I’m split on ARMs. This is the Nintendo Switch title that, as some have said, does to fighting games what Mario Kart did to the racing genre. It’s unique, fun and, sort of, approachable in a way that’s fresh for the format.
ARMs is a fighting game that uses motion control. It’s like Wii Boxing if Wii Boxing were good. You pick from a roster of fighters with unique abilities that can equip ARMs to fight in strange ways. Maybe one arm is a standard boxing glove while the other is a boomerang.
They’re attached to the character with springs. You can punch with a Joy-Con and send that ARM all the way across the 3D arena at your combatant. To make the game more interesting, it’s been designed to encourage players to curve their punches, jump and dodge to force their opponents into getting hit.
It’s sort of a complex idea, especially for folks who don’t play a lot of video games. My wife is a casual player, and I know she’d have a tough time getting into this one. If my description has you scratching your head, dig into this Nintendo Direct. You don’t need to watch the whole thing, but it illustrates the game’s mechanics perfectly.
I’ve been playing ARMs a lot since launch. Most of that has been spent alone, which I really, really dislike. In fact, as I’ve been playing the game by myself, both online and off, I started to wonder why it was receiving such high praise.
Sure, the concept is novel and the gameplay is fresh, but the actual pool of content is downright shallow. There’s a basic arcade mode, you can dive off into a few minigames that don’t entertain much or you can work to unlock ARMs for your favorite fighters. The experience is devastatingly thin, especially for a Nintendo game.
At the top of this story, I referenced that I’ve read others, critics and fans, compare ARMs to Mario Kart. Sure, it’s a novel approach to a routine genre, but Mario Kart is nearly infinitely playable, both alone and with friends. ARMs? I’ve only really had fun with ARMs when friends are over.
In a group, this game is absolutely fantastic. Learning the ropes, battling it out and actually having friends to laugh and compete with in person elevates this game from novel to fun. If you have roommates or a constant parade of friends willing to play ARMs with you, I’d say this game is a must-have for the Nintendo Switch. Aside from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Snipperclips, I’ll contend that ARMs is the best multiplayer title for the platform.
Single player? It’s just too thin for my liking. There’s no campaign mode, no stories for the crazy fighters, no world-building, nothing. At least Splatoon offered a fun campaign to run alongside its multiplayer offering. ARMs’ Arcade Mode feels like a training ground for when friends come over. It’s nothing, and it certainly doesn’t justify the $60 price tag that sits above the game.
Which brings me to a more recent trend for Nintendo titles. Specifically, I’m thinking of the recent spat of sports games. Consider Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash for the Wii U. That game had about as many modes as ARMs, and it was devastatingly thin. It offered no replay value for someone rolling alone. Repeat that for Mario Tennis: Open on the 3DS. With the exception of Mario Golf: World Tour, in fact, I’d argue that the trend for Nintendo’s sports games has been to go shallow rather than deep in recent years, something that bucks against the company’s normal standard for well-valued experiences.
I feel the same way about ARMs. It’s a unique game, sure, but it’s so flippin’ thin that I can’t justify playing it alone. Until friends come back over, I’m done with it.