One of the biggest surprises during Nintendo's Switch Presentation was ARMS, a new one-on-one fighting game directly from The Big N in which you slug it out with springy, stretchy arms. We had the opportunity to spend some time with it at Nintendo's New York Switch event; we're not 100 percent sold, but there's no denying this one's got major potential.
ARMS is the only new IP Nintendo showed off, and it shows that the company's experimental nature is still alive and well. Artistically it feels like a mix of Overwatch and Splatoon; it's bright, colourful and charmingly cartoony.
The demo we played featured five characters, each oozing personality: Spring Man and Ribbon girl - both of whom were featured prominently in the reveal trailer - were joined by Mummy Man, Mechanica and Ninjara. Standard fighting game rules apply - first to win two rounds takes the match. Each character has a set of three arms they can choose from with the ability to mix and match between left and right; for instance, you can choose a standard boxing glove style arm and have something more outlandish like a chakram arm, which curves away from your punch to chase down fleeing opponents.
Speaking of curving punches, the build we played featured motion controls only. We're told the final release will feature the ability to play with the Pro Controller, though plentiful details were unavailable as of this writing; playing in tabletop mode will seemingly use button inputs.
The control scheme we used had each player holding a Joy-Con vertically in each hand, with thumbs resting on the L and R buttons respectively; the L button controls dashing and the R button controls jumping, both of which are critical to staying in the game. To move, all you have to do is tilt the Joy-Cons in the direction you'd like to go; the further you tilt, the faster you'll move. As the tutorial tells you, "punch to punch". Swinging your arm in a hooking motion while punching will result in the actions being mimicked on screen. Each punch helps to fill up your super meter, which can be activated by pushing the ZL or ZR button; once you've activated it, you can throw a flurry of punches with little to no recovery in-between. They're hard to defend against, but if you stay on your toes it's entirely possible to completely evade your attacker.
If defense is more your thing you can tilt the joy-cons inward to block, which will slowly regenerate your character's life. As with any fighting game, you can break your opponent's guard in a number of ways; the most standard of which is to throw them. To throw, you just punch with both arms at the same time; each arm will shoot out in front of you with a green energy net bridging the gap between your hands. If you snare your opponent your character will perform a unique throw. The other more interesting method is to disable your enemy's arms. Each arm can only take so much damage before it's briefly disabled. Disabling an arm prevents it from being used both offensively and defensively, giving you opportunities to dish out some shots while your adversary tries desperately to dodge.
We really enjoyed our time with ARMS, but we'd be remiss in our duties if we didn't mention that the Nintendo Life staff is exercising a fair amount of cautious optimism. While what we saw and touched in New York was enjoyable - with motion controls that worked rather nicely - we can't help but feel that what we tried may wear thin quite soon. Solo and multiplayer modes will feature, though, so full judgement must wait until the full picture is clear.
We're confident Nintendo will release additional details prior to launch, but for now we'd say keep an eye on ARMS, as it could go either way.