LAN Mob Game Review - ARMS

I think one of the most common questions I've been getting around the shop recently is "Is the Nintendo Switch worth buying?" It's a hard question to give my opinion on because everybody enjoys different games and forms of gaming. Outside of telling people to give the Switch at LAN Mob a shot, I usually just defaulted to praising Breath of the Wild, the best launch title on the Switch by far. However, before the Switch even launched, there was a whole mess of games that were revealed on a Nintendo Direct that helped get people hyped for the pseudo-portable console, even though almost none of them were launch titles. ARMS was easily one of the most anticipated games after that direct, and it's finally available! Now when I'm asked, "Is the Switch worth buying", I'll still recommend giving our Switch a shot, but now Nintendo has another title on the Switch to help people answer that question for themselves.

Unfortunately I missed out on both ARMS "test punch" demos, so my first chance to play ARMS was last Friday when it officially released. To be completely honest, I didn't have the highest expectations for ARMS. I imagined it would feel a bit like Wii Sports boxing but I'm happy to say I was pretty wrong. After the tutorial I jumped right into what is essentially arcade mode and got decimated by level 5 CPUs. This game is not as simple as one would think, which was a huge positive for me. On top of the semi-deep but very approachable combat, ARMS is dripping with style. Much like Splatoon, ARMS proves that Nintendo is still capable of cranking out pretty strong IPs.

ARMS would be classified as a fighting game, but it's definitely not traditional. First players choose their characters, and boy there are some crazy options. Outside of the fact that every character has inexplicably long arms that stretch an entire arena, each character manages to be more unique then the last. There's a huge mummy, a small girl in a mech, an edgy ninja and my personal favorite; Helix.

The "Man" of Mystery 

It's important to note that players can play ARMS in a plethora of ways. You can play with the Joy-Con movement controls, the Joy-Cons in controller form, pro controllers and even right on the Switch screen. That kind of compatibility is really nice, letting players worry about what character to play and not how. Once you've decided on your character, you can customize a loadout to bring to the next fight, but more on that later. Outside of some unique abilities, combat is essentially the same for everybody. You throw punches, which can be curved mid flight similar to the bullets in Wanted. If you throw out both arms at once your character will go for a grab instead, which can't be blocked. Every once in a while you can unleash a flurry special attack which does pretty massive damage. That's basically it for offense, and on defense characters can block, side step and even jump. The game is pretty simple to pick up, especially if you're just playing with some buddies who are also new to it. However, like I mentioned above, there's definitely some depth and a skill gap. For instance, if you hold guard, dash or upon landing from a jump your gloves will glow, and for a short time your next punch will be empowered. This small detail is pretty critical once you dig into ARMS on higher difficulties, or against stronger opponents, since different elemental effects have major effects. Also, most characters have special and unique abilities that the game doesn't really explain. For example, Master Mummy can heal some damage while he guards, Ninjaro can disappear and reappear when air dodging or blocking and Helix can adjust his height by stretching or becoming a blob. These special abilities make each character feel a bit different and helps add to the style and personality that they all carry.

As far as loadouts go, before players begin unlocking any content, each character comes with three different kinds of gloves, and before each round of combat players choose what glove to rock on each arm. These gloves usually compliment the fighting style of the character, like Helix's "Blorbs", which are big, bouncy and apparently taste like fruit, or Master Mummy's Megatons, which are massive, slow moving and high damaging. However, players can unlock other character's base loadout gloves, and even variations of those gloves, by using the in-game currency to enter a mini-game, similar to Smash Brother's "Trophy Rush". 

With so many ARMS (heh) at your disposal, it's easy to make some really unique loadouts, that cover a multitude of match-ups.

ARMS comes with a few game modes outside of the aforementioned arcade mode. ARMS can also be played 2v2, which is surprisingly fun, despite the questionable approach. Teammates are tethered to one another and cannot stray too far or they'll tug each other around the arena. This tether is extra annoying when one of you get snagged and you both get sent flying. I don't think it's a bad game mode, but I can't help but wish there was an untethered 2v2 mode as well. There's a few mini-games in ARMS as well, which provide pretty good fun in short doses. There's volleyball, basketball, target punching and even a 1vs100 survival mode, reminiscent of Smash Brothers. Of course ARMS can be played online, which is probably most people's strongest selling point for the game. Of course you can play matches with your friends, play matches online and even participate in ranked matches. However, I think the best game mode in all of ARMS is the online "party mode", which pits you (and a buddy if you so wish) against other players in a variety of game modes. Its a great way to play a variety of game modes and earn plenty of in-game credits.

You float around in this lobby, where you can practice until you are matched up with another player in some sort of game mode.

As I mentioned, ARMS is not a traditional fighting game. While that helps it set itself apart and establish a very clear style and charm, it's also lacking some of the strengths of traditional fighters. One of the biggest questions regarding ARMS on the internet (especially the competitive Smash Bros twitter verse) is "Is ARMS a competitive fighter?". For me, the answer is a very clear no, whatever that may mean to you. This is due in part to the level of depth of ARMS, which I mentioned is much more then I expected, but it's still not high. Once you understand some of the nuances and get a grasp for the pretty simple neutral game, it feels like you don't have much left to discover in ARMS. It certainly doesn't help that there is almost no progression outside of unlocking additional gloves. Even climbing up the ranked ladder offers next to nothing. It's just hard to justify sitting down and playing ARMS by yourself for an extended period of time outside of learning the game and trying out all the characters. That being said, this manages to play into what I believe to be the game's greatest strength.

ARMS has everything it needs to be a top tier party game. The Switch gets advertised a lot as a portable console, and bringing a game like ARMS to a party is exactly where the game shines. I certainly can't recommend sitting down and grinding ARMS for hours on end (like I currently am with Injustice 2), but I couldn't recommend it enough for casual play with a group of friends. In turn, this makes ARMS an awesome addition to LAN Mob's Switch titles. We sat down with a group of five people at our most recent lock-in and rotated players in and out as we played 2 player party mode, and it was a total blast. The lack of content is pretty unfortunate, but that's not to say Nintendo won't add some characters or more content in the future. I would've loved to see some sort of amiibo support, or the ability to buy extra skins for characters with the in-game currency, but unfortunately there's nothing of the sort currently. Ultimately, ARMS is a much better game than I ever expected. I could never see myself sitting at home playing for hours on end, but I can't think of a better game to break out with some friends, or at a LAN Mob lock in. The game reminds me so much of Splatoon, which showed that Nintendo is very capable of showing players some new stuff that can't help but make them smile. You've got to give it to Nintendo on this one, releasing such a unique and highly polished take on the fighting game genre while utilizing the strongest aspects of their brand new console is quite the feat. I've heard the game called a "one trick pony", and while I can't really disagree, it's a damn good pony.    
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