ARMS: Review

Nintendo's no stranger to the subversion of typically very serious genres. Over the years Smash Bros have repetitively taken the fighting game and inserted its own unique element of goofiness, which has helped maintain its huge popularity among gamers of all types. Mario Kart also follows this very same tradition and going right along with that in 2015, Nintendo released Splatoon, a bright, goofy take on the 3rd person shooter which refuses to take itself seriously. And truly, ARMS can be considered nothing but the next iteration of this same tried and true Nintendo philosophy.

The ARMS roster.

The ARMS roster.

ARMS is a fighting game, more specifically a boxing game. You choose one of ten characters and fight 1 on 1 or 2 on 2 in standard best 2 out of three bouts. If I were to stop my explanation of ARMS there, it would probably appear as though, ARMS were a rather traditional game but, it isn't. In addition to traditional fights ARMS also features a volleyball game mode as well as a basketball and a "punching" range, and each member of the ARMS roster has spring loaded extremities that you must aim and launch at your opponent. Based upon the type of weapon, referred to as "arms", used the types of punches you can pull change. For instance there's the Homie (homing punch), the Megawatt (heavy punch that can deflect most punches), the dragon (a lazer). On top of that, these weapons all have elements. Electric ARMS stun your opponent, fire weapons have a burn attrtibute, and wind weapons blast your opponent into the air. 

At first glance It looks like ARMS is based entirely around a simple gimmick. I mean it looks like it came straight out of Looney Tunes, but upon playing for a while, I'm pleased to say that there's actually a level of strategy involved in choosing what arms to use, character picks and counter picks for as well as a high skill cap for game mechanics such as dodging, charging and grabs. It takes time and focus to get good at ARMS but, even in its most frustrating moments, the growing pains of ARMS are set off by the crisp, beautiful environments, bright colors and cartoonish effects. 


Arms is potentially a game for hardcore audiences, in the adorable wrapping paper of a casual game. And that is actually quite a comfortable combination. You can take ARMS seriously, but it's by definition not a serious game. Imagine being in deep competition and having to lob spring loaded punches from the ramen themed, Min Min at Ribbon Girl, who shouts RIBBON  over and over again. Even while being deeply focused, I can't help but smile when I'm playing ARMS. At the over the top music and the fans in the background of every arena losing their natural born shit every time you throw a punch.

In a very short amount of time, ARMS has become one of my favorite games for the Nintendo Switch and probably my favorite fighting game, period because of this insistence of levity. Arms, like Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and Splatoon, offer a philosophy around what a video game should be that stands in stark contrast to the genres they are based on insisting upon bright pallets, over the top music and the perpetuation of reckless, unapologetic joy.  And oh yeah, though Nintendo did the worst job of expressing this, ARMS is completely playable without motion controls. 

Score: 8.5/10 Great