I guess now’s as good as time as any.
Back in 2016 and the Switch was just getting revealed I remember having so many expectations. “Will there be a new Mario game? Will wee see a new F-Zero? Will some of the good games get rescued off of the deserted island that is the Wii U?”
Two out of three ain’t bad.
Then in 2017 during a live press event that unveiled a ton of projects for the system, Nintendo did something I certainly didn’t see coming. They revealed an entirely original fighting game. No Nintendo characters, no crossover elements, a completely new IP. And it was a fighting game! A game that used each individual Joy-Cons to control the fights arms and allowed full mobility in a 3D arena with a really fun 3rd person perspective. I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited. “A new fighting game from Nintendo with really cool and unique character designs?! Oh my god oh my god oh my GOD!”. I sat there watching the reveal in pure awe and after the trailer all I could ask “What’s it called?! What’s the name?!”.
ARMS is without a doubt one of there most unique fighting games I have ever played. There’s not really a whole lot to compare it to in all honesty. While matches take place in a 3D environment it’s absolutely nothing like games such as Tekken, Soul Calibur, or even something like Power Stone even though they both have arena-based structures. What sets ARMS apart is its unique control scheme and fighting style. ARMS can be controlled through a variety of ways, either through dual-wielding Joy-Cons with the “thumbs up” method, using a single joy-con, both in that weird little controller thing that came with the Switch that I lost or by the way I prefer, the Switch Pro Controller. While you lose the novelty of controlling the arms with your arms, I personally found the motion controls to be a bit cumbersome to use and difficult to get used to. They aren’t bad or anything and I’m sure they can be super fun, they’re just not for me and I will be mainly referring to the Switch Pro/Dock Joy-Con/Handheld Mod methods of controlling the game for simplicities sake.
The control each ARMS fighter by using the left analog stick and throw punches out by hitting A for right arm and B for the left (or alternatively the Left and Right triggers). You can also throw by pressing both attack buttons, dash with the Y button and jump with X and you can guard pressing down on the left thumbstick. While ARMS has a simple control scheme, it’s only deceptively so since you have to pick and choose when to throw your punches, jump and dash, and throw since you can’t be too trigger happy when it comes to attacks. This is because every attack is a commitment and a half. Once you throw a punch out it will extend as far as it can across the arena and it won’t come back until the attack animation is done, thus limiting your movement for a short time and preventing you from guarding, dashing, and throwing. You can, however, throw out a second punch and aim its trajectory by tilting the analog stick, this can help with faking out your opponent and luring them in with a feint attack or trapping them against a stage hazard.
Jumping, guarding, and dashing also have their advantages as not only do they help you in terms of defense and moving away from attacks, they can also power up the arms that you have equipped, upping their damage and making their attacks much more potent. You can power up your attacks by either performing a successful jump or guard or by holding the dash button. All of this is wrapped up by your characters super gauge that fills up by performing punches or charging your attacks and it lets you perform a DEVASTATING super that lets you just beat the ever-loving piss out of your opponent. All you gotta do is hit the Right Bumper, mash the attack buttons and let the serotonin enter your brain. You know what’s the worst part about all of this? I’m still not done describing the gameplay. Let’s move on to the roster.
The variety of gameplay styles the cast of ARMS provides is just as unique and fun as the designs themselves. While each character has the same basic functionality and control scene, the makeup for it by giving each character their own specific mechanic. For instance, Spring Man can parry incoming attacks while holding down the dash button and while gain permanent power-ups for his arms once he reaches low health. My main, Kid Cobra, actually has the shortest dash in the game but makes up it for by having the highest jump and by gaining consecutive dashes after holding the dash button that not only makes them quicker, but longer and more aggressive as well. Probably the most unique though is the character of Misango who can summon masks to act as extra shielding while guarding and either walk into the mask or charge long enough to equip it, providing a variety of buffs and debuffs (Red=Punch resistant while jumping, increased attack with lower speed. Blue=Increase in mobility while decreasing arm length and grab damage, Yellow=Increase in supercharge rate while decreasing both speed AND grab damage).
There are so many more playstyles I could name but you get the idea, there’s something for everyone in ARMS. Each character offers something unique to keep the gameplay fast and frantic, interesting, and competitive. Plus every character isn’t stuck with their initial arms set as you can unlock more, further increasing the depth of your character’s playstyle and offering so much in terms of both offense and defense. In terms of pure mechanics, ARMS is a damn near perfect game in my eyes are worth a recommendation on that ALONE…..but there’s something holding it back, unfortunately. The lack of things to do in the game.
This is it. This is all you get when you boot up ARMS. A standard arcade mode, some single-player modes/mini-games, Ranked and Casual matches, a training mode, and a way to get more arms for your characters. While all of these are fun to go through it, unfortunately, means that you can experience everything ARMS has to offer in about…4-5 hours which is EMBARRASSING for a fully priced first-party game. While Grand Prix mode has some fun stuff to it with its character endings and extra/secret bosses (FUCK Springtron) and the only is damn near flawless with a surprisingly large player base, that isn’t enough to keep the average player engaged. Every character and stage is unlocked from the start and while you can unlock extra arms, gallery art, and even achievement badges, I really wish there was more for the player to work towards in the game. I wish you could unlock extra colors for your fighters or maybe even has light customization with them. I wish the achievement list was an actual list so you could SEE what you want to work towards and not just unlock things at random but most of all…I just wish there was more. When the game came out Nintendo was giving all extra content to players for free via updates, much like they did with Splatoon, but it was mainly just characters and general balance changes. I would have killed for more game modes or things to do because as it stands, ARMS is a great video game trapped within an unfinished package.
I really don’t want to end things on such a sour note so let me talk about one more thing that AMRS excels at, the presentation.
The aesthetic of ARMS is nothing short of phenomenal. From its character designs, art direct, and my GOD, the music, it is a joy to watch and listen to no matter how long you play it. In my opinion, the cast of ARMS are some of Nintendos best designs in the modern era and BY FAR is home to one of their best soundtracks. Every track in the game encapsulates tits represented character perfectly and are all supremely catchy, sometimes even overly so like with Ribbon Girl’s theme. Every arena in the game as wellis filled with so much personality that are also complimented with their unique stage gimmicks and layout. I really do love the presentation for this game so much, it’s like my favorite aspect of the game.
SEE THIS IS WHAT SUCKS ABOUT ARMS, OKAY? Everything about this game is awesome! The characters, the music, the gameplay, everything! As a game, it hits the nail on the head perfectly! But as a full package, it’s just…nothing. It’s not worth the $60 Nintendo STILL has it retailed as and that makes it so hard to recommend, and that’s super frustrating to someone that genuinely loves the game. ARMS is one of my favorite games on the Nintendo Switch and I’m happy it’s getting more attention now that Min Min is in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate but I just can’t recommend it at its current price. If you can find ARMS for around $30 or if you REALLY just love game mechanics then I HIGHLY suggest picking it up you will not regret it. If you just have a passing interest then either wait and try to find it at a good price or maybe just play the demo they have on the eShop. I love ARMS and I hope Nintendo makes another sequel that not only improves upon the already stellar gameplay but also adds a more robust single-player outing. Don’t let this series die with just this game, these characters and their fans deserve much more.