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Nintendo Switch  header logo

Arms Nintendo Switch review - A system seller or complete flail-ure?


For: Switch

Something in between

Product: ARMS | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: Switch | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Out of the initial batch of first party Nintendo Switch releases, Arms has the most to prove.

Unlike Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8, and to a certain extent Splatoon 2, Arms has been tailor made to take advantage of the unique features of the platform. It's multiplayer, makes good use of the Joycon's motion controls, and is as playable on handheld as the big screen.

But it has the toughest job of them all. This is the first Nintendo Switch exclusive that plays to the platform's strengths, and makes you consider whether the platform is worth buying into.

Does it achieve it's goal? Well, that's just what this review is here to figure out.

What is Arms anyway?

Arms is a multiplayer brawler that does for the fighting genre what Splatoon did for shooters - Nintendifies it. I'm coining that term now.



For a start, Arms is fully 3D with the camera placed directly behind your character. That results in free movement around the arena, and the ability to use the environment as a weapon or shield.

The most unique aspects of Arms though, are the retractable arms you fight with, and the fact it's designed around motion controls. You hold the Joycons vertically and jab individually to punch, together to grab, and cross them to block. Jumping, dodging, and special attacks are all mapped to buttons.

It sounds simple, but there's an awful lot of depth here. There's a rock, paper, scissors element to the combat with grabs beating blocks, blocks beating punches, and punches beating grabs.

That system, used in combination with dodges, counters, and general positioning, results in a ton of tactical diversity in every battle. Each character has its own unique ability and set of arms as well, which means developing your own playstyle is entirely possible.

Is it any good though?

Absolutely - though it can feel a bit overwhelming at first, and that's in large part thanks to the motion controls. They're a bit too imprecise.



Sure, that's the nature of motion, but it's a bigger problem here because Arms is competitive, and requires lightning fast reaction speeds and precision - two things motion controls don't have.

The bigger issue is that it won't be immediately clear to new players what's going wrong. They'll blame the controls or themselves, and naturally feel frustrated.

But there is a saving grace though - you can play Arms with standard controls, and it's a far better experience.

I can understand Nintendo marketing Arms with motion controls, as that's what will attract the masses (think Wii). Fighting games have a reputation for being inaccessible, and Arms looks anything but that in the flaily fun adverts.

But at its core beats the heart of a true competitive fighter, and while Nintendo will likely sell more copies due to the motion controls being marketed front and centre, it's the competitive types that will stick with it.



And they'll hands down be playing with a controller.

Not in the mode

Control issues aren't the only blight on Arms. It's lacking another Nintendo mainstay - a single player campaign, and that's a shame as there's so much material for Nintendo to have forged an interesting experience out of.

That's not to say there's nothing to do on your own. You can play all modes in single player, and there's a wide variety of them too. There's your standard battle, party modes like volleyball, basketball, and a plate-smashing high score mode, and a 1 vs 100 mode that pits you against 100 enemies. Think of it is Arms: horde mode.

You've also got a championship mode in which you have to beat all 10 characters one after the other to win. It's kind of like Mario Kart 8's grand prix, but far less interesting. I can't see many players spending much time in it.

And that's pretty much it. Aside from when you have friends around, you'll spend most of your time playing Arms online - either with your friends, or against randoms. It's less of a Splatoon, and more of a Mario Kart.



Is it a knockout?

Overall, Arms is a super fun fighter that succeeds entirely where Nintendo's manifesto is concerned: create a fighter that's fun, accessible, and takes advantage of the Nintendo Switch. That's exactly what Arms does.

If you buy it, you're bound to have fun no matter whether that's with friends casually on the couch, or ultra competitive in eSports tournaments. Arms has enough accessibility and depth to appeal to both crowds.

But it's just not quite a perfect, must buy experience, and that's down to two primary reasons: the motion controls are unnecessary at best, and a hindrance at worst, and there's a real lack of single player.

Nintendo has clearly opted to market Arms on the strength of its motion control-fuelled casual multiplayer fun, and that's smart as it does have that in spades.

But ultimately, those who get the most out of Arms will be the hardcore crowd who'll ditch the motion in favour of the more traditional joypad controls. It's true that Arms shines in both, but it's a bit of a shame that the marketing might have left its biggest fans in the cold.



And the lack of a single player component hurts it further. Nintendo was smart with Splatoon, providing a unique spin on the multiplayer shooter, but threw in an interesting campaign to get you acquainted with the experience.

Arms feels like it could have had that too, which would likely have bumped the score we've given it up a notch. But Nintendo has chosen to focus primarily on the multiplayer ala Mario Kart 8, and I feel like it's a bit of a missed opportunity.

Ultimately, Arms is an absolute ton of fun and there's no way you'll regret your purchase once you're acquainted. But it's not an essential purchase for the Nintendo Switch due to disappointing motion controls and a lack of Nintendo's iconic single player experience.
 
Arms Nintendo Switch review - A system seller or complete flail-ure?
Reviewer photo
Glen Fox | 16 June 2017
Arms is an excellent spin on the fighting genre by Nintendo that suffers from control issues and a lack of single player
 
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