Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
"Arms is a refreshing step in the right direction for Nintendo, even if it’s not a full step."
Arms is a third person fighting game where each character has the unique ability to throw long distance punches and attacks. The characters each possess different special abilities and you are able to customize the type of gloves or weapons to use in a fight. There are a lot of variations in the way you play physically (control setups), and character/weapon choice. In my playtime, I found the Pro Controller to be the most competitive way to play, but the motion controls do make for a fun time with a friend.
Speaking of variation, there are also a lot of different game modes to choose from. Something that isn’t common in most fighting games.
Let’s start with the main single player game mode: Grand Prix. In Grand Prix, the player is pitted against other AI combatants for a total of 10 or 11 rounds depending on the difficulty. This is where you will get the most story elements in the game, but as far as story is concerned, there really isn’t one. It seems that the main antagonist for Arms would be Hedlok, a weird metal floating skull with 6 arms, that can possess any of the fighters. After defeating Hedlok, you are considered to be the Arms fighting Champion!!!! …. and then you do it all over again with a different fighter.
It should be noted that after level 4, Grand Prix is tough, like, really tough. You often have to resort to spammy strategies like only throwing, or using the Ice Dragon gloves to freeze your enemy over and over again, to chip away at their health. This ultimately makes for either a very frustrating experience, or a pretty repetitive and boring one.
1-v-100 is exactly what it sounds like. You must face and defeat 100 enemies in a row for victory.
Fight is probably the most common game mode that people will play. You fight against one other player to win two out of three total rounds. There is an alternate mode in which you are tethered to another player in a 2v2 match. While a novel concept, the 2v2 mode is a bit cumbersome, because if your teammate gets thrown while you are focusing on the other opponent, you go flying with them.
Party Match is the main online mode for casual play. It combines the above described fight mode with the following other fun variations:
Volleyball, Skillshot, Hoops, Free for all with 3 people, and a Hedlok boss challenge where 3 players team up to take him out. In Volleyball, you and a teammate attempt to punch a large explosive volleyball onto the other team's court. Skillshot has you facing off against an opponent (or opponents in 2v2) to break the most targets while also dodging the opposing teams punches. Hoops will have players utilizing their grabs to attempt to slam dunk or shoot their opponent into a basketball hoop for 2 or 3 points respectively. The first person to make it to 10 points, wins.
What’s neat about each of these game modes is that they were designed first as a way to teach players important aspects about the game. They also provide a slight break from the core fighting concept of the game, and it’s a welcome choice.
Ranked mode is unlocked after the player beats Grand Prix on a difficulty level of 4...which honestly wasn’t as easy as it might sound. Once unlocked though, you are able to play online against somebody at a similar rank as you. If you win, you rise in rank significantly, if you lose, you only drop a few points. This is my favorite mode, because it is the most engaging, and fast paced.
Nintendo is proving once again that strong art direction can oftentimes be more important than raw processing power. Each fighter feels unique and the game looks fantastic whether playing in docked mode or on the go. The only thing that hurts these vibrant characters is their lack of depth or story. If they were to receive the Overwatch treatment (back stories provided by short cinematics or novels), then I think they would have a more lasting impression.
I think most players will find themselves replaying Arms online with the many different modes. If you get sick of duking it out online, the next best thing to do is to try and unlock more arms. To unlock more arms for each character, you must first collect coins by basically playing anything the game has to offer. Unfortunately, the mode that provides the most coins, Grand Prix, just so happens to be the least fun of the bunch.
Once you’ve amassed 30, 100, or 200 coins (more coins = more time), you can then play the Arm Getter mini game which basically has you breaking targets and snagging new arms in the process. In my experience, this mini game yields the best results if you play the 200 coin version. If you’re a perfectionist, this could be good or bad news for you, because there are currently A LOT of arms to unlock! 270 arms to be exact, and they’re all unlocked randomly! YAY!
Nintendo did a fantastic job showcasing exactly what this game is and has added another new IP to the already strong Switch lineup. Arms is certainly a fun game to play and truly shines when you’re playing with friends. The online components and character customization will keep you coming back for just a few more rounds, but the repetitive gameplay makes the experience feel hollow if you're playing for too long.