches out of the way due to its weight, Twintelle’s Chilla gloves will hit and freeze your opponent, slowing them down, while Kid Cobra’s Slammamander is able to curve around an opponent and deliver a far-reaching blow. While each character will start off with their own unique set of Arms, as you progress you’ll be able to unlock similar types for all characters. This is good for competitive play, but does tone down the initial uniqueness that each character brings to the table.
Just as each of the variety of Arms weapons has different reasons to choose them so do the characters. Ninjara can disappear with a second double jump, Barq and Byte is a duo of a robotic cop and dog, while DNA-like Helix can move in a number of strange and peculiar ways which make him difficult to track down.
While it’s unfortunate that Arms’ single-player mode Grand Prix doesn’t explore its characters too much further other than tidbits of information, the cast is designed in such a way that their story and flamboyance tells its own story by just looking at them. Even so, it’s no excuse for what is a lack of single-player content. Especially when other fighting games consistently come with great cinematic story modes and in Arms’ case, this feels like a missed opportunity, especially when you consider its diverse range of characters.
So, what do you do in Grand Prix mode? Well, it’s 10 rounds of matches against AI opponents with two of those rounds based on one of Arms’ mini-games: V-Ball, Hoops and Skillshot.
V-Ball sees you go one-on-one with an opponent at volleyball with the aim to hit the ball over the net and drop on your opponents’ side. Hoops is basketball, except the ‘ball’ is your opponent. Use throws to dunk them and earn 2 or 3 points with the first one to 10 winning the match. Skillshot sees you hitting targets, earning points as you do in order to get a higher score than your opponent.
Each mini-game is a fun diversion from the normal fights but certainly don’t offer the same tactical thinking and fluid combat that it’s more traditional gameplay entails.
Online is where you’ll spend most of your time with Arms though. Party Mode will see you go against rivals in a variety of different game modes and matches including some two-on-one and two-on-two situations – earning Arms coins as you go which can be used to get new Arms parts for your characters.
If you want something a little bit more competitive, Arms’ Ranked mode can satisfy your appetite. Only available to those who can beat Grand Prix on the normal difficulty setting (which, trust me, isn’t easy) Ranked will put you against the best Arms players in the world. It isn’t for the faint of heart as some players have already got so good at the game it’s difficult to keep up. However, Arms has an uncanny ability to make you feel good about playing, whether you lose or win it always makes you feel like you’re close to either that next victory or understanding why and how you lost.
Arms is simple in its approach but deep in its execution. Learning to use your left punch, right punch or throw, at specific times is different for each character and again for the Arms you use. There are hundreds of permutations and just when you think you’ve found the ideal balance an opponent will make you think again. Arms will constantly force you to re-evaluate your strategy and evolve your style. So, for many players, Arms could very much be a long-term game, especially with Nintendo’s promise of delivering new characters, stages and arms on a regular basis for free.
It also offers the best use of motion controls since the Wii days, with the Joy Cons able to be held up and thrust forward to replicate punches and tilted in unison to one side or the other for movement. It sounds worse than it actually is and some will find the motion controls easier to use than the face buttons. From my hours of playing the game so far, I can’t say that one system is superior over the other, having used each equally so far. Although for those that use the Switch as a handheld predominantly, I’d imagine waiting in an airport punching away with the Joy Cons won’t go down too well with security.
It’s a shame that Arms doesn’t have more modes and a single-player story. What’s here feels like the start of something though and a title that marks a brave new vision and direction for Nintendo, one that started with Splatoon a couple of years back. This is the starting point for something special, and I’m keen to see how Nintendo evolves Arms in the years to come, it’s just a shame that it doesn’t have the content that many players will be looking for out of a full priced title.
Arms Review Conclusion
While it may lack modes to keep your attention for long at launch, Arms’ base gameplay is solid and, more importantly, fun. If Nintendo can support Arms like it previously supported Splatoon, then this could be the next big franchise for Nintendo.
We tested Arms after receiving a review code from the publisher and it’s out now for Nintendo Switch in all countries.
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