written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Nintendo shakes up the fighting-game genre in the most unusual way, Arms is a hyper-stylized brawler packed with unique gameplay modes and takes the typical status quo of what you may expect from a fighter… and throws it out the window.
Right off the bat, Arms will take some getting used to. The game prides itself on being essentially different than the Street Fighters and Tekkens of the world. Combat is played head to head, you view your character from a third-person perspective. Your weapons of choice are spring loaded arms that extend damn near clear across the map. Essentially, combat boils down to three simple actions: punching, blocking, and grabbing. Punching and grabbing send your arms straight to your opponent, you can somewhat control the trajectory of your attack… curving it to seek out your opponent. Punches are single arm attacks, you control your left and right arm independently when punching, grabbing you opponent is achieved by sending both arms out at the same time. On the defensive side you can block punches, but the simplicity of defense ends there. What combat in Arms essentially boils down to is a game of rock-paper-scissors. Blocking deflects punches but not grabs and while grabs ignore blocks you can deflect a block with a punch. The strategy of combat falls in to reading your opponent’s moves, does it look like your opponent is going to punch or grab? As the fight goes on, you build up a super meter. This super allows you to perform devastating combos and can be quite the game changer.
As for the controls, Arms can be played two ways. The game and the marketing seem to encourage players to play with the motion controls. With a Joycon in each hand, you punch to attack or extend both arms to grab. Movementinvolves tilting the Joycons left/right/forward/back and your jump/dash are mapped to one of the buttons. It feels like an evolution of Wii Boxing and rightly so. Twisting your punch at the right moment allows you to control your punch’s trajectory. Unfortunately, the game’s motion controls felt incredibly imbalanced. I found myself pulling off the wrong action more often than not. Plugging in a Pro controller or simply snapping the Joycons into the controller caddy thing that I can never remember what is called was my go-to approach. Using more traditional controls felt at home for me, I’d like to get better at using the motion controls but honestly with the nature of the game I feel that would just be detrimental to my playstyle.
Arms has an incredibly steep learning curve, aside from learning the rock-paper-scissors gameplay mechanic, you need to master adjusting the trajectory of your punches as well as timing. When you punch, you have to wait for the arm to completely retract back before you can throw another punch with the same arm… the same can be said for grabs, if you send both arms out and your opponent quickly dodges you end up leaving yourself wide open. On top of the actual fight, before each round you can swap out which arm your fighter uses, these different arms carry with them a variety of different attacks that diversify your character further.
Besides one-on-one brawls, Arms comes packed with additional game modes that vastly expand on the gameplay. Two-on-two battles allow you and a friend to combat against two others or the CPU, Volleyball and Basketball game modes that have you go head to head against another in unique gameplay based on the sport, along with single player modes. There’s alot to love here with Arms and after you master the unique combat system, these modes open up dramatically.
Visually, Arms looks like if Pixar decided to develop a fighting game. The cast of characters are all very unique with distinct weapons and arms. My personal favorite has been Twintelle, a combatant who uses weaponized hair to duke it out with the rest. Eye popping visuals give this game a unique look with its unique feel! I do wish there were more fighters, perhaps that can be fleshed out in DLC or a sequel.
Arms is an incredibly unique experience with gameplay unlike any other fighter out there. The eye-popping visuals and fast/frantic combat make this a must-have for Switch owners. The small roster and steep learning curve do present a challenge, but overall it’s worth it.
+ Unique gameplay
+ Interesting characters
+ Frantic co-op and VS modes
- Low replayability
- Steep learning curve
- the "motion controls"