People like to say that Nintendo don’t create anything new anymore, which is true to an extent, what they tend to do is come up with gameplay and see if it works with an existing character or franchise and if not, then work it towards something new and that is what they have done with ARMS.
ARMS is fighting game, but rather than sticking to the 2d plain, it’s all about freedom of movement and then punching, lots and lots of punching. There are only a handful of characters to choose from at launch, but each character has enough personality that it really is not an issue, with players already latching onto their own favourite, Kid Cobra for me. While the game does not contain a story mode, there is a career style mode, where you progress through opponents on your way to become the champion in the ARMS Grand Prix. Upon selection of your character, you get to choose the level you want to fight at, levels 1, 2 and 3 are great for those looking for a quick playthrough, but 4 and 5 will start to test even the most seasoned gamer, 6 and above requires you to compose a strategy and not going in arms flailing about.
The Grand Prix is the bulk of the game, but thankfully it’s not all about fighting, as some of the games mini games make an appearance, V-Ball, Hoops and Target Smash. Each mode is used once in a single Grand Prix and thankfully helps break up the fighting and while I can appreciate what they are trying to do, I wish it was more random, helping to really make things more interesting. If those modes appeal to you, then you will be happy to note that you can play them on your own, outside of the Grand Prix as well, though V-Ball is one you will want to avoid. Hoops, as the name might suggest has you attempting to dunk your opponent through a giant hoop, if you are outside of the three-point line when you begin your attack, you get three points, if you are inside it, two points. It really is quite simple in the grand scheme of things, Target Smash is a little more challenging, as you need to break targets as they appear in front of you, however you will only have enough time for one arm to be thrown, before they swap for the next lot, making your control crucial.
The mode that I find myself avoiding is V-Ball, while the idea sounds cool, the execution is not so and I don’t know if there is a specific cause for it. V-Ball, if you did not guess is just Volleyball, however when the ball lands on the ground, it explodes. If it lands on your side, the opposing player scores a point and you get blown up, but the ball only lasts a short amount of time as well, so if you are both keeping the ball in the air long enough, after a while it will flash for a bit, before it yet again explodes and if it is on your side of the net, you lose. Given how you want to keep the ball away from you always, you might think a heavy fighter would be best, but that’s not true, as they move slower, I found myself missing the ball as it was being hit by a faster fighter.
That really sums up the entire game, the faster your fighter, the faster you can launch attacks, though with the speed being in your favour, you lose the advantage on power. While the slower fighters, with their slower attacks deal out more damage, so you need to discover the fighter that works for your playstyle. Of course, when fighting against the computer these decisions are not as important as when you take the fight online, because you are playing against real people, taking a heavy fighter into battle and not knowing how to use them properly is going to leave you with a distinct disadvantage. Given the way that you will actually fight, by throwing your arms out, you need to also consider the length of time it will take for your punch to reach the target, it will also change if you curve your attack, so there is a lot you really need to think about when playing. Once you have your set character, again Kid Cobra for me, you can really take the fight to anyone.
One aspect that I enjoy is the presentation of the game, it really is nice to look at and sounds a treat as well, thankfully the bulk of that, comes down to the characters. Each of the characters all have a distinct style and even from a silhouette you can pick them out quite easily. Each of the characters have their own stage and while they tend to share some elements, like bounce pads, they all look distinct. The stages have a few basic shapes, squared, circular and such, but with the themes, they all look different enough, you could not confuse Helix Man’s stage with Ninjara’s or Min-Min’s. The overall presentation works, thanks to the tv broadcast style that they use to present the Grand Prix and other methods.
The only letdown is the vocal work, the characters don’t really say anything, apart from the odd grunt or groan and what voice there is, is only used when announcing the fighter, you are competing against. Where it really falls short though is that prior to the games release the Nintendo Directs, which contained the game had the character of Biff, who spoke with people, yet in the final release, he only communicates through text boxes and gibberish speech. The games music is nice and balanced, though it repeats quite often, especially if you get stuck fighting the same opponent time and time again.
ARMS is a very competent fighting game, it takes away the twitch based mechanics of other fighters and adds a mix of rock, paper, scissors and methodical gameplay to provide players with a more balanced game. While the modes cover the bases, V-Ball is a miss, with Hoops and Target Smash offer only a little distraction and while taking the game online does offer some fun, it is not for everyone. If Nintendo can add something new to the game later on, to keep people interested, ARMS could be around for a while.