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Arms, the Fighting Game Without Legs

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    Rating: 3.0 – Fair

    Arms, the Fighting Game Without Legs

    Introduction: Arms is a 3D fighting game which uses extending arms to throw long distance punches. While I am not generally a fan of fighting games, and as such don’t have much experience with the genre. I was interested in Arms because it was presented as a more casual friendly approach to the genre in the same vein as Splatoon is for online shooters.

    Gameplay: Arms has a fairly simplistic control scheme to facilitate its motion control focus (though you can still play it with traditional controls by using just one joycon, the grip, or a pro controller). You can punch with either fist, block, grab, jump, or dash, as well as unleash a rush of attacks once you have built up your special gauge. Which you do so primarily by punching. Unfortunately my experience with motion controls is that they are too sensitive, in that when I’m doing the motion for a block it registers it as a grab. While this could likely be overcome with practice, it is off-putting when you lose a fight because the controller didn’t do what you wanted it to.

    The game has a basic rock, paper, scissors approach where punches punch through grabs, grabs bypass blocks, and blocks deflect punches. In practice however evasion is key, as you are better off dodging incoming attacks and depending on where the grab is coming from, a punch will miss it making the throw unavoidable. Rushes also suffer by how evasive the game is since the faster characters can relatively easily avoid them completely to the point where using your special against them is a non-starter.

    You can also charge up your fists to add additional damage and effects. This is done be either blocking for a short time or holding down the dash or jump button long enough. Since these effects can be quite nice, learning how and when to charge is important if you want to be successful at this game.

    Characters, stages, and Arms: At launch there are 10 characters each with a respective stage and three ARMS, though more characters are planned to be included with free updates. Each character has their own unique ability as well as different grab strengths and speed. Because of the game’s evasive nature faster characters are easier to be good at, while slow characters would require more skill and strategy to be effective. And since attack power for punches is determined by ARMS not character there isn’t as much of tradeoff for the heavier characters being slower that there would normally be in a fighting game.

    While the characters have a diverse appearance from mech riding teenage girl, to a ninja, to a stretchy artificial lifeform, there is not much to them in terms of actual characterization. Their win quotes consist of short phrases or just cute/menacing noises. And there is not much if any relationships between the cast, nor is there any story mode to delve into that aspect of the characters. This is a disappointment since most other fighting games that I’m aware of try, in some way, to make you care about their casts. With Arms there is no such effort, nor is there any attempt to explain why the characters have these extending arms.

    The stages are fairly basic, though each has its own gimmick. From Spring Stadium’s outer ring of springboards, to DNA lab’s large test tubes (which you can hide behind for cover), to Snake Park’s hard to control/counter snakeboards. They add some variety to the fights without (for the most part) presenting too much obstruction to the actual fight.

    There are 30 ARMS total, and each one has a certain elemental type. Those elements are fire (does significant additional damage), wind (knocks the opponent up into the air), electric (disables the opponent’s arms), ice (makes the opponent move slower), explosion (adds an additional attack to your punch), stun (briefly stuns the opponent), and blind (covers the opponents screen with goo making it hard to see). There are also ARMS that don’t have an element and instead get bigger when charged.

    ARMS also have different weight classes: light, medium, and heavy. ARMS of the same weight class or heavier can be used to deflect incoming attacks. The heavier the weight the slower the ARM. There are even more variety than just element and weight, from boomerang ARMS that have dramatic curving ability to dragon ARMS that fire lasers.

    There are a few different types of matches in ARMS. There are normal fights, team fights, v-ball, hoops, and skillshot. As well as 1v100, ARMS test, and training.

    Normal fights are the basic 1v1 (or free for all fights up to four players), where you can have items or not depending on your setting mode. The items that can appear are fire bombs, shock bombs, health drinks (which heal you if you stand within its area of effect), and rush drinks (which fills your rush gauge when in the area of effect). Team fights are similar to the regular fights but the players are divided into two teams of two which are then connected by a tether. This limits the mobility of the players and makes it so if one partner is thrown the other one gets tossed aside as well for additional damage. This type is fairly frantic and tends to see who can get the most grabs in since they do damage to both members of the opposing team. Team fights do have friendly fire where you can stun your teammate if you accidentally hit them.

