Arms Direct — Spring Forward

Last month’s Nintendo Direct worked as a great opportunity for Nintendo to advertise Arms and Splatoon 2, two big upcoming Switch games which were the overwhelming focus of that presentation. But that especially applies to Arms. While the concern about Splatoon 2 is whether the 3+ million people who purchased the first game on Wii U will transfer to this one (which is likely), Arms is a brand-new property that Nintendo is hoping will take off like Splatoon did. The presentation convinced quite a few that it will be much more than a rebranded Punch Out!!!; it’s a unique over-the-shoulder fighter that stands on its own.

With Arms releasing in four weeks from tomorrow, Nintendo needed another big opportunity to advertise it. So, they gave it an exclusive Nintendo Direct to reveal more modes, fighters, and features it will launch with on June 16th, and content that will arrive afterward.

While the characters themselves will have their own set of pros and cons, Arms will also have different sets of, well, Arms with separate sets of attributes. This was touched upon in the April Direct, but here, several minutes were dedicated to features they will have. They’ll include the elements of fire, electric, wind, ice, stun, explosion, and blind, which have self-explanatory abilities that will activate after the player charges them up. There will also be different types of Arms, like boomerang and missile-types, and others that favor defense over offense which include the ability to recover health. There’s plenty variety here, and those aren’t the only attributes.

The weight of each Arm will also be important, as players will be able to choose between multi-hitting Arms that trade quickness for power, or heavyweight versions that are slow but literally pack a bigger punch. The weight of each Arm will also determine which player’s punch will be more dominant when they clash in battle. Heavier Arms will beat lighter ones, but that’s a good tradeoff considering the former’s comparative slowness. A skilled player should be able to dodge heavier punches thrown out recklessly, and that’s where the element of strategy will come in. Players will be able to acquire more Arms through unlocking them or purchasing them with in-game currency.

Given the sheer number of Arms options it will have alongside the attributes of characters who can use them, the game will provide a deep and rewarding experience beyond its simple exterior.

Like any combat-based game, Arms will launch with a series of single-player and multiplayer modes, though they’ll be geared towards the latter. The Versus Mode alone will have a series of features. Fight Mode will put two players against each other, with items that damage the opponent like bombs and healing alternatives dropping randomly throughout. Team Fights will involve two players attached by a string fighting two opponents, though the fact that players can hit their allies could turn this into a free-for-all.

The V-Ball option will be similar to volleyball, hence the name, where players knock an explosive ball back and forth. The Hoops feature will involve players grabbing the opponents and dunking them into a hoop, basketball style. The Skillshot option will involve two players competing to take down multiple stationary targets using the versatility of their Arms. The 1-on-100 feature is a survival mode that involves one player taking on 100 opponents in succession in one-on-one combat. Finally, Arms Test & Training will involve, well, Arms testing and training. You don’t need me to tell you this game has a lot of modes.

There’s also a Grand Prix mode that will involve the stipulation of winning ten straight matches against each character. After doing so, the player will face a mystery opponent, and become an Arms champion if they win. This mode can be played locally with one or two players.

And that won’t be all! There will be modes more specifically geared towards multiplayer. Party Matches will involve four-player online battles, though the lobbies they’ll be situated in will hold up to 20 players simultaneously. Like any versus game, there will be Ranked Matches, where players will rank up after defeating a series of opponents online. Hopefully Nintendo will have a punishment feature ready for rage-quitters on day-one. Finally, Arms will have a Local Wireless Mode, where eight players in one room can connect their systems, though only four can participate in a match simultaneously.

Arms will have plenty of modes to keep owners busy, but there’s a key feature missing from that list. Given the colorful cast of characters and their intriguing backstories, and the concept of how these characters obtained their Arms, the game is surprisingly launching without a dedicated story mode. Reactions in the last few years have shown how stories are valued in fighting (and fighting-like) games, so perhaps Nintendo will consider adding it down the line if fans make enough noise.

Nintendo took this opportunity to reintroduce previously confirmed characters, since this Direct undoubtedly had first-time watchers. Spring Man, Ribbon Girl, Ninjara, Master Mummy, and Mechanica were introduced when it was announced. Min Min was shown on the last Direct, while Helix was revealed shortly following that. This Direct revealed the final three characters for the initial roster. There’s Kid Cobra, a hip dude with fly pants who’s a fan of selfies and live streaming, who can knock fighters off balance with quick dashes. Bite & Barq are two fighters with one move set, a robot fighter accompanied by a similarly robotic canine. The final one is Twintelle, an A-list actress who uses her pigtails as her primary fists and can stop select incoming attacks with her powers. Her, um, assets are garnering plenty of attention. The official Japanese website posted separate videos of each character in action, and the western Nintendo districts should follow suit.

A starting roster of ten fighters is a low count these days, but given the number of different Arms options, there should be enough diversity in styles. Since this is a versus game similar to Splatoon, Nintendo intends to support it with free content after it launches, including characters (perhaps including the mystery fighter from the Grand Prix mode), stages, and Arms. The full $60 price, or an equivalent, won’t be too bad to pay if the content it launches with is rewarding, and if its online features are in working order.

But players will get a good chance to see if they like it before the official release, as similar to what Splatoon received, there will be “Global Testpunch” demo sessions worldwide. The precise times will be different for every territory, but the first will happen in North America next Friday (May 26th). This will be the best opportunity to spread awareness among current Switch owners and anyone picking up a system in the near future, so hopefully everything goes without a hitch.

Nintendo is aiming for Arms to be a Splatoon-like hit, and it would be great for everyone if it is, assuming it turns out well. They took the criticism about not having enough new IPs seriously, and they’ll be able to establish even more if this is successful. Feel free to watch the entire Arms Direct here.

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