If you're a hardcore fighting game fan and think that ARMS is some sort of insult to the genre or somehow a threat to more complex fighters like Street Fighter or Tekken, there's nothing I can say in this review to change your minds about this title. For the rest of us gamers, ARMS is an incredibly fun and unique fighting game that never stopped charming me. This new Nintendo IP showcases how Nintendo is always thinking outside the box and breaking the norms of all video game genres.
While it is nowhere near perfect, ARMS proves itself to be an incredibly fun title that Switch owners should seriously consider purchasing. With a surprisingly deep fighting system, colorful stages, cool looking and creative characters, a great soundtrack, and that classic Nintendo polish, ARMS is a pretty good time for everybody.
ARMS is available on Amazon for $59.99
Unfortunately, one of ARMS' biggest downfalls is that there is no story whatsoever. That's really a shame considering how many cool looking characters there are in the game. There is an arcade mode (titled Grand Prix) where you get little snippets of character backgrounds and story here and there, but nothing is ever brought to the forefront. It would've been nice to put some more context into why a woman with fists for hair is fighting a robot cop and dog.
There are also no character endings for arcade mode. Seriously? We always gave Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 crap about having some really bad character endings, but at least it had SOMETHING. Having no separate endings for characters aside from them getting a champion's belt causes us to not grow attached to our mains. For people who only focus on online play or competitive play probably don't care about any of this, but recent competitive fighting games such as Tekken 7 and Injustice 2 have had some robust story modes to go through. Overall, very disappointed that I can't grow to love these characters for more than their play-styles and/or visual designs.
ARMS' basic premise is simple: throw punches using the joy-con controllers at your opponent to win. That's all you really need to know going into the game really. The core of the game, the fighting, is very very fun. But I want to get into some specifics about the gameplay so you understand why I enjoy it so much.
I'll be the first to tell you that motion controls suck around 90% of the time. But there are games that utilize motion controls so well that it never hurts the game, or even makes the game better. I'm happy to say that, for the most part, ARMS nails it's motion controls. I did encounter some issues when trying to block since in order to do so you must bring your arms close together. Sometimes the game thought I was throwing a punch though, but that could be due to me frantically putting my hands together out of desperation.
It is also worthy to note that you don't need to use the joy-con motion controls if you don't want to. The game is compatible with the joy-con grip, single joy-con, and the pro controller. I tried each of these control schemes out, but none of them felt like I had much more control. In fact, they felt more limiting than the joy-cons ever did as curving your punches is much much easier with them. So if you hate motion controls with a passion, then there is another option for you. But you could be only handicapping yourself.
Surprising Amount of Strategy
I know I had just called out and complained about those competitive fighting game fans who hate games like this, but there really is a shocking amount of depth in ARMS. Making reads is crucial in order to win. You also can hit and take out your opponents arms to prevent them from using it for awhile. This can help you open up for throws which can be performed by throwing both of your arms at the same time. Movement is also key to winning in ARMS. There is a jumping, strafing, and even air strafing. Using these abilities are the real key to winning here. People who learn and master these skills will beat anybody who is just flailing their arms around all willy nilly.
The single player offering here is…okay. I'm very conflicted about it. In terms of just single player offline stuff, there really isn't that much going on here for ARMS. All there really is to do is Grand Prix and battling against CPUs. Grand Prix will take you through 10 matches in total. Two of those matches will be a break from the usual fighting by playing one of the several mini-games. V-Ball and Hoops are definitely my personal favorites. V-Ball will have you playing volleyball where if the ball drops on your side, it will explode. Hoops is equally fun as your goal is to grab your opponent to take a shot; first to 10 points wins.
And then there's Skillshot. I'll admit, I suck at this mini-game, which may be why I hate it so much. All it is is breaking targets while your opponent does the same on the other side. If you manage to hit your opponent while breaking the targets, you get extra points. Personally, I could not stand this mode. I was always groaning every time it came up during Grand Prix. But if you enjoy it, its there for you. There is also team battles that you can do both online and offline. These allow four fighters to be in the ring at once and fight on teams. These are also a lot of fun, so I highly suggest checking these out.
All of these game modes are available for you to play in both local and online multiplayer, which is where the game truly shines. Similar to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS is best enjoyed when playing other human players. This is due to how unforgiving the enemy AI is in single player mode, but mostly just because things can get so chaotic and hilarious when playing with friends. Local multiplayer with ARMS has been some of my favorite multiplayer moments of the year.
I'm also pleased to report that the net code for online play is very solid. I never encountered a match that was laggy or delayed in my 15 + hours of playing. There is also two different options for online play: Party Match and Ranked Match. If you just wanna jump in a lobby and have some casual ARMS fun, Party Match is for you. But if you're wanting a straight up intense match of skill, then Ranked is right up your alley.
More Arms Please
At first, characters will only have access to 3 unique arm types that you can mix and match before any fight. By winning and completing matches both online and offline, players can play a little mini game that can expand one character's arsenal of available Arms. Each character can unlock every single Arm in the game, but you have to unlock each arm individually with each character. This caused me to only focus on extending my Arm inventory for my 2 mains (Spring Man and Twintelle, in case you were interested) and ignoring every other character. I do like this system overall as the mini game is actually fun to play, but I do think that having a universal unlocking system would have been a little better here.
ARMS has a lot of stages that you can battle on. Each stage does have some kind gimmick to it. For example, Spring Man's stage has trampoline borders that you can jump onto to get some extra air; or Kid Cobra's stage has two rideable spinners that give you a big advantage if your opponent is just on their feet. None of these ever feel as bad as Smash Brothers stage hazards, but instead feel like you have more options to consider when taking down your opponent.
Overall, ARMS provides a pretty awesome experience in its gameplay. It certainly feels unique enough to stand out from the crowd of other fighting games out there. Playing alone is still fun, but ARMS without a doubt is meant to be played with friends either through wifi or on the couch together.
Graphics & Sound
It's important to remember that this is a Nintendo Switch title, so the game won't look as good as any PS4 or PC game out there. That being said though, I still find the game to be very visually pleasing. The colors are vibrant and pleasing to the eye without being too "in your face". Character models also look great, from the simplistic design of Spring Man to the weird gooeyness that is Helix. Everything looks good in motion as the game runs at 60 fps.
The sound design is good here as well. The music is also very catchy, although I will say that I can't take listening to that main menu music for very long as the vocals just start to get on my nerves. Overall though the game has both great visuals and great sound design.
While it certainly won't have the competitive scene that games like Street Fighter V or Injustice 2 has, ARMS is still an enjoyable fighting game that is bursting with personality. The combat system may not be the most complex ever, but you'll soon find a nice amount of depth in it. There is a real lack of single player content here, but when you're playing online or locally with friends, ARMS is a total blast.
|+ Fun overall combat||– Lacking single player experience|
|+ Surprising amount of strategy and depth||– Occasional motion control issues|
|+ Entertaining mini games|
|+ Great online experience|
|+ Pretty visuals|