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.