An Absolute Knock-Out:
One of my most distinct gaming memories is playing Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 for the first time. It was immediately fun, with an instant connection to its controls and mechanics – something I find truly rare in the fighting genre. I was over the moon, then, to find those familiar feelings bubbling up again when I booted up ARMS for the first time over the weekend. I was having fun within minutes, and before the first hour was up I was well and truly hooked.
A brilliant mix of Smash Bros., Powerstone and Punch-Out!!, ARMS is an immediately gripping experience that takes no time falling in love with. Whilst those are some lofty comparisons, ARMS deserves every one of them, and for my money has already secured itself as a wonderful Nintendo IP that deserves iteration. I was thrilled, then, to hear that Nintendo would be supporting ARMS with new fighters, stages and modes for free in the coming months. This is a great commitment, because like any other full-priced fighter aside from the ludicrously generous Smash Bros., ARMS struggles to validate the price tag.
ARMS best trick is its deceptive depth. When I punched my way through the training stages and hopped online, I was a completely different fighter to the one I am now, with loads of hours, hard won victories and crushing defeats under my belt – but I wasn’t having any less fun. ARMS makes a great first impression with its simplicity – there’s a button for jumping, dodging and of course left and right punches. These can all be used seperately or in tandem, and the organic combos and oppurtunities this opens up is a freeing feeling from scripted combos and precise button pushes of technical fighters.
ARMS is as much a head game as anything else, and when I found myself developing crafty traps in the heat of battle I really surprised myself. This was fighting tactics I could finally get behind! Footsies and mind games have always been my stumbling point for fighters, so I was thrilled to see myself adapting to ARMS unique brand of of matches.
There’s a depth that unfolds naturally with ARMS, and it’s a thing of beauty getting to grips with. I didn’t feel much of it when playing against AI, but as soon as I took the fight online I found myself really stepping up to the challenge.
Enclosed arenas and squishy characters make for a very fast paced battle environment, where a couple of well timed super-powered punches are all that stands between you and victory – or defeat. It also means that no matter if you’re cornered with only a magic pixel of health, it’s still all there for the taking. Glorious comebacks should never be counted out, and tripping up a cocky opponent and turning the tables on them when you were on an express train to loserville is an incomparable experience.
ARMS lobby system encourages friendly play, however, and even these sudden upsets will never dampen anyones fun too much. I was certainly on the receiving end of a crafty comeback more than once, and I was only ever eager to hop back in the ring and try again. As more players join the online lobby (represented by their characters avatars floating around a colourful screen) the number of events you’ll encounter opens up. With two members I was perfectly happy going toe-to-toe with an anonymous online opponent, but as more players joined we found ourselves in epic free for alls (often allying with past rivals), minigame tournaments and even PvE events that pits you all against overpowered AI boss characters. Watching characters turn on each other in no-holds-barred scraps and team up without a word uttered over chat is a treat – especially if you’re not on the receiving end of this alliance.
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