A swing and a miss.
I dismissed Arms as “the re-skinned version of Wii Sports’ Boxing” in my Switch hands-on preview, and I stand by that. It’s a drunken party game that you’ll occasionally bring out to show a friend. Actually, not even then — as it’s not bundled with the Nintendo Switch, there’s no reason to have it in your home.
In Arms, your object is simple: beat the stuffing out of your opponent. The demo consisted of one mode, a 1v1 affair where the person who could deplete his or her opponent’s health bar first won. It really is Wii Sports’ Boxing, with some added skills like jumping and grappling thrown in for good measure. Using a Joy-Con controller in each hand, you can either to dodge left or right, or punch forward to punch on-screen. Your blows can be curved by twisting your wrist, in the style of Wii Sports’ Bowling. Punching with both hands at once will grab your opponent to deliver more damage, and finally, super moves involve an activation triggered by shoulder buttons followed by you thrusting your fists at your enemy as fast as you can.
It’s hard to avoid hot takes, immediately thrown to the wilds of the internet, saying that Arms will do to fight games what Splatoon did to shooters. There’s hardly any chance of that happening. I will concede it could theoretically require more skill than a simple Wii Sports‘ Boxing match, but that’s not guaranteed. I played a number of Arms matches in simple flail mode, and did pretty well too.
Today’s revelation that you don’t need to play it via motion controls is even more bewildering. Isn’t that most of the point? This is clearly meant, alongside 1-2-Switch, to show off the added functionality of the Joy-Cons.
We were able to play as several characters at the Switch hands-on event, but most felt the same. There’s some variation in weaponry — helicopter-like bladed ends, for instance, instead of the standard, spring-loaded boxing glove — that may give the title some legs, but I highly doubt it. Even with the addition of a Punch-Out-style single-player campaign, things stand to get very repetitive, very quickly.
Hell, it’s the Switch version of Fighter Within. Got to love (near-) launch titles.
I understand I’m old and jaded; I also felt even more old and jaded watching two five-year-olds squeal with delight, virtually wailing on each other with highly stylised cartoon characters with spring arms. From what I’ve seen, Arms clearly isn’t for me — and most likely isn’t for you — but there are a number of kids out there who’ll both delight in its offerings and can tire themselves out just ahead of bedtime. Each to their own, eh?
Arms heads to Nintendo Switch in spring 2017.