Written by Leo Faria.
Nintendo’s brand new IP, and the first true Nintendo Switch exclusive, Arms is an anomaly. It had all the elements to become a complete failure: a third-person fighting games with no combos, few characters, and a focus on motion controls. And to top it off, Nintendo was trying to promote its online multiplayer as competitive. Little did I know there was more to Arms than meets the eye.
Let me clarify, I’m not going to say that Arms is a masterpiece, because it isn’t. It has some serious flaws, but I can’t deny I’m having fun with it, and having fun with some elements I thought I’d most likely hate.
For starters, the motion controls actually work and are very fun. Hide your kids, hide your wives, find shelter, because the apocalypse is most likely imminent. After more than a decade, a truly responsive, intuitive and addictive motion control scheme has finally been developed, and this is one of the best aspects of Arms, alongside its incredibly catchy soundtrack (go listen to that theme song on YouTube right now!). Punching, grabbing and blocking are simple and intuitive to perform, and the motion controls capture your movements pretty well. Given the lack of combos or complex moves, Arms is very easy to learn, as even my parents got to learn how to play within a few minutes. That’s not to say that the combat isn’t complex, though.
Arms is easy to learn, but it isn’t a completely easy game as a whole. Its combat is actually quite challenging and complex, hiding behind the simple controls and a charming rock-paper-scissors fighting scheme. You’ll quickly have to learn how to dodge properly, how to aim your punches, when to grab, when to use your special attack (an ultimate move, of sorts), and most importantly, when to attack. This game isn’t about just mindlessly flailing your arms around like a lunatic hoping for all punches to meet the opponent’s nose. This isn’t Wii Sports Boxing. Each punch leaves your guard open, so make a mistake and you’ll be greeted with a lovely cushioned fist in the face. This is most perfectly seen in the (actually pretty good) online multiplayer.
Arms also features lots of unlockables in the form of different types of “gloves” you can equip, some of them which do much more than just punching. There’s even a laser gun included! Sadly, you’ll need to do a lot of grinding in order to unlock anything available in the game, as each fight gives you just a tiny little bit of money, while every single item costs, at the very least, the equivalent of winning fifteen fights. Thank goodness Nintendo’s online service is still free for the time being.
There are some noticeable issues in this game, though. Some of those lie in the extra minigames included within the game, most specifically the volleyball one, being a very frustrating experience that doesn’t require any semblance of skill whatsoever. It simply relies on being the fastest one to punch the ball to the other side of the net, as you’ll almost never be able to actually throw the ball back to your opponent.
The other main issue of the game is a very weird one for me to say: the non-motion controls are bad. Like, really bad. The problem lies in the way the controls were mapped: punching and moving are set in the same analog stick, therefore you’ll have a very hard time trying to do both at once. Yes, you can use other movements like dashing and jumping, but they aren’t exactly the best choices to have when you’re trying to look for precise movements, especially when you’re attempting to reach the big leagues on the competitive online modes. Just stick to the motion controls, they work better and are actually fun to use.
Arms is indeed a good game, albeit a flawed one. It took Nintendo twelve years, three console generations and dozens of failed gaming attempts for them to finally come out with a game with actually awesome motion controls, and that makes me excited for the Switch’s future. Just like Splatoon was Ninty’s take on the online third-person shooting scene, Arms is their take on the competitive online fighting scene. Now, if they could only fix the non-motion controls for Arms 2, that would be perfect. It sounds so weird for me to write this and not the other way round…
Oh, and for the love of everything that’s sacred, get rid of that stupid volleyball minigame, Nintendo!