Arms Could Be a Wild Time

The Nintendo Switch’s launch and launch window lineups won’t be crowded, even compared to previous lineups for Nintendo platforms. But some games are still destined to be overlooked. Given the current excitement levels for each title, Arms could be the most neglected among them. That’s a massive shame given its large potential for entertainment.

Arms is a new fighting game property from Nintendo’s internal development sector (specifically some Mario Kart team members) where two characters battle in a 3D arena, with the camera placed behind them. It resembles Punch-Out!! with more maneuverability options at first glance, but that’s selling it short upon seeing extended gameplay footage and demonstrations. Though punching techniques are the most reliable, as shown through screenshots and promotional artwork, characters also have multiple possible configurations regarding the kind of punching equipment they want to use, and other unique techniques. It has the potential to be one of the deepest competitive games among the Switch’s early library.

That potential depth particularly applies when factoring in the main control method. Arms uses a combination of the Joy-Cons’ motion control features the controller buttons and triggers. While the player’s punching motions are used for swings, they can also cross the Joy-Cons to block incoming attacks, all while maneuvering around the arenas with the analog sticks and buttons. It will take some practice, especially with more complex attacks the characters can utilize, but should nonetheless be simple enough that most can pick it up and have a good time with other similarly skilled players.

But for anyone who thinks the “waggle” phase was played out years ago: Nintendo confirmed that options for traditional controls will be included. There’s no word on whether anyone who plays using that method will be at a disadvantage, but we’ll find out when players get their hands on the game — ideally for public demonstrations before release.

Five characters have been revealed thus far. There’s Spring Man, whose name fits the concept of the game’s punching maneuvers, as they resemble springs by lunging and recoiling. He appears to be the most well-balanced of the bunch. Ribbon Girl wears a schoolgirl-like outfit and has faster-than-average speed, though her attacks likely do less damage than average to compensate. Ninjara is, clearly, the ninja type, whose attacks and dodging techniques are even quicker than Ribbon Girl’s, though whether his attack power is also adequate remains to be seen. He can also grab the opponent from a good distance.

Master Mummy is the burly type, whose attacks hit hard and are tougher to dodge thanks to the size of his fists, though has slow maneuverability. He also has special armor to withstand certain strikes, and can heal while guarding. The last currently known character is Mechanica, a girl in a big machine whose punching attacks resemble a series of small missiles. The thruster on the back of her mech gives her special dashing and jumping maneuvers, and she can also grab opponents from a good distance. Like Master Mummy, she has special armor to prevent her from being phased during certain normal attacks. Given the quirks each character has, you can see where the depth will come in.

Shortly after the game was revealed at the Switch presentation last month, Nintendo provided special demonstrations through their Treehouse event and events in Japan, which went in-depth showing how the game plays. Recently, the Japanese arm uploaded two more trailers, which further detail the characters revealed thus far and how the game plays. Those trailers are only available in Japan currently, a strange decision considering this game is planned for a worldwide release, presumably simultaneously. It would be best to promote it in all territories at the same time.

That’s important, because Arms currently isn’t receiving the attention it deserves. Partly blame that on how it’s being perceived as a Wii-style casual experience, though videos show it has far more potential beyond that. While the introductory trailer received plenty of views, the other trailers haven’t received anywhere near as many. Nintendo announcing it shortly after the very casual-focused 1-2 Switch at their presentation didn’t help its early perception. But they still have time to create a good marketing campaign, something I hope they’re actively working on as I type (and you read) this.

It’s always better to let players experience these types of projects themselves, though, so it would be a good idea for Nintendo to provide a beta. In addition to letting players try it out, it would also be a useful way for the developers to analyze how well-balanced each character is, and test whether the online play will measure up for the final release.

Arms is due for a release sometime in the spring worldwide. Since it’s too late for it to receive a late-March or early-April date, and that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is releasing in late-April, it should arrive in the second half of the season. That will give Nintendo plenty of time to promote it, and slowly reveal the remaining cast. If the game turns out well, hopefully it will also sell well.

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