Nintendo Switch’s ARMS Is A Knockout—And That’s No Stretch

Say what you will about Nintendo’s time-honoured practice of repurposing their well-worn franchises and mascots, in the past couple years they’ve given us two totally fresh and totally fun titles worthy of standing alongside any of the classics.

2015’s Splatoon on the Wii U and, now, ARMS on the Switch have taken two established genres (online shooters and fighters) and given them family-friendly face-lifts to deliver a more pure representation of what makes these types of games click (hint: it’s not realism or violence). While their overall look is clearly cartoonish, they give most of the competition’s heaviest hitters a run for their money in terms of core gameplay.

To be fair, if one had to compare ARMS to another retro NES series, Punch-Out!! instantly springs (heh heh, sorry) to mind. In 2009, Nintendo even tried to go a similar route with the Wiimote-controlled update of the old-school boxing game. But unlike that admittedly very fun game, ARMS’ motion controls are less of a tacked-on gimmick due to updated motion sensor technology and some deep fighting mechanics.

It’s not just fancy new controls that make ARMS so dynamic and addicting (btw, you can also wield a Pro Controller or use the JoyCons attached to the console or held horizontally), the game’s steep learning curve trains you to do a lot more than just flail your limbs in order to throw as many punches as possible. ARMS is all about precision, and that’s made very clear early on.

As you may already know, ARMS fighters are equipped with some very flexible limbs—which can also be fully customized. Whereas most fighting games encourage up-close combat, the nature of ARMS’ spring-loaded punches and grabs make for some unique brawling tactics that involve a fluid combination of defense and offense.

The game’s lowest difficulty CPU modes will allow players to get away with less cautious moves, but they will hit a wall if they want to compete in Ranked online matches, which you can’t access until you’ve beaten Grand Prix mode on Level 4. Doing so will require you to hone your dashing, strafing, and jumping skills, as well as perfect your Rush attack, which becomes available as soon as your Rush gauge is full—and that requires you to punch, block, and move as much as possible.

While on the subject of game modes, here’s what ARMS has to offer. Grand Prix mode is where you will do most of your solo practicing. Like pretty much all single-player fighting modes, this has you squaring off against the rest of the game’s roster of 10 fighters. However, unlike most fighting games, in addition to classic one-on-one fighting. ARMS’ Grand Prix also has you battling the CPU in basketball (in which you toss your opponent through a hoop), volleyball (in which the ball is a bomb), and target practice (in which you punch through pop-up targets to score points before the timer runs out).

Fans of local multiplayer will find much to love in Versus mode, which allows up to four combatants for a bevy of battles like 2-on-2 Team Fight (where you’re attached to your teammate by an elastic band), V-Ball (the abovementioned explosive volleyball game), Hoops (the abovementioned dunk-your-opponent basketball game), Skillshot (the abovementioned timed target practice game), and finally 1-on-100, a single-player mode where you have to knockout 100 baddies.

Gamers looking to throw down online will want to head straight to Party mode from the get-go. While Ranked Match mode is the place to be for online fisticuffs, as I mentioned, you’ll need to beat Grand Prix at a pretty steep difficulty. In Party mode, players are randomly set up with other players and various modes like solo, three-way, and free-for-all. Good news for impatient players: wait times are notably short and you can pass the time doing warm-up exercises. And if you have Switch friends or see anyone nearby, you can challenge them online with minimal effort.

Overall, ARMS is a smashing fighter that can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. The game’s shelf-life will certainly depend on how much time you spend racking up points to unlock special ARMS to perfect your punch and even make a fashion statement via ARM Getter. Each unique fighter can sport three different ARMS with distinct attributes (like fire, lightning, and wind) for every match, so there are countless combinations to try out.

ARMS is out exclusively on Nintendo Switch June 16. Start working on your jab as you check out the ARMS Open Invitational below: