Overall score 80

First appearing at the Nintendo Switch reveal back in January, ARMS is a fighting game by Nintendo that makes use of the motion controls of the two joy-cons of the Nintendo Switch. With the Switch selling out constantly after getting restocked at multiple places, the system has gained a lot of momentum and a sizable user base. So a steady flow of game releases is certainly needed in order to ensure Switch owners are always looking forward to playing something without much down time in between. The release of ARMS marks the start of Nintendo’s initiative of having major first-party releases being readily available at a good pace, with ARMS having released in June and Splatoon 2 not far off for July. That being said, with this totally new game IP now available, does it have enough there to tide Switch owners over until the next big Nintendo release and beyond?

ARMS is a third-person fighting game where the camera is positioned behind the player’s back. As the name suggests, the core concept of ARMS is that each player has two arms with which to make use of by equipping various kinds of arms with specific abilities. On top of each arms potentially serving their own unique purpose, the characters themselves also have their own set of unique abilities that are added into the equation. So the ability to have different characters equipped with a different set of arms, allows for a countless combination of fighters to exist.

Like any normal fighting game, you have the main single and multiplayer modes available. The single player mode being your traditional arcade setup where you face off one versus one against CPU fighters until you make your way to the big boss fight at the end. Multiple difficulties are available, ranging from level 1 to level 7, with the highest level being the most difficult. For multiplayer, there’s local and online play available and there are more than just 1 vs. 1 fights available. Additional modes like V-ball and B-ball make good use of the game’s mechanics of timing your punches or throws in order to become victorious.

THE GOOD: It’s been a long while since motion controls were a main focus in a Nintendo game. While the option for traditional controls does exist for this game, I do want to talk about how well the motion controls worked. The way they’re set up for use is very comfortable with the thumbs-up grip being used and having button controls being set to the triggers on top. I found them very responsive and quite fun. They didn’t feel tacked on and truly felt natural to play with. Having the ability to curve punches as you curve your motions was always satisfying to pull off when a hit lands. While for most, traditional controls will feel more familiar and reliable, I had no troubles playing the game with motion and have beaten the single player mode on the hardest difficulty without too much trouble.

ARMS is pretty simple in its gameplay, but offers quite a lot of depth. Each character really do feel unique in how they play, with certain fighters doing certain things better than others. Pairing this with the multiple amounts of different arms these characters can possess, helps further establish that uniqueness your fighter can be compared to others. The game is quite easy to understand, but once you’ve played enough of the game, you begin to see the potential that ARMS has as a fighting game. It really is a deep game and as players begin to have more time with it, those advanced techniques and strategies will become more apparent.

Another thing I greatly enjoyed is how online is set up. There are two primary online modes in Party and Ranked. In Party Match, up to 10 Switch systems will join up in a lobby, with up to two players per system. They are presented in a open lobby type manner so players not in matches can see the current progress of each match taking place, in the form of life bars and current time left. Over time, the game will match players automatically in various modes of normal 1 vs. 1 fights to free-for-all fights with three other fighters to V-ball or any of the other modes. It’s a neat system and there’s not much wait time in between fights so you’re pretty active throughout. Ranked Match is all about 1 vs. 1 fights and winning fights will increase your rank, while losses will decrease it. The neat thing about Ranked Match is that it’s locked until players are able to complete the single-player mode at level 4 difficulty or higher. A reasonable requirement as completion on level 4 will certainly test some players, which helps ensure that players you face off with in Ranked are at least skilled at the game in some form.

As you play through each of the game’s modes, you’ll earn currency. Wins will net your more money, but you’ll still be rewarded with at least one coin for participating if you lose. Currency in this game is used to gain new arms for each of your fighters. By spending a certain amount, you’ll be rewarded with a specific amount of time to play the ARMS Getter mode. This mode has you punching targets and earning various arms for fighters based on how well you do. The more money you spend, the longer amount of time you’ll have at earning arms. It is random on which arms get earned, but duplicates you earn will increase the level of that arm. A nice little motivator for players to spend time playing the game and earn chances to unlock new arms combinations for characters.

THE BAD: That’s pretty much it for the overall modes to the game. It does sound like the basics are covered fairly well for a fighting game, but I can’t help but feel like there’s not much to the game in comparison to other fighting games. First off, a proper story mode would’ve been nice. While the single player Grand Prix mode has bits of story elements, it doesn’t do much to provide deeper back story on the interesting characters present or the world that they’re in. And while there are various modes available, the overall content in ARMS feels basic compared to what’s available in other recent fighting game releases.

It may be slightly unfair to compare ARMS to the latest fighting games out there, since ARMS is something very new. However, much of the blame is due to the game’s cost. It’s a full $59.99 release, which sounds like a bit much based on the content given. Other fighting games for the same price offer a lot more, so it can’t be helped to compare ARMS to them. If the game were a bit less in price, it might be easier to forgive how basic ARMS is in terms of overall features. Even with that said, free updates and DLC is being provided for the game, similar to how Splatoon was. So perhaps over time ARMS will feel more fully-featured and well worth the price.

One such feature that I hope is added in the future is the ability to remap controls. It’s a feature that has been in many fighting games, to the point where it’s kind of a normal thing to have. So it’s kind of odd that a fighting game like ARMS does not have that ability. Even more so with the fact that ARMS supports multiple control schemes already, so not having the ability to remap controls along with that is just odd. It would certainly help since there is a one questionable button mapping that I found on the game’s traditional control setup with the Switch Pro Controller. That’s with blocking, which is tied to clicking in the left stick. It feels a bit odd to use, and would be nice if that could be mapped to somewhere else.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: There’s no doubt in my mind that ARMS is a great fighting game with a very sizable amount of depth behind it. The motion controls work great, and even if they won’t be as preferred over the more traditional set up, they don’t feel like just a gimmick. The online of ARMS is very easy to get into and I’ve hardly encountered much in terms of lag or disconnects. The main issue of ARMS right now is with it’s staying power and lack of overall features. It’s hard to stay attached to ARMS for too long since not much is there compared to other major fighting game releases, especially for the full retail price that this game was given. Future updates and free DLC support will at least help expand the game’s life and hopefully give good reasons for players to return. Even with that feel of lacking content, I would still recommend ARMS, it really is a fun game and something very new from Nintendo that definitely deserves attention.

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