Fighting Games Friday: A Farewell to Arms

Nintendo announced several games for Nintendo Switch in the months leading up to the system’s launch, all of which looked intriguing. One of the most interesting among them was over-the-shoulder 3D combat game Arms, another title that involved them addressing a longstanding issue. Vocal fans have voiced concerns about the lack of new Nintendo IPs aimed at the core gaming audience over the years, but this started changing with Splatoon on Wii U. Arms was simply the next initiative in that plan, a title that would attract an audience which wanted new experiences during the typically-empty launch window.

They also made sure to dispel the initial impression that it was a repurposed Punch-Out!!! by providing several gameplay videos and demos, which included two Nintendo Directs — though it mainly shared the spotlight with Splatoon 2 in one of them.

Arms was light on content when it released in mid-June, with ten characters to choose from and a similarly low stage count, a miniscule amount for a fighting game these days. But this wasn’t an issue when all the biggest upgrades afterward were free. It appeared Nintendo would continue providing more stages and characters for a while after its release, along with significant balance upgrades. Essentially, it would be their answer to Microsoft’s Killer Instinct, a fighter to be updated for years with content that wasn’t too expensive when they started charging for them.

So, info that the newest update was the last from Japanese version’s official blog came as a surprise. Arms’ end feels abrupt compared to the slew of updates Splatoon received over the course of a year — with the sequel following a similar schedule. To be fair to them, those free updates were damn good, as three characters and their respective stages have been released since the last time I posted about the game in September. They follow Max Brass and Lola Pop, for a total of five post-game characters.

Misango arrived in November, a spiritual fighter with an Aztec-inspired design devoted to protecting and representing his fellow Misangans. His special ability involves powering up various attributes like his defense and evasion speed after charging, with the assistance of a mysterious entity that battles alongside him. For this, that entity will become his mask, and the attribute he’s charging up will be reflected through the design and color it takes. He arrived with the Temple Grounds stage, and the Scorpio, Glusher, and Skully Arms.

Springtron was added earlier this month, who is, well, a robotic version of Spring Man. He was created by the Arms lab, and was only encountered as an opponent in the Grand Prix mode before being made playable. His techniques are also identical to Spring Man’s. It’s a good thing these characters are free, because there would have been no end to the complaints lobbied at Nintendo if they weren’t — though that didn’t stop some people.

The final character released for Arms was Dr. Coyle, a mysterious scientist who serves as the head of the Arms lab. In addition to being involved in Springtron’s creation, she also created Helix and non-playable final boss character Hedlok, and experimented on herself. She may not be evil, but she’s presumably quite mad, as also shown through her crazy laugh. Dr. Coyle’s special abilities involve becoming temporarily invisible after guarding, using an extra Arm attack after charging, and punching, dashing, and blocking while levitating in midair. She came with a new stage called [Name Redacted] (yes, that’s what it’s called), which has its own catchy music theme, and the Lockjaw, Parabola, and Brrchuk Arms.

The updates were coming at a good pace, and plenty who are still playing enjoyed Nintendo’s ongoing support — especially when they didn’t have to pay beyond the $60 asking price for it. (It was given equivalent prices in Japan and Europe, though the game might have been discounted in those territories.) It’s a pity to see them stopping now, when the game didn’t sell too badly.

But it also wasn’t the breakout success the Splatoon series was, as despite some fairly good promotion and positive reviews, it couldn’t quite shake the reputation of being slightly more than a glorified tech demo. That’s due to how it was unfortunately shown right after 1-2 Switch, a collection of minigames that seriously should have been included with the system, at the Nintendo Switch Presentation in January. But the game didn’t appear to do too badly, and it was good that Nintendo was willing to experiment with a new IP after relying on their faithful franchises for so long.

Arms will still be attractive for anyone looking for a combat fighter on Switch, since Nintendo won’t be turning the servers off for at least a few years. The game will also receive a publicity boost when it’s played at Evo Japan 2018 in late-January. It’s a mystery as to what project the team will be moving onto next, but it should be revealed in due time.

Yeah, I’m just kidding about that being “mysterious.” This game was an experiment from the Mario Kart team, and considering it’s been over three-and-a-half years since Mario Kart 8 first released (ported to Switch earlier this year through Mario Kart 8 Deluxe), they are absolutely working on the next installment. The Mario Kart series is too much of a cash cow for Nintendo to ignore for long, and they have millions of fans ready to purchase each title thanks to how enjoyable they are. 8 Deluxe was intended to hold off Mario Kart fans for a few years, so expect a proper Switch installment to perhaps arrive in 2019 at the earliest. But following that, it would be nice if they could revisit Arms one day.

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