I got to try out Nintendo’s new fighting game, ARMS, this weekend during their Global Testpunch. Since Splatoon does Testfires, ARMS does Testpunches. It was basically an online stress test, but also served as a demo for everyone to be able to try the game out. I got on for 4 out of the 6 scheduled Testpunches, so I played for about 4 hours.
You might think that a Nintendo game called ARMS would be all about motion controls, and the game definitely steers you in that direction, but I thought the game played much better with a Pro Controller. I tried the motion controls at first and they work fine, but moving your ARMS around is never going to be as fast as simply pressing a button. Using motion controls felt like a handicap when compared to using the Pro Controller. The motion controls don’t do anything the buttons can’t anyway, this isn’t Wii Sports. Besides the split Joy-Cons and Pro Controller, you can also play with a sideways Joy-Con, Joy-Con Grip, and in handheld mode. You could not remap the buttons in the Testfire, so some buttons were in some awkward places. Guard, for example, was on the L3 or pressing down on the Left Stick, so it was kind of hard to use.
At a glance, ARMS might look like some kind of fleshed out Wii Sports Boxing game or maybe like a reskinned multiplayer Punch-Out!!, but it is neither of those. ARMS is a fighting game. It’s a very unique fighting game. It’s a very simple and easy to get into fighting game, but at its core, it’s a fighting game.
If I were to compare it to another game in the genre, I’d say it plays similarly to the “Field” phase in Pokken Tournament. It’s also kind of like targetting something in a 3D Zelda game. You can’t freely run around the 3D arena, like in other 3D arena fighting games, but you can slowly walk around, sidestep, jump, dash forwards and backwards, and dash while in the air. All while locked onto your opponent. You actually can't face away from your opponent, you're always locked on.
ARMS is all about pokes, zoning, and punishing. There are no combos, besides your one-two punch. Your punches can take a while to get to your opponent, so you have to time them right or you’ll be left open to attacks. Everyone is kind of like Dhalsim. Matches consist of a lot of dodging, dashing, and poking until you find an opportunity to get in a throw or a Rush to do the big damage. It’s a fighting game that’s all about the fundamentals.
You have 3 kinds of attacks. You of course have your left and right punches. You can curve your punches in 2 different ways, one before you throw the punch and one after throwing the punch. For example, you can throw a left hand punch that goes left at the start and then curves in to the right. The Testpunch had 3 different kinds of gloves for each character. Each glove has a different power and you can wear them in any combination and even double up on them if you want. There’s a glove that looks like a dragon and shoots a laser out of its mouth, one that throws a boomerang, one that shoots a bunch of tiny rockets at your opponent, and more traditional looking gloves that just hit your opponent, but might have an extra attribute, like electricity. You can can also charge up each punch by holding the dash and jump buttons. When your gloves are charged, they do more powerful versions of their regular attacks. You can even counter punches with your own. This is where each character’s stats come into play. You can counter your opponent’s punch with your punch, if your glove’s weight is equal or more than your opponent’s.
You can also grab and throw your opponents. When using a Pro Controller, you can press both punch buttons at the same time and your character will extend both ARMS out and try to grab your opponent. This move leaves you wide open to punches and throws, so you have time it right. Throws can also be countered with punches.
And finally, there’s Rush. Rush is basically your typical fighting game super move. You fill up your meter by throwing punches and when it fills up, you can use your Rush. Rush allows you to throw fully charged punches at a very fast rate. If you get caught in one of these, you’re going to lose a ton of health. Rush punches can’t be countered with a punch, but you can be punched out of a Rush by an opponent. You can also block and dodge Rush attacks.
The Testpunch was all online and the only mode available was “Party Match”. In Party Match, you’re thrown into a lobby with up to 8 players and play random types of matches with up to 4 players. I played 1 v 1, 2 v 2, and 3 way and 4 way free-for-all matches. I thought the best mode was definitely 1 v 1. This is just the mode with the least shenanigans. 2 v 2 has you tethered to your partner with a rubber band-like rope and doesn’t let you move around freely. If someone sends your partner flying, you get pulled back with him. It’s very annoying. You can also hit your partner if they get in the way of your attacks. This mode was the messiest and most confusing mode of them all. Four way free-for-alls weren’t too bad. They’re pretty much just like 1 v 1, but with 4 players. You can change targets by pressing up on the D-Pad. Three way free-for-alls were pretty pad, though. It always ended up with someone getting double teamed or someone waiting for the other 2 to finish fighting and then making quick work of the low health leftover fighter. Three way dances only work in Pro Wrestling.
There was also a volleyball game we were sometimes put in. In this mode, you punch a beach ball over a net. The gimmick here is that ball explodes when it hits the ground and it is also on a timer, so if the ball is on your side when the time runs out, it explodes and your opponent gets the point. You can use all your regular punches in this mode and you can set the ball up by doing your throw move and then you can spike it by punching it. I didn’t like this mode at all. Even though the ball is very floaty, your ARMS take so long to finish their attack animation, I often missed the ball and couldn't punch it again before it fell.
I tried all the characters, but my favorite by far was Min Min. She has yellow hair, wears orange clothes, and loves ramen, so she reminds me of Naruto. Her hair and ARMS are actually made of ramen. She is known as the Ramen Bomber and according to the ARMS website, it looks like her last name is Mintendo. She’s also pretty quick and has some fun gloves, so she’s fun to play as. The rest of the characters are just as creative, but I kept coming back to Min Min.
I didn’t notice any lag and only had a couple of disconnects, but matchmaking seemed slow. Sometimes there would be a group of people floating around the lobby and a match would not be made. The game doesn’t match you up with the same player twice in a row and the lobbies only hold 8 players, so if you come out of a match and there’s no one else free, you’re going to have to wait for another group to finish their match. You can go into a warm up mode with some target dummies while you wait, but this is kind of boring after a while. Maybe they could increase the number of player in a lobby or something. Hopefully 1 v 1 modes have faster matchmaking.
I had a lot of fun with ARMS this weekend and can’t wait to have another go at it next weekend. I’m definitely keeping an eye on this one. We’ll be hearing a lot more about the game in the coming weeks leading up to its release on June 16 and I’m sure it’ll be all over Nintendo’s E3 stuff.