When I originally saw the trailer for ARMS as part of the Nintendo Switch reveal I initially thought it would be a glorified tech demo and end up amounting to nothing more than shovel-ware, I was thrilled to be wrong. If somebody could take a gimmicky feature and turn it into a fun game, it’s Nintendo.
ARMS at its core is a fighting game, it features motion controls but thankfully they aren’t mandatory. I’ve never been a huge fan of the feature, there needs to be a good reason for it to be included and above all it has to work, otherwise you can be lumped with a lag filled experience with punches swinging a second or two later and not even connecting, like Fighter Within on Xbox One. It was refreshing to witness that ARMS actually works on the motion control front, being both responsive and satisfying.
When playing, you have control of both the left and right arms which are controlled by the left and right Joy-Con controllers respectively. When not using the motion functionality the triggers act as your punch button with movement set to the left thumbstick, jump to the top key button and dash to the left key button. Rush can be activated using either the L or R buttons, in terms of controls you have the flexibility to play in many different ways, motion, Joy-Con grip, handheld, sideways Joy-Con or pro controller. No matter how you play you are not at a disadvantage with the button mapping being set in a way that is easy to use.
There isn’t a typical single-player story mode but like Mario Kart 8 there is a Grand Prix mode, in ARMS you need to win 10 fights in order to become the champion. Grand Prix can be played solo or with another player on the same device. The mode has seven difficulty levels, and is tracked per fighter which instils this sense of “oh, I got to beat this mode with every fighter on every difficulty” for those that are completionists. You choose one of ten fighters and go up against the other nine along the way with the final match always being against Max Brass, the greatest champion in history who is currently not a playable character but will be arriving as free DLC later on.
Versus is for between 1-4 players and allows you to play in a variety of modes. Not only can you duke it out in a typical fighting style but you can take your skills to the basketball court in Hoops. The goal is to dunk your opponent into the basketball hoop, do this more than the other player to win. V-Ball is the volleyball mode, punch the ball into the opposite side of the field where it can then blow-up and give you a point. Skillshot pits players on opposite sides of a level in which targets will spring from the floor, hit as many as you can to rack up the points, highest scorer wins. Others include 1-on-100 and Team Fight which are exactly what they sound like.
Online modes can be played either in Party matches which are for fun, Ranked Matches for competition and Friend matches to play with your buddies. Local options are also included allowing for matches against people nearby. What all of this shows me is that Nintendo are hell bent on providing a play-style and gamemode for everyone. If I felt myself getting burned out at all playing one mode I would just jump into another and by the time I went back it felt almost fresh again. Online matches are not just contested under one mode, switching between the variety of them and include a team based mode where you and other players fight against an AI. Whilst playing online I didn’t get bored because of the different matches available to play at random.
The ARMS soundtrack invades my mind in everyday life because it is just so damn catchy, but in such a good way. I truly believe the music had no right to be this good, I was blown away when the main theme song first started in the menu because above all it helps set the tone, it’s called ‘Grandprix’ and is performed by Eliana. Even if you never get the game, go listen to this beautiful piece.
Visually the game is clean and polished, the colour scheme compliments the art-style and looks great on both the Switch screen and on the TV. Each character have their own unique look that’s gives you a glimpse into their backstory and personality, not only that but each stage takes on the look each character, with one stage per character. From the ramen bowl arena of Min Min to the Mausoleum of Master Mummy you can see the contrast between the various characters and gives you reasons to like them.
GAME DESIGN & INNOVATION: 8.5/10
What I once believed to be a piece of shovel-ware has turned into one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve encountered on the Nintendo Switch. ARMS is an example of turning a feature many believe to be nothing but a gimmick into a fully-fledged game consisting of depth in its characters, stages and gamemodes. This new IP fits right in with the catalogue of great first party games Nintendo has for the Nintendo Switch in both present and future.
OVERALL: 8.3/10 – GREAT
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.