Developed by Nintendo EPD Published by Nintendo of America Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
ARMS is exactly what Nintendo needed for the Switch. A new and strange IP that stands out as its own. Just by the look of it you get that feeling that Splatoon gave back in 2015. Fresh. Off the bat, Nintendo made a new fighting game that is colorful, unique, and very ambitious. But was this a good idea for the big N or is the game a big flop?
The game is very simple, yet there is a lot of skill that is required to play well. There are two types of control styles. First you have you motion controls. You will hold a Joy-Con in each hand in a way where your thumbs will be over the L and R buttons. You will swing your left arm to throw out your fighter’s left arm and swing your right arm to throw out the fighter’s right arm. You can also curve your hits by tilting the controllers. You block by tilting both controllers towards each other and move around the stage by tilting both controllers in one given direction. The R button lets you jump while the L button makes you side step. While playing you build up a special meter. To use this you tap both LZ and RZ at the same time. Second, is using a Pro controller or two Joy-Cons in the controller grip. The motion controls are replaced with button prompts and the analog stick in these configurations. Of course you can do all the same actions as I mentioned. In a match you can choose from 3 sets of equipped ARMS, which adds some customization to every fight.
The game has six modes to play. Grand Prix lets you fight 10 AI opponents in a row to become the champ. Versus lets you customize a 1-4 player game on one console. Party Match lets you face random people online in an assortment of different modes. Ranked match, which must be unlocked, lets you play online against people of the same skill level and allows you to improve in rankings. The Friends option lets you setup and play online game exclusively with friends. Lastly is Local which lets you play against other players nearby with their own console. While playing these modes you will earn an in game currency, which can then be used to play a mini game that lets you unlock more ARMS for different characters. There are a total of eleven playable characters after the version 2.0.0 update; the final boss, Max Brass, is now playable. Each comes with their own unique abilities. For example, Ribbon Girl can continuously jump staying in midair while Twintelle can slow enemy attacks, allowing her to assess the situation and dodge.
Matches consist of a few different modes. The main mode is Fight, the general battle mode type. This can be a 1v1 or a 3 to 4 player battle royale. This mode is the bread and butter of ARMS and never gets boring. Team Fight has you in a 2 on 2 match. This is a pretty fun mode, especially if it is local or with friends and you can coordinate attacks. V-Ball is a mode where you play volley ball with a large bomb like ball that you lob back and forth. It you drop it on the enemy’s side you score. This can be played 1v1 or 2v2. Hoops is a very simple basketball game where you must either throw your opponent into a hoop or knock them silly to where they go flying into it. This is easily the weakest game in ARMS. It’s just so simple and boring where you just see who can grab someone faster. Last is Headlock scramble, just added with the version 2.0.0 update. This mode is a 2-4 player battle royale where you fight while also being able to get the Headlock creature to attach to you, having the creature provides you with a total of 6 hands to deal more damage and break defenses.
One thing this game has is a lot of is style. Graphically, the game looks fantastic, boasting beautiful colorful environments and characters with silky smooth animation. The game plays at 1080p at 60 FPS when the Switch is docked. The resolution drops to 900p at 60 FPS when playing with 1-3 players. When playing in 4 player mode, sadly the framerate drops to 30 FPS. When undocked you get a 720p at 60FPS experience. The soundtrack is extremely catchy. The main theme that plays on the title screen and Party Match will keep you humming hours after you log off. The voice work is a mix of Japanese, English, and gibberish which is very funny and charming. This game definitely has the presentation of an AAA Nintendo title.
I have played many hours of ARMS and even when I want to just play a bit, I end up losing track of time playing online. Though it may seem like there isn’t much to offer, less than a month after release Nintendo has already added new modes, stages, characters and even some balance issues that players have brought up. I’m sure we will see more content added to the game. Even if it doesn’t receive any new content, I can easily say this is one of the better experiences you can get right now on the Switch…especially if you are looking for a good competitive game to play with friends, family, or against online opponents. ARMS provides a fresh new type of gameplay that is so very welcomed.