During last week’s Nintendo Switch presentation, the legendary video games company introduced audiences to a brand new property that would be joining the likes of Mario and Zelda on their upcoming console – the fighting game ARMS. While reactions following its initial reveal were tepid, going hands-on with Nintendo’s new fighter has taught us that ARMS deserves to be the Nintendo Switch’s killer app.
On the surface, this game may appear to be little more than Wii Sports‘ boxing with a colourful, quirky Splatoon-esque aesthetic, but like most of Nintendo’s most striking innovations, it really is best experienced first-hand. After playing just a couple of rounds, what started off as scepticism was transformed into adoration, making ARMS the biggest surprise of the show!
For the purposes of the demonstration, two attendees were paired up and each handed a pair of Joy-Con controllers. After selecting our characters, we were instructed to hold the controller halves side-ways in each hand, with our hands cupped similar to a boxer’s gloves and our forefingers on the shoulder buttons. While only five characters were available during our demo session, they already displayed clear diversity in both visual and play styles – such as the bulky Master Mummy (my favourite), tricky Ninjara and agile Ribbon Girl – giving the cast a real Overwatch vibe.
ARMS matches are best-of-three boxing bouts that take place in arena-sized stages, with the goal being to deplete your opponent’s health to zero, which is done by throwing punches – literally. The game is controlled entirely using motion and the shoulder buttons, which is a relief considering the small real-estate of the Joy-Con. Punching is fairly self explanatory; throw a punch in real life and your character will too, while throwing both fists out will prompt a throw and raising them up will let you guard. Tilting the controllers will move your character in that direction, while pressing “L” will instigate a dash and “R” results in a jump – with ZR/ZL triggering a flurry of punches once your special gauge is filled. While not at the event, a more traditional control scheme has been separately confirmed during Nintendo’s Treehouse Live, for those who prefer more button-orientated methods.
While ARMS is easily accessible and sounds simple on paper, it is trickier to master. Flicking the wrist as you punch alters the trajectory of your blows, while the presence of stage hazards such as trampolines and breakable pillars can compliment or impede your strategy. Your character won’t be wearing standard issue gloves either – as the game features customisable load-outs with varying attributes. The “Homie” glove for example, sacrifices a bit of fire-power in favour of being able to home-in on your opponent.
It’s difficult to judge technical information based on a demo, particularly given the risk that we may not be playing a near-retail build, but the game is visually spectacular with bright, solid colours and gameplay was smooth with no noticeable slowdown. It may however, take a few matches to become accustomed to the Joy-Cons’ sensitivity before you can get a firm feel of the force required for each action, especially if you’re new to the system like we were. Once you’re in tune with the required movements though, you’re left with a bizarre situation where you can describe a fighter’s control scheme as “intuitive”.
More than anything though, ARMS is a lot of fun. All of my matches were fought against Luke, my twelve year old brother and regardless of who won, we always came out with huge smiles on our faces – and have agreed that ARMS is a definite day one purchase! You’ve probably heard the comparison everywhere already, but given the right push, ARMS could easily become the Splatoon of fighters – and it deserves to!