ARMS (FYI – It has to be in caps, I promise I’m not angry with you) was first revealed at the Nintendo Switch presentation, I immediately felt more Oh No… rather than K.O. I mean, just look at it! A fighter with bouncy ribbons for arms? Pfft please! Give me Street Fighter any day. I wasn’t keen on the name, I didn’t like the art style and certainly did not fancy waving my arms around like a lunatic just to get the motion controls to work (painful memories of the desperately flailing my arms to play the Wii soon came rushing back).
Yet, I was completely and utterly wrong. ARMS is a deeply rewarding and fun fighter that showcases Nintendo still know how to unleash a knock out title, doing what Nintendo are best known for: creating a new first party experience that grab a genre, shake it up and deliver a kapow! To haters when released.
I first got to play the title at Nintendo Switch premiere in London in January this year and even then, I was adamant I wouldn’t give it the time of day. So many more games were on offer and demanding my attention (namely a little title known as Zelda) but one of the Nintendo guys roped us into playing and I was surprised just at how fun the game was. It goes to show don’t judge a book by its cover (unless it has a title like 50 Shades of… Then judge away).
Players can choose from a variety of different characters with different abilities, just like any other fighter but the real killer blow here is the fact that each character have extendable arms making the fighting experience completely different from any fighter you may be used to. For example, a one on one battle becomes more about strategy and timing than anything else – you could go in all guns blazing and try to knock your opponent with as many hits as you can muster with button bashing your age old friend – but it will get you nowhere. ARMS is more about thinking ahead, timing your moves and moving your player around opponents to reach round and sock a punch! Every button press counts in order to win.
You can use the motion controls (which are very responsive), or standard buttons to throw, punch or jump as well as dodging attacks. There is even a rush attack – filling a meter will allow an explosion of punches that will cause high damage.
Throwing punches by reaching round or swerving your opponent may feel strange at first but you’ll soon come to anticipate your opponent’s moves and quickly decide on the best course of action – I suggest the old wait, strafe and attack method. It really gives the game depth opening up multiple ways of landing hits on your enemy whilst ribbons are flying everywhere like ribbons at the Olympics.
Up to four players are able to play in a single match, either in a three- or four-way free-for-all, or in a 2v2 mode in which teammates are tethered together where the game can really get chaotic.
There are 10 characters to choose from, each with their own abilities and unique sets of gloves that can be customised before each match. My personal favourite, Ribbon Girl (The Air-Less) is super quick to use, she can midair jump up to four times. After 4 jumps, she can dash as well. If used in conjunction with a dash, she can perform a jump–dash twice. Other notable characters include Twintelle (The Silver Screen Queen) – a sassy black character who utilises her hair to punch with instead of her arms (shouldn’t the title be called ARMS with HAIR?) and poses with a cup of tea if she wins. Annoyingly, my partner will only play as Twintelle so I can’t help feel a slight rage in my stomach at the sight of her. Some characters are more sluggish but can deliver more powerful blows so just like any other fighter, the characters are different in their own ways but there is a balance.
There are plenty of modes to keep you entertained – the usual 1 on 1, 2 Vs 2 etc but also Grand Prix (10 rounds like arcade) V-Ball (Volley ball with an exploding ball to keep you on your toes) Hoops (basically grabbing and throwing your opponent into basketball hoops) Skillshot (punching targets) as well as online modes too.
The graphics are simple but overall look great with blocks of colour giving a cute appeal, though I would have preferred a little more attention to detail as stages do seem very familiar to each other.
I love the music and sound effects too – hearing ARMS before each battle still gives me tingles despite playing a billion matches already.
Sure, some of the character designs are a little simple and it may not appeal to everybody’s tastes, but the game achieves just what it is set out to do. Namely provide a unique twist on an aging genre and deliver it in a way that only Nintendo can.
ARMS is a surprisingly deep and enriching experience it is best played with friends (like Mario Kart) but also great to play solo. I do feel that over time it may get a little repetitive mind. But if, like me, you took a look at the game and decided it wasn’t worth your time – I implore you – give it a go and see what you think! Just don’t use Twintelle please and leave Ribbon Girl for me and you’ll be swerving your punches to victory in no time!