Review: ARMS (Nintendo Switch)

ARMS: Official GBAtemp Review

Nintendo Switch 3,560 views 7 likes 44 comments
Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted Jun 12, 2017, last updated Jun 17, 2017
Jun 12, 2017
  • Release Date (NA): June 16, 2017
  • Release Date (EU): June 16, 2017
  • Release Date (JP): June 16, 2017
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Genres: Boxing
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
ARMS is the first 3D brawler to release on the Nintendo Switch. Is it a knock out? Let's take a look!
Thomas Hugh

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ARMS is the latest Switch exclusive title to come from Nintendo. A 3D brawler that uses long-distance boxing combined with motion controls, to deliver what is essentially an overall lacklustre experience.

After seeing the trailer on TV for the last few weeks I went into ARMS with an open mind, as I'm a fan of fighting games, but not one of motion controls. What I found after playing the title all weekend, is that the motion controls seem to work around 75% of the time. When playing a brawler where precision and speed are fundamental key factors for victory, I wasn't really surprised to learn that using the alternative button control scheme offered a better overall experience for playing the game, but even that is far from perfect.

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Punch Outwards

ARMS is a tournament where competitors meet in arena type stages to face off against one another in 1vs1 or 2vs2 battles. What makes ARMS unique is that instead of playing a close-up game, like regular boxing, fighters have literal extendable ARMS (or hair), equipped with various gloves that can reach out across entire stages to smack your opponent in the face. Controlling one ARM per joycon, flinging punches is relatively simple, with just a small flick of each joycon being required to initiate a jab. Curving the direction of the blow as it zips through the air isn't very reliable, and that can mean the difference between landing the punch or getting whacked in the face yourself. Blocks, jumps and dodges are also available, but these movements just don't work when you need them to making the game feel more frustrating than it should, unless you are using very small precise deliberate motions with the joycons.

I could play the game's Grand Prix mode with the motion controls up to level 2 or 3, of 7, but to beat level 4 difficulty (which is no mean feat) and be allowed to play online against other real people, I had to switch to the manual control scheme, and then the game's shallowness really stood out to me.

Each match quickly ended up with me jump dodging in a direction and constantly alternating a left and right punch. If my opponent blocked, I would grab them, if they took the punch on the nose, I would keep 1-2 comboing them until my special meter was full and ready to unleash a barrage of attacks causing massive damage. Performing this routine twice in a row would usually win me the round, even on the hardest level 7 difficulty. I would love to have tried the technique online, but as the game still isn't out at the time of writing, I could never find anyone to play against.

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Slam Dunk

ARMS features 10 playable characters each with their own stage; Grand Prix mode which is basically a 10 fight story mode, but without the story part. Basket and volleyball, online party and ranked matches and a 1vs100 mode. The problem here is just like the main battles, most of the extra modes are very shallow affairs that are over very quickly and don't really offer much diversity away from the main battles.

Alternative ARMS are unlocked by grinding coins from winning matches. There are loads to choose from, like rockets or boomerangs, to boxing gloves with elemental effects, but no matter what you have equipped on a character, the game basically plays out the same way in each battle, or at least it did for me. None of the equips made me play any differently, or made my strategy better or worse. Granted I haven't tried every single ARM, as earning coins and then redeeming them for a new ARM doesn't even let you choose which one to buy, it is a random selection and you must go through this process for every single one of the 10 characters. Because of the relatively slow unlock system, it will probably be a while until the community decides on the best builds.

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Knock Out?

As a full priced game, it's tough to recommend ARMS as a release day purchase. Hopefully Nintendo continue to update it as they have with their previous first party titles.

On a side note, my son thinks it's the best thing since sliced bread:

He is 7 years old.

ARMS Launch Trailer

Verdict
Pros
+ Solid foundation and interesting concept
Cons
- Both control schemes lack precision control
- Shallow gameplay
9 Presentation
Interesting character designs with bright and colourful arenas all filled with the usual Nintendo charm.
6 Gameplay
Despite a plethora of interchangeable arms, my experience with the game essentially added up to: jump dodge punch repeat, use special when ready. This was the only way I could win matches on level 4 difficulty and above, using the manual input control scheme.
6 Lasting Appeal
ARMS is good for a bit of fun with family or friends, but it's to shallow an experience to appeal to gamers who like a bit of depth to their fighters.
6
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
ARMS is an interesting concept that unfortunately doesn't play as well as it should, and doesn't have enough content to justify a full priced title at launch.
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