ARMS

Empire (UK) - - ON.SCREEN - STEVE BOXER

DI­REC­TORS Kenta Sato, Masaaki Ishikawa, Shin­taro Jiku­maru CAST Momoka Kawasaki, Yu Kobayashi

PLOT Two con­tes­tants stand op­po­site each other in brightly coloured are­nas and (when given the go-ahead) they fight with long, ex­tend­able arms. So not much in the way of ac­tual story, but then, it’s not that type of game.

ON THE FACE of it ARMS is a mo­tion­con­trolled box­ing game. But then, so was the pugilis­tic part of Wii Sports. Not all mo­tion­sens­ing box­ing games are cre­ated equal, and

ARMS is a num­ber of classes above Nin­tendo’s pre­vi­ous at­tempt.

Visu­ally, it could be a kids’ ti­tle, with bright, pri­mary colours, bizarre-look­ing car­toon char­ac­ters and in-your-face vis­ual ef­fects. But play it for a while and it be­gins to re­veal a huge amount of depth. There are a vast num­ber of dif­fer­ent con­troller op­tions, but the best way to play is to hold a Joy-con in each hand — tilt­ing them to move around, and punch­ing with them to, well, punch. But it’s not just a game of fran­tic punch­ing and flail­ing arms — there’s so much more to it than that. You can curve punches by twist­ing your hands, but­ton presses al­low you to jump or dash in what­ever di­rec­tion you’re mov­ing, and punch­ing with both hands si­mul­ta­ne­ously trig­gers a grab. ARMS, it’s fair to say, doesn’t subscribe to the Mar­quess Of Queens­berry rules.

There are ten char­ac­ters to choose from, each with a dif­fer­ent set of “arms” — ex­tend­able limbs each with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics, from stan­dard box­ing gloves to mal­lets (good for go­ing over the top of in­com­ing at­tacks), to triple­rock­ets (slow-mov­ing but in­cred­i­bly de­struc­tive) and even para­sols (use­ful for block­ing). It’s vi­tal to learn how your op­po­nent moves, then use that in­for­ma­tion to at­tack them in the right way. It’s as much a game of tac­tics as it is tim­ing. And the more you jump, dash and suc­cess­fully land punches, the more your flurry me­ter builds. When it’s full, a tap of ei­ther trig­ger lets you deal a su­per-fast burst of punches which cu­mu­la­tively cause of a lot of dam­age and set you on your way to vic­tory.

Struc­turally, how­ever, is where ARMS is slightly lack­ing. The Grand Prix mode is the clos­est thing the game has to a sin­gle player cam­paign (al­though it can also be played by two play­ers). It in­volves pick­ing a char­ac­ter, then mak­ing your way through a se­ries of bouts. There are some mini-games chucked in along the way, but essen­tially that’s it. You do earn money to spend on new arms for your char­ac­ters, but it’s more a means to learn the game than any­thing that could be con­sid­ered a meaty solo ex­pe­ri­ence.

It’s on­line where the game shines. There are two modes — one for gen­eral fun (where it doesn’t mat­ter if you lose) and the more se­ri­ous ‘Ranked Match’, which is only un­locked when you’ve com­pleted Grand Prix at dif­fi­culty four (of seven). That’s where the se­ri­ous play­ers will spend their time, and it hints at ARMS’ fu­ture in the es­ports arena. Not only is it vastly more in­ter­est­ing to watch than the likes of

League Of Le­gends, but pretty much any sen­tient be­ing can eas­ily dis­cern what’s go­ing on in front of them.

As it did with Spla­toon two years ago, Nin­tendo has proved it can still launch new fran­chises and make them as rel­e­vant and vi­brant as Mario, Zelda and its other old faith­fuls. And after the dis­ap­point­ment of the Wii U’s sales fig­ures, ARMS is yet an­other boost for the Switch — a so­phis­ti­cated con­sole, but one with the same party-gam­ing spirit as the orig­i­nal Wii.

VERDICT Clas­sic Nin­tendo — sim­ple in con­cept, easy to pick up and play, but re­ally tough to mas­ter. Sure, it’s miss­ing a co­her­ent sin­gle­player cam­paign, but it’s still an ut­terly be­guil­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

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