Reach exceeds its grasp.
Over the past few years, Nintendo has delivered some truly unique new IPs. With the launch of the Switch that trend continues. Their latest title ARMS feels very much like a Nintendo game, but also familiar. Taking Punch Out! Into a new generation, this quirky fighting game stands out in the crowd with a unique control scheme, lush visuals, and just the right amount of wackiness I have come to expect. This adds yet another great exclusive game for Nintendo’s latest platform.
Like every game launching on this new machine, ARMS feels like it was designed with the strengths of the console in mind. It can be played multiple ways. Whether players prefer the traditional Pro controller, using motion controls with the Joycons, or even breaking them apart to compete locally with friends. Each scheme works well enough to satisfy preference. The only downside to not using the recommended dual Joycon configuration is that punches cannot be aimed independently. This removes some of the unique strategy the game offers.
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
While ARMS is certainly not going to feel as deep as a core fighting game, it still has its own strategies. The key is movement. Players can strafe and jump while also attacking, and each character has their own style which requires various tactics. Learning each of them and knowing when to charge attacks is imperative to victory. I loved seeing how each combatant handled and what their attacks were. They are clearly the star of the show. Mashing buttons will only work on easier difficulties, which is always a good thing.
Each character has two abilities they can use, and everyone can use each set of ARMS within the game. The catch is that they have to be purchased using points earned in the other modes. Also when unlocking ARMS for a character, they are only available for that character. Meaning if I wanted to unlock every option for every character it would require some serious grinding. I would have appreciated some more cosmetic options such as costumes or effects for the ARMS, but sadly the extras are a bit bare bones at this time.
The single player mode, called Grand Prix, is a pretty standard fare for a fighting game. Take on a series of opponents at various difficulties. It does mix things up with mini-games thrown in for good measure. Things like a basketball or volleyball diversion is nice. I also really appreciate that I could save and quit after any fight and pick back up right where I left off.
When single player grows stale, which happens fast, online and versus is where this game shines. Playing with friends locally is very fun. Online also held up well in my tests. There is also a nice array of modes to play around with. Of course 1v1 and 2v2 exist, but there are also larger modes that support a wide gamut of challenges. The most unique is a mode that constantly shifts systems with two players on it against other players. It is a rotating brawl that when executed, is extremely fun.
Like any other Nintendo title the game looks stunning. I love the character designs and the vibrant color palette. Everything looks and runs super smooth. Also the title menu music is absolutely intoxicating. I was humming it pretty regularly after digging into the game.
My biggest issue with ARMS comes in the form of content. Nintendo has promised a bunch of free DLC, but at launch the $60 asking price feels steep for what is on the disc. I grew tired of the offerings rather quickly, especially coming off something like Mario Kart 8 which is simply packed with content. I am sure ARMS will be worth its weight in a few months, but right now it feels empty far too soon.
ARMS is a truly unique experience that digs into my nostalgia with games like Punch Out! I just hope the free DLC will make it feel more fleshed out. Quality cannot be argued here, but content definitely feels far too light at launch.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.