The demand for the Nintendo Switch is without doubt, having remained out of stock for long periods over the past few months, but after Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Delxue, there do hang some question marks over the appeal of upcoming games.
ARMS is stepping into the arena this month on 16th June, showing once again that Nintendo aren’t afraid to create new games and try fresh ideas. With the first weekend of the Global Testpunch online beta out of the way – a second is happening this weekend – we hopped in to see how the game is shaping up.
Tef: First things first, the controls, which all the marketing would have you believe has Nintendo veering back to the motion controlled heyday of the Wii with. It’s not, it’s optional, and from my point of view after an hour of motion controls, that’s a blessing as I simply couldn’t get the hang of them to be competitive against other players. Everything was just a little woolly for my tastes, such as how it was too easy to block instead of move around the arena, and so on. I’m more than willing to admit it could be my lacking strategic thought in a fight, though, and needing to learn the game
Dave: I also attempted to use the motion controls which essentially made me adopt a punching stance gripping the Joy-Cons in each hand to make a fist. Gesturing forward makes your character punch, but twisting your wrist in either direction will hook a punch in the chosen direction. You can also grab foes by punching with both firsts at the same time and hoping to land it from distance, which counters the block. Moving around the arena needs you to tilt the controllers from a neutral position, while the shoulder buttons under your thumbs let you dodge, jump and trigger you special attack.
Once I had gotten used to the controls, I found it to be far more responsive than the motion controls as Ultra Street Fighter II could ever be. Perhaps it was the simpler motion controls, or maybe it’s just better implementation of the hardware, but I felt that I wasn’t struggling with doing what I wanted to do and more getting used to how each character plays. When the motion controls became second nature, I began to enjoy things a lot more.
Jake: I personally think that ARMS’ standard control scheme in handheld mode is quite simplistic and easy to learn. Left and right punches, grabbing and jumping are all on the face buttons, with aftertouch via the analogue sticks, and you can block by holding down ZR. Obviously, applying these combinations together will allow for swift dodging and will increase the likelihood of victory. Super abilities can be used by clicking the ZL trigger when the super meter is filled allowing for a flurry of combos or a devastating finishing move.
Tef: There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve here, I feel, but I’m looking forward to getting stuck in again soon. What I also liked was seeing quite a wide range of characters to try out, and various different ARMS for each.
Spring Man, Ribbon Girl, Ninjara, Master Mummy, Min Min, Mechanica and Helix all have a particular visual style – Helix is a strange gloop character – and they all have differences. Ribbon Girl can double jump, for example, Min Min has some great bangs… Actually, she was just the only character I managed to win as.
Jake: My personal favorite was Ninjara, as he seemed more speed-focused and hits much faster than the other characters, being based on a ninja and all. I found Master Mummy’s punch hard to predict due to the insanely large spread of the punch, so this could easily be a favorite for me too.
I felt that the character combinations didn’t feel unbalanced at all, but the game will randomly drop health and super upgrades into fights and I think this can ruin the momentum of a player. Then again, it can work well if you’re on the receiving end of a beat down.
Dave: While I did switch up characters occasionally, I felt that Master Mummy and Mechanica suited my play style more, depending on which type of fight is being fought. In matches with three or four fighters, being able to sit back to watch the other two players fight and heal as the Master Mummy did appeal to my more devious nature. I really look forward to being an utter pain in the backside when it releases.
Jake: The Testpunch had all the game modes announced in the recent Nintendo Direct. I got to experience all of these modes in the form of Free for All which features 1v1, triple threat and four player brawls and tag team brawls with teams of two. The other noteworthy mode was V-ball, which is basically an explosive game of volley ball involving a bomb – this also supports four players for 2v2 V-ball.
Both the fighting modes and V-ball are fun but I feel are condensed in the way that every mode has a time limit and V-ball can often just end suddenly due to volleys in succession or the time limit. This is a nice way of keeping games quick and having the lobby match players up quickly, which is does incredibly well, but I just feel being able to play V-Ball forever would be a good option come release.
Tef: I have one little problem with the larger matches, in that they can get too busy and rigid. Switching between two targets has you pressing on the D-pad or the left Joy-Con face buttons, which isn’t too bad, but because you’re locked onto a particular enemy, you can’t really keep tabs on a third fighter, leaving you completely open to attacks and being ganged up on. That’s not so fun…
Then again, a fist hits what it hits. I came so agonisingly close to my super rescuing a 2v2 victory from the jaws of defeat when the two opponents bunched up together…
Dave: I was going to say that the inclusion of targeting for multi-fighter brawls would also be nice. It wasn’t made obvious how to execute target switching to me.
I do have criticisms of the online lobbies, though. Online multiplayer which puts eight players into a lobby, then randomly assorts them into groups for bouts, or teams. It then only allows for one round per match, no matter which game type is being played. V-ball matches tend to last a little longer, being a first to five or until the timer runs out, but 1v1 and 2v2 brawls are occasionally over as soon as they begin.
There is going to be a dedicated ranked mode, which I hope will allow for more than one round per bout to keep the hardcore audience happy.
Tef: I think it is pretty snappy, at least, and there is a little test range that you can try out new arms and fighters. Nintendo have learnt from a sore point in the Wii U era of multiplayer as well, so you can switch fighters between matches.
I’m a little on the fence with the game overall though. For me it comes back to getting used to the controls, and I definitely need to try the non-motion controls out. Aside from that, I love the sense of style this game has and there’s lots of clever ideas. I definitely want to play more, at least.
Jake: ARMS looks like great fun, but much like Mario Kart 8, Splatoon and Smash Bros., it’s always going to be there to play and won’t vanish into obscurity. That’s part of why I’m thinking of waiting until a later date when Mario Kart has run its course – ha! – for me. Even so, ARMS offers a great selection of quick bouts that are both competitive and somewhat strategic, which is just my cup of tea.
Dave: I’m certainly looking forward to it more than I was when it was first announced. Having enjoyed more conventional fighters in the past, it scratches a certain itch to play something a little more unusual. Provided there are some extra features added to accommodate those that just want to fight, while maintaining the party mode for those just looking for a fun time, ARMS has the potential to be an excellent showcase for multiplayer gaming on the Switch and motion controls working wonderfully.
With another weekend of testily punching on the horizon, we’re all going to head back in for more of ARMS. Dom as well, who was “a very sad non-ARMS player”. How about you? Did you try Nintendo’s latest last weekend? What did you think?