Arms has fallaciously caught me with my guard down. Being anything but a conventional boxing title, Arms presents a truly unique Sports experience without ever spotlighting itself as one. With an ‘easy to play, hard to master’ premise, it’s wonderfully easy to step into the ring, but requires masterful arena movement, wise use of attack arsenal and swift thinking to conquer your opponent. With its clean visuals, flexible play styles and a game mechanic you’ll find nowhere else, Arms is a refreshing addition to the Nintendo Switch library that may surprise you as much as it did I. While it mildly tumbles into the trap of lacking lasting depth and longevity, a strong multiplayer offering and addition of extra content in future updates will surely cement Arms as a worthy title contender on your gaming shelf.
Allow me to be clear from the get-go – Arms might very well contain some of Nintendo’s most ambitious foray of gameplay mechanism we’ve seen in decades. It spotlights the superpower of wacky, outrageous springy upper limbs, used only for flesh warfare, and is powered by swift traversal of the arena floor. Arms presents a (relatively) simple premise; a cutthroat boxing battle to the death, with only a choice of glove or hand attachments and your springs to craft your victory. While there is definitively some encouragement to use the motion controls on offer here, Arms can truly be experienced anywhere, anytime – with Portable mode support with both Joycons docked, as well as my preferred control scheme offered for Nintendo’s Pro Controller. It’s an incredibly nice feature of versatility, and it seems, evidently, the attentiveness from Nintendo with ‘ways to play’ is clicking together seamlessly in their feature titles (Splatoon 2, id est). While the motion controls are by no means a compromise (in fact, they’re more than competent), they will take some time to become accustomed to. Once you’re set up and have flown through the interactive tutorial, it’s time to start swinging.
With a solid roster of 10 fighters, each with their own unique style and personality, there’s a loadout that will suit every player. Whether it be the nimble and swift barrage of Ninjara, the crushing, brute power of Master Mummy, the balance and versatility of Spring Man, or the downright weirdness of Helix, there’s a solid offering of character selection to represent you in battle. While a ‘get-to-know-you’ with your selected character will play a huge role in succumbing to loss or conjuring victory, your ability to have full customisation over your arm attachments is a worthy feature outside of the core gameplay. From your very first encounter, you’ll have the luxury of all arm attachments relative to your character. However, don’t rest – you’ll still have the challenge of unlocking all combinations of attachments to piece together your perfect loadout. Unlocking the puzzle pieces to building your ultimate spring-loaded battle bot will cost you dearly (thankfully, none of your real-life, hard-earned pennies). For every battle you fight, be it in Grand Prix or Multiplayer modes, you’ll earn coins, which can then be thrown carelessly towards unlocks for your benefit. While the reward system is far from forgiving, it’s a nice challenge without ever feeling like a grind – a moderately sound rate of monetary reward for the battle scars you wield throughout your playthrough.
To be a worthy nomination of the ultimate Arms fighter, you’ll need to master the uniquely built mechanics that mould the Arms arena. While the primary objective of each battle is to simply pummel your opponent, you’ll need to master each facet, both offensively and defensively. Double jumping is a common trait with most characters, as is the standard dash movement, and both feel tight and precise here. It’s something we see rarely in motion-powered Sports titles, with former attempts feeling gimmicky, loose, and inaccurate. While button mashing was still my preferred play style, I do commend Nintendo on what is a well thought out control scheme, and Docked mode on the Switch lends itself well to a motion-based playthrough (particularly with Local Multiplayer sessions).
Unfortunately, technical difficulties prevented a true representation of Arms Multiplayer offering – I was simply unable to find a single match. While I’m sure this is an isolated issue, my fingers are crossed for the Multiplayer experience to go on without a hitch upon Arms’ retail release.
Graphics and Sound
While I’m sure you’ve heard this many times over, Nintendo-developed titles on the Switch, thus far, present incredibly well and blast crisp audio through the new portable hotness. Arms, being little exception to this pattern, splashes immense colours and animation on-screen, with smooth graphical prowess throughout menus, selection screens and in the delicate art of war. Given an absolute standout, load times are near non-existent here, with only a flicker of black screening between scenes, an impressive feat given Arms is locked in at 60 frames per second in 1080p in Docked mode. Visuals empower the screen in a clear bump above a standard presentation on the Nintendo Wii U, with incredibly composed musical feats blaring through your speakers. It is worth making a particularly special mention here on the Arms Theme Song, written by Nintendo’s own house orchestra and with vocal prowess of Japan superstar Eliana (think Mario Kart 8’s wonderful soundtrack with a Brazilian samba twist), which is wonderfully performed and incredibly catchy.
Nintendo’s latest IP has struck a winning blow in the final round in a bout for my money. With a truly unique arcade Boxing-style experience, Arms is a must have for sports title fans and casual gamers alike. With a solid single-player offering and a promising foray of Multiplayer game-modes, Arms is an easy recommendation for Nintendo Switch owners with its shallow learning curve and fun local Multiplayer mapping. While a slight lack of depth has the potential to wear off the novelty prematurely, I’m remaining optimistic that future updates will keep the title fresh and fun for years to come.