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Nintendo “ARMS” Impressions: A Fighting Game Newbie and Veteran Weigh In

A few weeks back, Nintendo’s quirky take on fighting games, ARMS, dropped. It turned the fighting game formula on its head by employing over-the-shoulder view and focusing mainly on punches. This behind-the-back perspective also emphasized motion control over anything. Finally, it did away with a fighting game staple – combos are nowhere to be found, and gameplay mostly revolved around dodging and punishing bad punches and grabs.

This time around, with ARMS, Nintendo seems to be actively wooing the competitive scene, after how they treated, you know, the Smash community. So how does the game stack up? We got two What’s A Geek writers who are from the opposite ends of the fighting game spectrum. Ade, the FG newbie who can’t even do a proper hadouken, will share his thoughts first, and then Leandro, the veteran who eats scrubs for breakfast, will talk about his ARMS impressions!

Ade, the fighting game scrub

People would think that ARMS is just another take on Wii Boxing, and you can’t fault them. Ever since the Wii, Nintendo has built a reputation for casual-friendly gameplay that even your grandmother, who tags some random stranger in a Facebook comment, can play. But let’s not forget that Nintendo is also responsible for the Super Smash Bros series, a rather deep fighting game with a passionate community behind it.

And on the surface, ARMS looks like a game where you pick up joycons, swing around wildly, and win the Grand Prix and call it a day. But sure, swing your arms against a more experienced player and you’ll lose. This is not a game that rewards button/swing mashers. It surprisingly has some depth, and while it may not be on the level of Tekken or Street Fighter in terms of complexity, it has enough to keep you on your toes and ensure that you throw your every punch with a plan in mind.

And as I noted in my review, the game favors motion controls heavily. I tried motion controls, and I. Just. Can’t. Get. Into. It. I’m more comfortable with traditional controls, but dear god look at the awkward button mapping:

Seriously, Nintendo, I love you to bits, but please let us do custom button mapping. Blocking is too important in this game to leave it in an awkward placement.

Awkward button mapping aside, ARMS is a fighting game. Don’t look at the bright and quirky characters and dismiss the game as kid’s stuff. It may not be as deep as fighting veterans would like, it’s not overly technical, but it’s fun enough to keep casuals like me hooked, while slowly teaching them the basics and technical skills needed to be competent in fighting games.

Leandro, the fighting game veteran

Well first of all I wouldn’t say that I “eat scrubs for breakfast,” if anything I’m the one getting consistently bodied in my local FGC (fighting game community) gatherings. Regardless, I do know a thing or 2 about fighting games, and ARMS is a fighting game-ass fighting game. In essence ARMS is very similar to Divekick. It boils down the fighting game formula to its fundamentals, and allows players to get to the deeper level of fighting games quicker.

The game essentially revolves around footsies/the neutral game and okizeme/the wake-up game. As Ade has already mentioned, you cannot wildly throw out attacks and expect to win. You have to know the exact distance your attacks travel, space yourself accordingly, and punish your opponent for missing their attacks. This is what is known as footsies or the neutral game. Now once you get a knockdown, you have to analyze your opponents patterns. How does he wake-up? Does he throw out an attack as soon as he get’s up? Dashes to the left? The right? Jumps? Taking note of this, and reacting to these (such as throwing out an attack on your opponent in reaction to his wake up dash) is okizeme or the wake-up game.

I mentioned the “deeper level of fighting games” but that’s already part of what I discussed. Being able to adapt to your opponent and adjust to his habits is what the deeper level is, and is what ARMS brings to the forefront. This is essentially what the game is all about, and is basically what fighting games are at their core. ARMS is basically your “baby’s first fighting game.” I don’t mean that as an insult; in fact I mean it as a compliment. It allows newbies to the genre quickly understand what truly makes these games compelling for us in the FGC.

That isn’t to say that the game is JUST this though. There’s still special moves in the game, but without the complexities of needing to execute a “quarter circle forward.” Each of the 10 characters represents one of the archetypes of fighting game characters. For instance Twintelle with her ability to float and slow down opponent’s attacks is the “zoner” of the game. Master Mummy’s more damaging throws, “super armor,” and sustainability represents the “grappler” archetype.

Overall, I’d say that ARMS is a great introduction to the fighting game genre. It doesn’t have traditional combos or attacks that need execution, but the core gameplay is part of the fundamentals of every fighting game.

Ade Magnaye

Ade is a bassist who blogs way too much about Doctor Who and Batman. Check out his blog at Noisy Noisy Man and follow him on Twitter: @AdeMagnaye

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