How ARMS Is Reinventing the Classic Fighting Game
The upcoming Nintendo Switch game ARMS might be start of a fighting game revolution.
For more than 20 years, one-on-one fighting games have more or less followed a formula that places one player on the left and another on the right, with each person throwing punches, kicks and the occasional shimmering ball of energy at their opponent in an attempt to best them.
ARMS is a different beast altogether. If you've been participating in the ARMS Global Testpunch events, you've already experienced that firsthand—but the kind folks at Nintendo gave us a copy of the full game ahead of its June 16 release so we could see everything it has to offer.
If you're not already familiar with ARMS, it's a third-person fighting game where players control fighters with long, springy arms—or in the case of Twintelle, pigtails—that turn an ordinary boxing match into a long-distance brawl.
ARMS is likely the most innovative use of the Nintendo Switch's Joy-Con motion controls so far, hearkening back to the Nintendo Wii days. Players hold one Joy-Con in each hand with the trigger buttons facing upward and literally punch their arms forward to get their character to punch their corresponding arm.
A straight punch with the Joy-Con will send your character's arms straight out, while slightly punching to the sides will send out curved punches that are great for side-swiping your opponent, catching them as they dodge or punching around obstacles. Perfectly landing these curved punches is hard, so when you land them it's particularly satisfying. You can also punch out both arms in unison to grab your opponent.
Other actions are also motion-controlled. By holding the two controllers parallel in any direction, you can make your character move in that direction. Holding them slightly toward one another will make you block. For further mobility, you can leap around with the right shoulder button and dash with the left, and when your character is all charged up you can push both secondary triggers at once to activate special powers.
Of course, this creative mode of gameplay deserves a colorful roster of characters, and ARMS delivers in spades. There are 10 playable characters with their own fun celebrity personas, and I can see each one having their own ravenous fans.
You'd be hard pressed not to relate to and fall in love with at least one of them, which is great for a brand new title. No two characters look, or play, quite alike.
I particularly love that lady fighters are well-represented, with four out of 10 characters characters—Ribbon Girl, Mechanica, Min Min and Twintelle—being female. Considering that the robotic Byte and Barq and the gelatinous Helix are genderless, there are also four male characters.
You'll also have some choices to make beyond picking your prize fighter. Each character has a unique set of arms you can choose to use during your fights, and you can pick different ones for your left and right punches. Each of these fists has special attributes, like blinding, electric or ice powers, plus different weights and speeds.
When you pick your arms, you should keep your opponent and their strengths in mind. You also need to win two bouts to take the overall fight, so you can also switch arms after every match to gain the upper hand. Playing different modes will give you coins, which can be spent on a game that will let you get even more arms for customizing your fighter.
When it comes to the fighting, ARMS doesn't control like anything else I've played before. It's a far cry from traditional fighting games where button-mashing newbies have a solid chance at beating seasoned players. In ARMS, unless you're playing on the easiest options, you'll need to use real strategy and a combination of moves to defeat your opponents.
The game overall is pretty simple, and if you master the punching, ducking and dodging, you'll have a great time progressing through the game's grand prix. It also features a couple of interesting mini games, including volleyball and a basketball game where you try to dunk your opponent.
Despite this simplicity, ARMS isn't a game you'll master overnight. It will probably take a moment for you to master the motion controls, particularly for wide, curbed punches. Even after a couple of weeks of playing regularly I don't always get my punches to do exactly exactly what I want, but I'm improving, and with time I'll get there. I won't be playing ARMS competitively anytime soon, but there's enough here to keep my playing for a while.
Can't wait to get your arms around ARMS? Click HERE to take our quiz to find our which ARMS character you are.