Nintendo have been on a roll this year. They’ve successfully launched their latest console – the Nintendo Switch to huge commercial success, ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ is one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time and they just stole the show at E3 2017. But they’re not looking to stop there. After the huge success of new IP ‘Splatoon’, Nintendo have developed a brand new IP exclusively for the Nintendo Switch – say hello to ‘Arms’.
What exactly is Arms? A 3D fighter where you play as characters with extendable arms. Sounds simple enough but there’s actually a lot of strategy involved. You have ten fighters (currently) to choose from with each fighter having 3 interchangeable fists to start with (30 overall). Laser-beaming dragons, slapping arms and rockets make up the eclectic mix of fists on offer and each have their pros and cons. It’s all about how you fight best which makes Arms a very interesting game. Once you’ve selected your arms, it’s time to battle and the game offers a range of arenas and modes to duel across.
The arenas and modes on offer are a bit of a mixed bag. Of course there is your standard 1v1 battle where you take on an opponent in a best of 3. This is where I enjoy Arms the most where it sticks to being a classic fighter. The game is all about strategy and learning how your opponent plays. I would nearly always lose the first round only to then win the match as I’ve had a chance to analyse how the other player plays and alter my approach to the match. It keeps the game fresh and stop it from becoming stale, at least for the time being. The arenas are all pretty standard, some have springboards that you can jump on while others have pillars that can be used to impose extra damage if you through your opponent through them. There’s also team battle where you and another player are tied together. It can be a bit manic with eight arms flying about the screen. Sometimes I don’t even know where I’m aiming as it’s all so crazy but that’s classic Nintendo. And then there is volleyball which is the most frustrating. Using your arms to hit the volleyball and score points, I find it difficult to keep the ball in the air. I wish there was a way to disable this mode online as I hate playing it.
For those of us who like to play competitive, there is also a ‘Ranked’ mode available. These all play as standard 1v1 matches with a win increasing your ranking and defeats reducing it slightly. I tend to play this more as it means I don’t have to play volleyball. The downside though is that it’s competitive, you are playing against gamers who are very good and I find myself more frustrated than enjoying it a lot of the time. Some characters and fists are very imbalanced against others. For example, I usually play as Ribbon Girl and I cannot beat Master Mummy due to their heavy fists and healing ability. It’s a balance that Nintendo need to fix.
Arms can be played in a number of ways all thanks to the incredible features of the Nintendo Switch. If you are looking for classic gameplay then using the Joycon Grip or the Pro Controller can be used or you can use the Joy Cons motion features. Each Joycon represents an arm. Thrust forward to throw your arm, tilting the controller in the direction you want to fire. Tilt both joy cons inwards to guard. For me, I find the motion controls too difficult. Using them to throw your arms is fine but it’s the moving around the battle arena where I struggle as this also requires motion control movement. It would be better if you could use the joystick on the left joy con to control movement and leave the motion control for your fists only. Playing in the joy con grip is definitely the best way to play.
There are currently ten characters on offer, each with their own backstory and special skill. Twintelle has the ability to fly, Master Mummy can heal and Ninjara can teleport short distances. It adds a great twist to an already twisted game as you must adjust to each player and how they play. It’s just the imbalance between the characters that is an issue. Some characters are particularly strong against others and when you are starting out with the initial three fists for each character, it can be more frustrating than fun.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. Nintendo through and through with it’s big bright colours and quirky sense of humour. Much of the aesthetic reminds me of Splatoon, it’s clearly been an inspiration for this game. The game looks gorgeous in handheld mode which is probably my favourite way to play on Switch. It still amazes me how games can look this good on a console that can be taken anywhere.
The big issue for me with Arms is longevity. It’s a fun fighting game but it doesn’t have the same depth or replayability as other Nintendo titles. With a game like Splatoon, you play across big maps where there is always new ways to play. With Arms, you are in a much smaller arena and I’m not sure it’s going to have the legs (pardon the pun) to keep people playing more than 3-6 months. It all depends on the DLC which Nintendo have announced will be released free of charge for the foreseeable future. Some interesting new modes could add a new lease of life.
Where Arms succeeds is that is Nintendo through and through. The bright colours and wacky concept are classic Nintendo and the game is pretty fun when playing with the right people. But there is a steep learning curve and the level of difficulty will be a pretty big barrier for some players. There have been times where I’ve been more infuriated at the game rather than enjoying it and that’s not a good thing. If Nintendo can balance out some of the players, balance out the difficulty then Arms will be a much better experience for everyone.
Featuring a multiplayer fighting sport that lets you trade blows using extendable weaponised arms, this game includes elements of both boxing and shooting games, plus an all-new cast of characters