by Nolan Leahy
ARMS is one of those games that merely looks like a goofy version of regular boxing. Numerous times when beginning to play the game, it was easy to think that this could very well be a glorified Wii Sports Boxing on the Nintendo Switch. A $60 price tag is a lot to ask for when deliberating on such a thought, but thankfully there’s far more to it than just smacking your opponent.
Silly strategic boxing
While difficult to see initially, the numerous options and strategies present are a pleasant surprise from ARMS and are a clever addition in reinventing the classic sport of boxing. There are ten fighting characters to choose from, and each has his/her own specific abilities that highlight a specific play style. Play as the Master Mummy to tank punches or as the hip-swaying Twintelle to hover above the ground and slow opposing attacks. While these characters are the foundation of the game, the interchangeable ARMS chosen at the beginning of the round can determine victory or defeat.
Within the game the left and right ARMS, the fighter’s weapons, are selected prior to the beginning of a round. They can be identical or separate weapons when choosing one of three for each arm. This choice is absolutely vital to the game, because these different ARMS determine attack speed, range, charging attack effects, and rush attack abilities. More ARMS can be unlocked for each character through spending in-game currency to complete GET ARMS challenges. With the combination of characters and weapons within the game in addition to the random bombs in every round, it has strategic depth that rivals that of other modern day fighting games.
It’s not just about the competition
Although ARMS proves to be a fantastic competitive fighter, it also has other modes for when the main game gets stale. There’s a Grand Prix mode, which is similar to a fighting ladder. There’s a 2v2 mode, where two players are tethered together to fight another team that’s in the same situation. There’s also V-Ball, which is simply volleyball but ARMS style, where players punch the ball. Skillshot is a target practice type of game where multiple targets are present, and you must hit more than your opponent. Then there is the Super Smash Bros.-influenced mode of 1-on-100, where the player takes on 100 slime monsters that are each taken out in one punch.
Each of these modes adds a good deal of fun and variety to the game, but one mode doesn’t quite hit that mark. The Hoops game mode, where players compete to grab and throw each other through a basketball hoop, just tends to be a repetitive montage of grab attacks.
Although most of these modes are a pleasant addition to the game, it does feel as though there needs to be more activities in the game. ARMS doesn’t need anything like a story mode to provide narrative, as the game functions extremely well without it, but there is still something missing to make it feel like a complete fighting experience that will keep the player consistently coming back. Despite this flaw, Nintendo does deserve a tip of the hat, because more DLC is coming to the game at no cost to the players with plans of adding a Boss and a Spectator Mode as the first batch of DLC.
Immersion vs. ease of play
One part that isn’t mentioned much within the marketing of ARMS is that there are multiple control formats to choose from. Any play style from the Joy Con to the Pro Controller are viable ways to play, but is it better to use motion controls or a typical controller format? It depends on what sort of experience the player desires. For one, motion controls are incredibly fun and makes the experience feel more real and exciting, but the learning curve is higher because aiming the punches with real life arms isn’t as easy as it sounds.
That’s where the button controller layouts come in. It’s definitely easier to play with any form of button layout in calculating your punch’s aim with a joystick than it is with motion controls, and it makes the learning curve much less steep. The motion controls felt a bit alien because your fighter’s movement is also judged through the use of these controls unlike Wii Sports Boxing where only motion controls were required to attack.
While 'ARMS' does have a repetitive game type and a need for more activities, Nintendo earns a loud round of applause. This game is diverse with strategy and contains character art design and game play that simply adds a smile to the face. I personally hope that Nintendo makes a sequel, because Nintendo has a grand first party IP in their fiery fists.
Longevity / Variation