Nintendo returns to what it does best: creating new worlds and characters from scratch. It’s something hard to find these days in a sea of sequels and expansions that come at you from every angle. Developed by Nintendo’s Entertainment Planning and Development Division, the team that worked on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe returns with Arms, a solid and engaging fighter full of life.
Arms is a new IP for Nintendo – completely devoid of either Mario, Zelda, Kirby, or Pikmin. This is something new, but, it’s Nintendo’s take on an established genre, like what Splatoon did for the third-person shooter a few years back.
In fact, Arms is one of the best games Nintendo has put out in recent memory simply because the game isn’t afraid to try things. Given its release on a new platform from Nintendo, Arms takes the best of the Nintendo Switch’s controls and implements them well enough that simply wagging your arms in the air at your television will not suffice. Nintendo also needs hits on their newest console, which so far has had two big releases in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, this game will push units for the Japanese company.
Arms is a fighting game with a fantastic cast of characters that feature wacky power-ups, with spring-like limbs you use to pummel your opponent. Using either the motion controls, which are fantastic here and allow you to enjoy the game for prolonged periods of time or by using the Pro controller with a classic control scheme that seemingly doesn’t feel as intuitive as using motion for the first time ever.
Each character comes with standard arms, which can be selected any way you want. By earning coins through Grand Prix, more and more arms become available to use in combat. Eventually, each arm is unlockable by simply playing and winning coins that are used in a minigame to unlock new arms.
You block, dodge, jump and punch your opponent into submission, Often times, dodging and blocking are key, followed by learning to punch and slam your opponent into pieces. What comes off as simple mechanics slowly give way to nuanced controls that ask of you to focus and learn how to punch effectively, and Nintendo takes the added time to maximize the fun with their mechanics by polishing over and over until it feels like second nature.
A roster consisting of ten fighters with three arms weapons to use from the beginning, you must send each of them through the Grand Prix, where you’ll face off against ten opponents and collect coins to unlock new arms for use. Grand Prix is challenging even at lower difficulty levels, often times I would find myself one sliver of health away from winning, only to be grabbed and slammed into the ground due to the AI simply being effective by thrashing me into the game over.
The other modes include Versus, Ranked, and Party matches. Party match puts you in a lobby with others where everyone takes turns battling it out, however, if the room is full you get benched, effectively making you a spectator.
Local multiplayer is equally fun to explore – testing out this mode with both two Joy-Cons and my Pro controller at my friend’s place last Friday, we spent time learning controls, and punching each other into defeat. Splitscreen can be bothersome, after all of these years it’s difficult to prefer playing with friends these days, it’s hard to split a screen with someone, granted with Arms, it’s easy to track characters and duke it out.
Arms feature bonus rounds akin to games like Street Fighter, my favorite being Hoops! This one involves one-on-one basketball that sees you literally picking up and dunking your opponent into a basketball hoop, or fade on a three-pointer from outside the line. I spent a lot of time here and each time as I made my way to the ten necessary points to win, I found new ways to embarrass my opponent.
There is no company better at creating new characters with top-notch designs or worlds featuring interesting characters like Nintendo does so often. The charming cast of fighters and the polished game mechanics prove that Nintendo can do wonderous things with any genre, it just takes time and a lot of research to nail the delivery.
Arms has exceeded any expectations I had going in, which easily could have been a shoddy game. Nintendo once again excels at ingenuity with top class motion controls and gameplay mechanics; throw in an assortment of loveable characters that have fantastic character design, it’s hard not to love what Arms brings to the table. Aside from a lack of modes and single-player content, the hours spent brutalizing friends and strangers online is worth the trade of not having more a campaign.