When ARMS was first announced at the Nintendo Switch presentation back in January, I (like many others) thought it looked like a pretty gimmicky motion control game and couldn’t understand why Nintendo was trying to push this tech on us all over again. However, after some hands-on time during the Global Test Punch in May and an opportunity to compete in an official tournament held in Toronto earlier this week, my opinion of ARMS has improved quite a bit … even if I’m not very good at it.
Nintendo invited myself and Goliath editor Devon Taylor to OpenMat MMA to compete in bracketed tournament against other game journos. Fortunately, we got the chance to practice a bit beforehand. I’ve heard that ARMS works better with traditional controls, so I was a bit disappointed to learn that this would be a Joy-Con only affair, but at least the motion controls are responsible and relatively intuitive.
This is the type of game where the basics are pretty easy to learn, but become more intricate as you dig deeper into its systems. As I would learn later, movement is just as important as throwing a punch and to compete at high levels in ARMS, you have to master the ability to jump, dodge, and just generally be a pain for your opponent to hit.
Unfortunately, I was paired up with an editor from GameRant who I later learned had already reviewed the game, so I was pretty much doomed from the outset. It was a different story on the other end of the bracket, as Devon — who, it must be stressed, had never touched ARMS previously — was able to make it to the semi-finals, proving that you can get pretty far in this game on beginner’s luck. It’s fitting then that he ended up losing to the guy who would eventually win the whole thing, but there were moments where I actually thought Devon could win it all. You’ll always be an ARMS champ in my eyes, buddy.
Nintendo also recruited two-time UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre to help promote the game (for the record, ARMS is nothing like MMA, but I can respect the Canadian angle Nintendo was taking with this), and the winner of the tournament got the chance to play GSP in a best-of-three match. Despite claiming to be the greatest ARMS champ around, St-Pierre was no match for his challenger and was soundly defeated. The UFC champ was a good sport though and kept the trash-talk flowing long after it was clear he wouldn’t be able to win the day.
We’re hoping to have an ARMS review up sometime next week but from what I’ve played so far, I think Nintendo could have a viable new franchise on their hands. It’s much more accessible than the majority of fighting games out there and looks like it will be another great party game for the Switch. It’s still a bit too early to say whether it will have any staying power, but with its charming cast of colorful characters and bright, zany aesthetic may be enough to attract a dedicated, passionate fanbase.