The art of fighting without fighting? Show me some of it
It’s odd to think that, while the fighting game was at its peak in the 1990s, Nintendo had barely anything to do with it. We may think of Street Fighter II as being as much a SNES game as it was an arcade one, but the platform holder largely stood by and watched as an entire genre rose, dominated and then faded away. Nintendo has never been one for hitching itself to bandwagons, of course. But the fighting game is a genre to which the company – with its flair for character design and immaculate game balance – has always seemed perfectly suited. Yet when we think about fighting games, we do not readily think of the house of Mario.
Nintendo may not have physically entered the fighting-game fray, but if Arms is any guide, it’s been sat ringside all along, watching and learning. You do not need first-hand experience of making something to have ideas about how to make it better, after all. Nintendo has proven that point already this year with Breath Of The Wild, in which it showed developers who crank out open-world games year after year how it really should be done.
Or, more accurately, how Nintendo thinks it should be done. Arms is to the fighting game what Splatoon is to the online shooter or Mario Kart to the driving game, stripping away many of the elements that prevent its genre from becoming truly massmarket. Like much of Nintendo’s best work it is accessible, intuitive, tremendous fun and just the right side of silly.
Crucially, it’s also another boost for Switch, and together with the likes of Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe it rams home the point that Nintendo’s new console is more than just a Zelda machine. For all our disappointment a few months ago when Switch’s year-one software schedule was unveiled, that’s a heck of a line-up for a console that’s only a few months old. And in a month where we also check in on the remarkable low-cost world-building tool SpatialOS, and hear from an urban planner who’s turning his craft to game design, it’s a timely reminder that while bigger is great, it needn’t always mean better – even if that ethos just gave us the best Zelda of all time.
Exclusive subscriber edition