I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been a little apprehensive about Nintendo’s upcoming fighting game Arms. While the fact that we’re already getting another entirely brand new first party IP from Nintendo so soon after the success of Splatoon, everything I’d seen of the game so far seemed shallow, basic, and if I’m being honest, a little bit one note. I mean, how deep could a game about thrusting your fists forward be right? Boy was I wrong.
This past weekend saw Arms undergo its first global testpunch, a timed beta of sorts in which players could jump into a stripped-back version of the game to get a feel for the experience, while the bigwig overlords over there at Nintendoland could stress test servers. Yes, trust Nintendo to limit the instances in which players could try out its new fighter to specific time periods in the day, but by and large the event was a success. Missed out? No worries, there’s another starting this Friday.
If there’s one thing the global testpunch successfully made clear, it’s that the game is set to be very synonymous with the expression: Easy to pick up, hard to master. What do I mean by this? Well, Arms’ concept is by no means a complex one. Yet, similar to other fighting games, if all you do when picking up the controller is frantically button mash (or punch flurry in this case), you’re kind of missing the point.
Arms is much more tactical than its quirky character designs and neon/pastel colour palette would have you believe, rewarding those who choose to analyse their opponent’s movements at the other site of the battle arena in order to assess which action to take next. During the testpunch, various times as Ninjara did I think twice about using my Triblast arm’s ballistic triple punch function, instead jumping and dashing to utilise the character’s unique teleportation skill until I’d built up enough XP to unleash a flurry of blows to the face. When faced with an equally matched foe every Arms fight can quickly turn into a dance, as opposed to chaotic mayhem.
It helps that the game’s highly lauded motion controls did a great job of actually making me feel like I had direct control amidst the action, instead of groaning like I did in the early days of the Wii era (I’m looking at you Red Steel). Blocking felt natural, dodging never a chore, and whereas before the testpunch I was adamant I’d favour a traditional control set up, I walked away swaying my joy-con-clenching fists to and fro with glee.
What gives the game an additional layer of depth underneath the ability to thrust and curve punches, is the fact that characters are able to mix and match arm types out of a choice of three, letting players find and perfect their perfect combination. Suddenly, a character roster of 12 is tripled, and there’s nothing stopping people from playing champions like Ribbon Girl and Master Mummy entirely differently from one another. It’s in this way that Arms has the potential to have a lot of legs.
It isn’t too much longer before the final version of Arms is released to the masses, possibly leaving us with an arduous wait to discover whether or not the game has enough draw to carve out its own space in the competitive fighting scene. Arms simply oozes with style, and I’m heartened to learn that this doesn’t come at the cost of substance. But are we looking at the next Street Fighter 2, only time will tell.