Developer: Nintendo EPD
Release Date: June 16th, 2017
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
I doubt I was alone in my disappointment during the Switch’s announcement event to see Nintendo give such big billing to Arms. The game looked strange and I was looking for something to be shown with a little more zip to it. The first look at Arms was actually quite deceiving as now that it’s finally here and I’ve had a chance to go hands on, I’m convinced. I’m once again reminded not to doubt Nintendo’s strange new IPs at first glance, because Arms made me a believer.
Arms takes pieces of plenty of things, but plays in a unique way like nothing else at the same time. The closest comparison would be to a boxing game, but with crazy coil arms that allow you to smack around your opponent from any where in the ring. You control each arm, curving your punch left or right as desired to hit your opponent and take their health bar down to zero during two rounds. You can move around the arena, jump, dash, punch, grab, and block, with or without motion controls thankfully.
Jumping in I went to my default mode of button mashing, thinking I’d knock my opponent down in no time. Boy was I wrong. Each round is a delicate battle against your opponent where you really have to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. If you attack and you miss, you could leave yourself open to be hit. If you try to block when you’re expecting a punch, you could be surprised with a grab that will hurt worse than a punch. The fights will move fast, but you will have to be slow and calculating like in chess to land a hit on your opponent and not get sucker punched along the way. This back and forth is exhilarating and makes every round count.
The character and arms themselves add in extra layers of strategy for every match as well. Each character will have a special that will make them unique, such as a double jump or a teleport dash. They also each have three different arms you can choose from at the start of each round. Some arms will attack fast with lower damage, some will attack slow with higher damage, some will naturally curve, some will actually fire like a gun. While at the start of the game each character only has their three arms to choose from, you will be able to unlock additional arms from other characters with the in-game currency. Your left and right hand can be two different arms each round, giving you a little bit of diversity and added strategy.
If you are going it alone, the main mode you’ll stick with is the Grand Prix which will take you through 10 matches, While a majority of these are standard battles, you will compete in two mini games which each add a little something different, from V-Ball (a clever volleyball battle), Hoops (which tasks you with grabbing your opponent and slamming them through a net), and Skillshot (where you try to break more targets than your opponent across from you.) The mini games are welcome diversions which you can also play outside the Grand Prix with a few more options. Of course once you have mastered Arms, you’ll want to take your skill online in either a 20 person lobby Party Match or a one-on-one Ranked Match.
Judging Arms from the cover might make you questions whether this is really the Switch’s next must own game. Once you jump into it for the first time, you’ll realize this is what Nintendo does best, making unique experiences that are simply fun. Sure they have missteps at times (I’m looking at you 1, 2, Switch) but Arms has that charm anyone can be drawn into and the depth that will keep hardcore gamers satisfied. It certainly is strange, but Arms is a game that you are not going to want to put down once you start.