ARMS is a fighting game for Nintendo Switch. I've already written about my experiences at launch and just before, but today I'm going to try to describe ,my feelings towards the game having played it for a month or so. Unfortunately, I'm very much in two minds about the game. To try to get them both across, I wrote one review immediately after a bad session and another after a good one.
A Good Day on ARMS.
My heart has stopped. The opponent is throwing punch, punch, grab, punch. I’m dodging with precision timing, and together we’re slowly circling the arena. I throw myself to the side and launch a perfectly timed hook, right to where my opponent is about to step. Pow! He’s on the floor, and my heart’s beating again.
I can’t explain to you the difference between a good day on the ARMS and a bad day. There are some things I know; the rock, paper, scissors of punch, block and grab or the right and wrong times to use a rush. None of that matters, though: it isn’t about what you know. ARMS is about what you feel.
The connection between myself and Min Min, like all great Nintendo characters, is fluid and seamless. The controller, be that a Joycon grip, a pair of pro controllers, or the entire Switch console, disappears. I’m looking at the back of her head, but Min Min isn’t some second party I’m sending orders to. She is me and I am her: we are one and the same. My television doesn’t exist, my games console doesn’t exist. I am not aware of the symbiosis between player and character. There is me and the opponent, and the eternal dance of ARMS.
I’ve fought through the single-player campaign’s penultimate difficulty level and I’ve enjoyed some sessions of Party mode, but like all great fighters ARMS shines brightest in ranked play. One on one best-of-three matches, with pretty solid matchmaking and an easy option to have a rematch after a game.
Sometimes, someone genuinely better than me takes me for a ride and I bid them farewell as they move on up the rankings. Sometimes, I get the measure of another player and absolutely clobber them. There’s an undeniable sense of amusement in asserting oneself like this, but it is an empty pleasure. The fights I thirst for, and the opponents I rematch again and again, are the people I feel are right at my level.
A healthy back and forth of wins and losses, a tight match with both players left on a magic pixel of health: this is ARMS. When I have a three-match series, one win each and a decider, and it all comes down to a quick, precise flurry of moves and counter-moves, there is no better feeling. Forget singleplayer campaigns, party game modes, lore and characters. These are the stories you remember from fighting games. These are the moments that make you feel alive.
When I have a good day on ARMS, I’m reminded that there’s an animal, human heart beating in my chest.
Probably my favourite fighting game of all time. There's a good chance ARMS will join Mario Kart, Zelda, Monster Hunter and Splatoon in the pantheon of Switch Games I play past the 100 hour mark.
A Bad Day on ARMS
ARMS is pure, bottled frustration.
A new opponent: oh what a shock, it’s Ninjara. They’re jumping around doing their little teleport, throwing out grab attacks. It’s easy to counter: dodge to the side, throw a punch where they’re going to land. Repeat.
It goes on and on, though. My concentration lapses and by the second round, he’s landing attacks. I’m getting frustrated. How is this crap idiot beating me? I get more frustrated, throw out ineffectual punches, and lose even harder.
It’s a vicious cycle- the more frustrated I’m getting, the worse I’m playing, so I’m losing more and getting more frustrated. Eventually, I’m swearing, I’m gripping the controller like a vice. The red mist has risen and my thumbs aren’t even responding to my brain properly: I’m moving like Min Min is trying to swim through ramen broth.
There are definitely legitimate complaints about ARMS. For players with a poor internet connection, which I’m lucky enough not to have, the peer-to-peer gameplay can be problematically laggy. This means larger, slower characters are almost unplayable against nippier fighters.
The three dimensional movement and over-the-shoulder camera can make things trickier to read than in the side-on style of Street Fighter, compounding other problems. Invincibility frames in things like knockdowns can be tricky to read even after dozens of hours of play.
While I’m not going to deny these problems exist, I do wonder how many of peoples’ problems are real faults in the game’s design and online infrastructure, and how many are just the result of a bad day on the ARMS.
But seriously, though, I’m better than this fucking infant shitlord with his grab-spamming Ninjara and if he fought me one on one in the real world in a steel cage I’d kick his stupid idiot child head in. This game is bollocks. Fuck Nintendo.
A shit game that cheats and is designed by cheaters, for cheaters. I can see this getting traded in at GAME to buy a couple of overpriced tins of Monster and a bad t-shirt.