    V-ball is a mode where you play a volley ball-esque mini-game that consists of smacking an inflatable beach ball to get it to land on the opponent’s side of the net. Sadly the type of ARMS you use is very important in this mode as ones that are fast and can punch over the net have a distinct advantage. Hoops is a basketball-esque mini-game where you score points by grabbing your opponent and tossing them into a basketball hoop. This mode is pretty nice for practicing when to grab and how to avoid grabs but with limited means of scoring points (grabs and rushes are the only way) it doesn’t remain interesting for long. Skillshot is a mode where you and your opponent compete to see who can hit the targets faster. It can be either 1v1 or 2v2 like v-ball and like v-ball certain ARMS (fast ones that have a wide horizontal spread) seem better than others.

    1 versus 100 is a survivor mode which sees how many waves of AI controlled enemies you can handle and how fast you can beat all 100. ARMS test cycles you between single fights, v-ball, hoops, and skillshot with random ARMS layouts. With each successive match the difficulty is increased. Training mode has a variety of different fights designed to get you accustomed to what you will face in the game (like a fight where the opponent constantly punches or one where you and the opponent always have a full rush gauge)

    Modes: For modes there are Grand Prix, Versus, Party Mode and Ranked. Grand Prix puts you against AI opponents with a difficulty of one through seven for a total of 10 (or 11 if on difficulty four or above) matches. These matches are mostly standard fights but do contain one round of v-ball, hoops, and skillshot. Versus is where you can find all the different types of combat for use in single player or local multiplayer.

    Party mode puts you in an online lobby where you are randomly assigned to compete in fights, team fights, v-ball, hoops, skillshot, and a special party mode fight where you and two other players must fight together to beat a powerful boss. If you develop a losing streak you will start your match with a full rush gauge and if you have a winning streak you will start the match with less hp (and the longer your win streak the less health you’ll have). This mode can be fun as you never know what type of fight you’re looking at, however that could also be detrimental if there are certain types that you don’t enjoy.

    Ranked mode is an online mode where you are put into a 1v1 fight against another player. There are no items in this mode so it comes down primarily to skill. If you win you gain rank, but if you lose your rank will go down. How much it goes up or down depends on your rank and your opponent’s. Whereas party mode only has one match to determine the victor, ranked is best two out of three (though with draws taken into account you can have a total of four back to back fights). Once you are done with one opponent you are asked if you want to do a rematch or whether you want to search for a new challenger.

    While I have had some lag and connection issues while playing online it is not prevalent enough to drastically alter my enjoyment. Though there is a problem with long waiting periods within party mode since the lobby you are put into doesn’t get very big there often are times everyone else is still in the middle of a match. Ranked on the other hand is pretty fast between challengers.

    There is one final type of mini-game which is the ARMS getter. With this mode you use coins that you collect by playing the other modes (how much you get is dependent on which mode). These coins are used so that you can unlock all 30 ARMS for each player, however which ARM you get is random. The mini-game plays out like a single player skillshot where you have to hit the targets, but every once in a while a present with an ARM will appear. If you knock down that present you get to keep the ARM. This is not a very fun way to handle unlockables because it feels too much like a grind for coins followed by a tedious mini-game.

    Graphics and Sound: The graphics definitely look nice though they are simplistic. The music while fairly good, does not have much variety. With most of it seeming to just be a reprise of the main theme. The voices of the characters sound synthetic in nature though with how little they say that likely won’t be a big deal.

    ARMS is a game that I have a hard time telling who it was made for. If you aren’t a fan of fighting games and their competitive nature, Arms doesn’t have the casual party game vibe that something like Smash Bros has. But as a competitive fighter I’m not sure it really has much interesting strategies that you can pull off. The game does not have much single player content and unlocking ARMS is not enjoyable or interesting enough to push you to grind for coins. And online matches can be unforgiving if you don’t know when to do what. As it is now, I don’t see most people playing this game for very long. It can be fairly fun but not enough so to have much lasting appeal. Maybe future updates can fix these problems but at the time of writing this review, there is nothing on the horizon to suggest as much.

    Rating:   3.0 – Fair

    Product Release: ARMS (US, 06/16/17)

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