Until Breath of the Wild came along, my highest review score on this site went to Splatoon. Nintendo’s take on the team-based shooter was fresh, original, and stylish; it married unique gameplay and style with an existing genre in a very Nintendo way. I bring this up because in a way, ARMS is a spiritual successor to be Splatoon. It’s Nintendo’s unique take on a tried and true genre (fighting games) with an urban style and likeable characters. As such, ARMS hits many of the same highs as its predecessor, but it also hits the same lows.
ARMS is a 3D fighting game, but it differs from its contemporaries in a few important ways. For one, while characters move side to side around each other as in Tekken and the like, the movement is a lot more free and fluid. The camera is also always positioned behind the player character, to make directing hits easier. And of course, the characters all have extending arms that can twist and curve as they punch. This means there’s a ton of movement involved; when your opponent can change their aim mid-punch, you have to be unpredictable. Jumping and dashing are even more important than blocking. Both dashing and blocking charge up your punches, so it’s never a bad idea to get out of the way.
The gameplay is quick and smooth; landing hits feels good with the HD Rumble, the controls are fairly intuitive, and the characters are quick. There’s a surprising amount of depth to it as well; as with Splatoon, there are several weapon types and they each act a bit differently. That being the case, it does take a little while to really get comfortable with the game. While the controls are intuitive, the strategies are not. Each arm is controlled independently, so there is definitely a learning curve.
The characters themselves are each a bit different as well, though unfortunately the game’s nature makes them more similar to each other than in most fighting games. For example, the game’s mascot, Spring Man, will have his arms permanently charged when he’s low on health. Some characters like Master Mummy, for example, are heavier and move slowly. Each character starts with different weapons that fit their style too. That being said, you can eventually unlock pretty much all of the weapons for everybody.
There are a couple of non-fight modes to keep things interesting, but somehow it still feels like there’s a bit less here than in other fighting games. Again, because of the game’s nature, all of the characters are similar, and there aren’t that many of them, by fighting game standards. That being said, since the basic controls are fairly straightforward, it’s a good game to pick up and play with friends. Furthermore, as with Splatoon, Nintendo plans to add free downloadable content over time. So it’s not the deepest game, but it’s still worth playing.
ARMS is certainly an odd take on fighting games, but the gameplay is solid enough. The graphical style sets the game apart as well. If you don’t mind similar-feeling characters and a lack of story, it’s definitely worth a try. That said, you might want to wait and see what gets added to the game later on. For now, it’s a fun party fighting game, but there isn’t enough inside to replace something like Super Smash Bros.
Gameplay - 7/10
Style - 10/10
Challenge - 8/10
+ Fun and unique gameplay
+ Cool designs
+ Good level of challenge
– Lack of content
– Characters similar