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.

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