ARMS is Nintendo’s take on fighting games, featuring a weird and diverse cast of characters whose arms can stretch so they can beat each other up. It also turns the fighting game formula on its head – instead of viewing the fights from the side, we are now given an over the shoulder perspective.
ARMS also encourages the use of motion controls over traditional buttons. You’d think this would be a casual brawler which rewards wildly swinging your arms like in Wii Boxing, but you’d be wrong. This is a game that is easy to pick up but has more depth than it initially lets on.
I totally suck at fighting games, so why’d I pick this game up on day one?
A Wildly Appealing Cast
Look at that bunch of characters. Look at how weird they are.
Look at how they wildly jump and dash around the stage and punch the everliving crap out of each other with their stretchy arms and weaponized gloves. These characters have so much charisma that they were one of the reasons I picked up this game to begin with.
After going through all of the characters, I easily settled on Min Min, because she seems to fit my play style best. I’d love to master everyone, but now I think I found my main. Min Min is great. I’m pretty sure you’d easily find your main as well, and all of them are great.
Except Kid Cobra. I hate all of you Kid Cobra mains.
Low Barrier to Entry
One of the things that kept me from diving headfirst into traditional fighting games was the complexity and depth required to be able to make a dent even in a casual setting. I bought Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers for the Switch and I barely touched it because I got my ass handed to me every time. Let’s not even get started on the weekly Tekken 7 nights we have in the office.
There are just way too many combos to even comprehend for someone like me who wasn’t able to spend a good chunk of his life trying to git gud. I’m so bad at Tekken that I can’t even master a single juggle, and I don’t think I can afford to dedicate time to learn all that stuff in Practice Mode.
ARMS throws all that away and lets you focus on a few core aspects: punching, jumping, dashing, and blocking. That’s it. Then you have to figure out when to land a punch. No overly complicated combos to drive newcomers away. I’m not saying that it’s that easy, of course. I wouldn’t be loving this game if it’s that simple. The different stages change the way you fight, and the different arms provided change how you and your opponents fight.
Not Quite a Knock Out
It’s not all good, though. There are two big things that I absolutely dislike about ARMS. First would be the control scheme, mainly the traditional buttons. It’s a bit too awkward, specifically when it comes to blocking.
It’s not so bad in practice, honestly, but an important action such as blocking should be more accessible. It won’t be much of a problem if we can remap and customize buttons, but now we’re stuck with the default button configurations and nothing else. And you know what else is weird? The shoulder buttons can also be used for punching, but the game never tells you that. I found that out from Reddit. That’s a better button placement for punches, and I wish that’s what the game tells you outright.
Of course I can easily jump over to motion controls, but I have trouble getting used to them. They’re no longer as bad as, say, motion controls on the Wii – in fact I have won a couple of difficult matches by switching to motion – but staying mobile with motion controls is hard for me.
I can’t seem to get used to moving/dashing/jumping while punching. It’s not a slight against the excellent motion controls, mind you, it’s just I know that waggle controls isn’t for me. My officemate who decided early on to use motion controls prefers it greatly, and he actually demolished everyone he played against with it.
Another thing I’m iffy about is the lack of story. Outside of Grand Prix, you don’t learn anything about the characters, why they joined the ARMS Championships, and what the hell Hedlok is. You just slug your way through seven increasingly difficult levels, and that’s it. However, a bunch of content is coming soon for free, and I hope we get lore as deep as, say, Overwatch. Is it bad? Not really. I just hope the additional lore comes soon to step up the replayability, because there isn’t much of it outside of online battles.
Speaking of, my fellow What’s A Geek Writer Leandro also shared his thoughts in our impressions article here.
So, would I recommend ARMS? Absolutely. There are some gaps right now, but I’m confident that Nintendo will fill them up and we’ll get a more robust game by the holidays. I’m having fun having my ass kicked by the merciless AI in Grand Prix. Also I’m getting my ass kicked online in Ranked Mode. But who cares. This is the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game in ages.