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Arms Preview: The Next Great Switch Game

/ Jun 8th, 2017 No Comments

Arms Preview

I’ll be the first to admit, I thought Arms looked silly when it was announced during the Nintendo Switch reveal. My interest in the game was zero following the presentation, which was worrisome considering how little the Switch has in the way of a 2017 portfolio.

My interest increased slightly as Nintendo showed off more footage of the game. The gameplay revealed a better look at the direction, style and mechanics of the game. So when Nintendo announced two weekends of online testing for Arms in the form of the Global Testpunch, it was make it or break it time for the game.

Ladies and gents, I’m here to say “Arms is pretty dope.” The Global Testpunch(es) sold what proves to be the next great Nintendo Switch game.

Coming Out Swinging

Arms is easy to pick up and play, but the Global Testpunch didn’t throw you into the deep end immediately. Before letting you fight against actual opponents, you had to play a short practice bout against the CPU to acquaint you with the controls. The tutorial brought players up to speed quickly and had me throwing punches, dodging and jumping with ease.

No matter what control setup you use (JoyCons or Pro Controller), the controls are intuitive and fluid. In fact, Arms has the best gimmick controls of any Nintendo game. Using the JoyCons as each separate arm with motion controls feels natural.

The sensitivity of the JoyCons allows you to move precisely and easily. Throwing blows feels great. The different directions you hold the JoyCons to throw curved punches or block makes you feel like you’re really in the match. It is the rare exception where the gimmick feels right.

Arms Preview

Unique strategies are required to deal with specific types of opponents.

Unlike Splatoon 2, when you turn the motion controls off, switching to a traditional controller doesn’t feel foreign. You can literally go from one to the other without losing a step. It is what makes Arms’ controls perfect for the nature of the Switch. When you can go from the Pro Controller to on-the-go with JoyCons and it is all seamless, you know there was a lot of thought and care put into the controls.

As good as the gimmick is though, traditional controls feel the tightest. Throwing punches isn’t as satisfying, but movement, dodging and jumping are more accurate. Evasion is a major part of a match, thus being able to move around more precisely makes a big difference. Plus, utilizing each character’s special skills is a lot easier. It makes the difference between casual play, where you learn the ropes, and advanced play, when you’re fighting with a purpose to win.

It is said often about fighting games, but it is true with Arms: the game is easy to learn, yet difficult to master. The Testpunch hinted that there is a lot of depth in the game.

Mama Said Knock You Out

Bouts in Arms have one simple purpose: knock your opponent the f*** out. How you accomplish this goal differs from fight to fight. All the same, you want to display your deftness with expendable punches and fancy footwork.

Whittle down your opponent’s health with quick jabs, curved punches, charged shots and grabs while dodging and blocking enemy blows. Every punch makes your heart flutter a bit as you steel your nerves to block or deflect the punch with a devastating blow of your own. Each move, whether defensive or offensive, is in service of getting that win.

Fights in Arms feel dynamic, with lots of opportunity for a comeback if you’re losing. The unique skills of each fighter can give players an edge if they utilize them properly. Whether it is MinMin’s jump kick, Ribbon Girl’s double jump or Helix’s malleability, these skills can help reverse the tide of battle.

Arms Preview

Each fighter can use various types of arms for light, medium and heavy attacks.

When utilized properly, items can give a losing player the edge he or she needs, be it a well-timed incendiary bomb or a canister of healing. Items can give you a good respite or close the gap in health, giving you a window to unleash a final push to win. Matches in the Testpunch came down to good item management, and as a result, upsetting reversals were possible.

It feels like all aspects of matches are built around giving players a fighting chance while never betraying skilled combat.

Specials are another element that can help prompt a comeback, but do not guarantee victory. Filling your special gauge is achieved by throwing punches. It rewards an offensive push, but there is a tradeoff. Being too offensive leaves you open to counter attacks.

Popping off a special in Arms isn’t even a guaranteed amount of damage though, making them highly rewarding, yet risky. If you are too far or don’t connect, you’ve wasted your opportunity. Opponents can also cancel your special move if they connect with a punch while you’re firing up. Wasting a special doesn’t mean you’ll lose, but it is hard to recover from the missed opportunity, especially if you’re down in a match.

Arms Preview

Two-on-two requires excellent teamwork.

While these elements mostly apply to standard matches like one-on-one or two-versus-two, they also can help you win special matches like volleyball, basketball or skillshot. The beauty of Arms’ gameplay mechanics is that they transfer across all match types. What differs is the flow of battles and the overall goals.

2nd Round Knockout

Arms’ online lobby might be one of the coolest ways to handle matchmaking. A pool of players joins a singular lobby with the ability to drop in and drop out. The lobby accounts for adjustments in lobby demographics on the fly.

As the lobby fills or empties, matches are made randomly, making it feel more like a playlist. This style makes it feel like a party where you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re OK with it.

Arms Preview

The online lobby may be one of Arms strongest features.

It means online play doesn’t get stale because you’re never repeating the same type of fight 60 times in a row. The Global Testpunch showed off a lot of variety in fight types.

For the Testpunch, this meant players got a good taste at the various matches the game will offer. Between the two Testpunches, players got to try out one-on-one, two-on-two team bouts, two-versus-one handicap matches, one-on-one special bouts (volleyball, basketball and skillshot) and a boss battle handicap match with three fighters taking on Hedlock.

Arms Preview

Spring Man’s Shut Up and Jam allows you to dunk your opponent, which is so baller, literally.

Despite not having any rankings or progression, the Testpunch made a good argument for why you’d want to spend a lot of time with Arms.


The wait time between significant Switch releases has been daunting. Since Breath of the Wild, Switch owners have been waiting on a game to make them drain the battery life on their Switch. Fear not. This summer, Arms is going to hold you over until the holiday season.

Arms is the next big thing for the Switch. It is fast, fun and easy to pick up, yet difficult to master. The game is set to release June 16.


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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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