Arms is bursting with fast paced modes and colorful exploding gloves that make every fight a blast, and its stylish lobby system keeps me coming back for more.
As you engage in cartoon style punch out with the eponymous stretchable boxing gloves, of which there are many shapes and sizes, the combat in Arms is real easy to get into the swing of things. You can fight anyway you wish with the motion controlled Joy Con controllers, Pro Controllers, or even a single tilted Joy Con.
The motion control setup works good enough, since instead of throwing huge punches and tiring yourself out, subtle jabs and tilts will easily get the job done with little effort. Tilting the controllers to move, curve punches, and block does take a bit of getting used to.
This led me to lean more towards the Pro Controller, or playing in portable mode, using the analogue stick for precise movements and using triggers instead of the buttons to throw punches.
What matters in every match is the movement, if you are not constantly strafing and jumping to dodge the projectile punches of your opponent, you will just be giving up the match to your rival.
Equally important is charging up your Arms to deal bigger, elementally enhanced damage, but it is a risk because pausing to charge can leave you wide open to attack. There is a great sense of give and take here so for every move you can make, there is an equal counter, and trying to out smart your competitors can lead to some very tense and interesting moments.
Character abilities factor into every single match up. Each of the 10 fighters has two unique abilities, such as Ribbon Girl’s multiple aerial jumps or Spring Man’s deflections. Some of these abilities can lend themselves well to developing new tactics, but others, like the fast jumping but incredibly slow dodging Kid Cobra, just feel like they really ended up with the short end of the stick.
The Arms themselves are all different enough that you will be able to spot which ones your rival has equipped and what they are capable of doing. While the traditional Arms like the fiery Toaster are awesome for straight shots and breaking your opponents grab attempts, wide arcing attacks from weapons like the Chakram, and Thunderbird can flank you from the sides.
Most weapons can charge up to deal crushing effects, although some attacks feel a little more pronounced than others. Sure, having a wind effect to knock a fighter away from a power up is nice, but not as nice as using electric attacks to completely shut down an opponent and leave them wide open to a grab, which does a lot of damage to them.
Some types are rarer than others giving them great unique appeal and even variants of the same weapon type feel more pronounced than a simple re-skin when you compare two of them like the ice encrusted Chilla to the gold trimmed Bubb that doubles in size when charged up.
You are given access to every type of Arm from the start, but they are locked to specific fighters. If you want to use Guardian Arms with Spring Man, be ready to shell out the money earned from fights in a target hitting mini game for a chance at your desired glove appearing for the right fighter (and you will still need to unlock the Guardian again for every other fighter you want to use it with).
I was hoping there would be a chance to be surprised with Arms nobody had in their default load out (thirty Arms is still a pretty diverse selection), but there are some interesting choices to be made mixing a fighter’s abilities with the unlocked Arms of another fighter.
Pairing up Ninjara’s quick movements with some of the freezing and electric Arms let me capitalize on his speed that I could not achieve with his default load out.
If you were worried that the one on one brawling would get boring, Arms does a good job of giving you plenty of alternate modes to choose from, and almost every mode can be played solo or split screen co-op, including the traditional ten round Grand Prix campaign with the scaling difficulty.
The 1 vs 100 mode gives you a lesson in endurance as you take on small groups of weak enemies until a final tough opponent. Modes like V-Ball, Hoops, and Skill Shot are nice diversions that are quick and concise, though getting walled off from your opponent by a large obstructing net playing explosive volleyball is not as fun, or engaging as others that let you go head to head.
Getting tethered to another player in the team battles was awesome, as I worked to defend my partner from getting grabbed and timed rush attacks with the openings my partner had created. That said, having the lock on view constantly switching between targets on its own without my input was very frustrating though.
The mode that really deserves a pat on the back here is the Party Match. This online mode takes you to a constantly different lobby areas that is almost as fun to watch as it is to take part in. Groups of up to 20 players (10 systems with two players each) are continually shuffled about as the lobby decides who should be matched up in the circles it creates.
This means players rarely go too long without being placed or paired up with other fighters, and the lobby adapts to odd numbered groups by making frantic free for all’s, teaming up against AI bosses, or letting local players take turns.
Ranked Battles offer a little more structure, and I was happy to find friend lobbies offer a lot of customization to pick and choose what kind of matches the lobby would pull us into. Including the ability to choose possible stages, modes, and how much prize money was needed to be declared the lobby winner.