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Arms for the Nintendo Switch is set to pack a punch – possibly with a laser attached to the glove

Making use of the Switch’s motion controls, Arms is a unique take on the fighting game genre that has players taking real swings at opponents with extendable limbs that can be customised with a host of quirky add-ons

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 8:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 8:02pm

When Nintendo unveiled the Switch, its newest games console, one of the more intriguing titles was Arms. It’s an original project from a company that often relies on sequels and its huge roster of iconic characters and franchises. A major console effort like this is rare.

The other notable element about Arms is the gameplay. It’s a fighting game, but don’t mistake this as something as basic as Super Smash Bros. The title can be played with a standard controller, but Nintendo is emphasising the use of motion controls. Like boxing in Wii Sports, it’s a game that tracks punches as players move their arms. If they punch, the characters punch.

But Arms is a game that requires precision and timing. This isn’t a title where flailing your arms will do much good. The gimmick around Arms is that the fighters have extendable limbs so their punches have ridiculous reach. Players can aim their strikes by twisting their wrist, which bends the trajectory of the boxing glove.

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Layered atop that basic fighting mechanic is movement. Players tilt the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers in both hands left or right to move in that direction. The right shoulder button is used to jump while the left is the dash. These help players find openings for an attack or evade a strike. They can even combine them to get around an arena faster.

Lastly, there’s a super meter that builds up over the course of the match. When it’s full, players can activate a super move by pressing the triggers of both Joy-Cons at the same time. The powered-up attack is devastating – all they have to do is land a blow.

Despite being so simple, Arms has a surprising amount of depth. There’s a rock-scissor-paper element to the attacks. Players can defend against a super or normal attack by tilting the Joy-Cons inward and performing a block. They can also hit a punch with their own punch. They can shut down a super by landing a blow, but that’s a risky proposition. If a player blocks, it opens them up to a devastating throw. That’s performed by punching with both arms at the same time.

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Along with those basic fighting mechanics, players can customise their fighters with unlockable “Arms” – more precisely, the gloves at the end of a limb, each of which has different properties and stats. Some are slow but deal a large amount of damage. Others have a ridiculous reach with a laser attached to the end. Some shoot out missiles that increase the range of the punch. They are wacky weapons, but Arms has a quirky personality. Overall, players can unlock all the gloves for each character to create more than 8,000 combinations.

On top of that, the stages where players fight are all different. They have randomised power-ups and traps. Some let players fight atop hoverboards, while others have destructible columns that block the field of view. Every stage has a strategy tied to it.

Lastly, Arms has a two-versus-two mode, which can be a little hectic. Teammates are tied to each other with a string. If one gets knocked down, both are taken to the ground. The 2v2 element creates an interesting dynamic where two people can gang up on one enemy, or teammates can collaborate for synchronised attacks. This could be a good party mode.

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A final release date has yet to be confirmed, but players are about to get an early look at it during a beta called the Global Test Punch, which will see players able to download and play the game during the last weekend of May and the first weekend of June.