The Nintendo Life team enjoys a good old-fashioned gaming debate, and one game is guaranteed to split the team roughly down the middle - ARMS. During Nintendo's January reveal of the Nintendo Switch the company unleashed a couple of oddball reveals - there was the quirky advert for 1-2-Switch, and then there was a battle between an office worker and young woman to promote ARMS. In this writer's eyes it seemed like a throwback - weren't we finished with waggle?
The day after that presentation we had teams in London and New York at the Switch events, and ARMS was given the big push. At the UK venue it had plenty of space and even some mini boxing rings to set the mood, but its display units went largely unloved. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 were popular the whole day, but it was never hard to get on an ARMS demo unit. Two of our UK team left with rather negative impressions of it, yet three others were quite impressed. We've seen some talk since of it being Nintendo's 'next big thing', while others think it's a flawed concept. Some see an accessible and fun fighting game, others a motion-controlled throwback that'll never truly be considered a 'real' entry in the genre. Looking over the comments in our article announcing the Direct, a majority seems excited about it but, undoubtedly, others are resolutely uninterested.
Perhaps that's to be expected of any new IP from Nintendo, especially one that puts multiplayer and competitive play at its core; to a degree the original Splatoon had plenty to prove before it captured hearts. It's perhaps telling that the ARMS Direct was also announced with the promise of a new Splatoon 2 trailer at the end, a clear sign of Nintendo reminding sceptics that they've been won over by new concepts in the past.
ARMS has been generating some buzz already, and rather like equivalent game-specific Directs in the past this one makes a lot of sense. As it was only revealed in January there's plenty still to be explained, with Nintendo generally opting to reveal some characters and stages over social media and the last full Direct while avoiding further detail. For those on the fence it's not necessarily characters and ARM types that matter, but rather what we'll be doing in the game.
There are a lot of questions - what will the single player modes have to offer? What sort of online modes and functionality will be included? What other offline modes will offer some variety to gameplay? Official information so far gives cause for encouragement, highlighting heavily customisable ARMS sets and dynamic stages that take the fight into the air via springs and platforms - now it's time for the real specifics.
It's a game that has plenty going for it, with bright visuals and the perception that Nintendo doesn't often go wrong with high-profile first-party efforts. Yet the company has also been known to occasionally put out games with limited content and sloppy online play, and the latter will be critical to the lasting appeal of ARMS. Don't forget that Splatoon was undercooked at launch in terms of online modes and functionality, taking weeks and months to add friend lobbies and equivalent functions. To an extent the Wii U game got away with it because most players were having a great time regardless, but pushing out half-baked online play isn't a strategy that Nintendo should use too often.
We suspect a part of the Direct will also make a pitch for the game's motion controls. Yes, 'physical' controls and button inputs are supported, but it sounds somewhat compromised and is likely only there to facilitate some light-hearted local multiplayer fights with friends. Ultimately, this game - more than any other - makes the case for the Joy-Con controllers as modern-day Wii Remotes.
It's this aspect that most divides parts of our team when it comes to ARMS. While 1-2-Switch did, for the most part, highlight how clever the Joy-Con controllers are, ARMS felt - to this writer - like Wii Boxing on steroids, and not all that precise either. We've seen how even the impressive Joy-Con can be absolute garbage with poorly implemented motion controls, and in a busy room they felt rather imprecise to a couple of our team, at least. The sheer volume of digital 'noise' in that event was upsetting some of the Joy-Con in the room, to be fair, but the point is that it didn't leave a good impression or convince that it's the right time for a waggle comeback. That's not to say these are any more than brief initial impressions, but they reflect the feelings some have that this feels like an ill-advised revival for a gameplay style that hasn't been truly popular - on a mainstream level - for over five years.
Undoubtedly some are very excited about ARMS, with a number saying it's top of their wishlist and they can't wait to play. Moreso than with established IPs, though, a number are entirely unsure over whether they'll put down the money on a motion-centric fighting game. With the ARMS Direct, Nintendo has a vital opportunity to convince - and excite - those of us on the fence about the next major first-party Switch release.
Remember you can join us to watch the broadcast live on Nintendo Life in our blog and chat article, which will kick off an hour before the event. The ARMS Direct is due to start on 17th May at 3pm Pacific / 6pm Eastern / 11pm UK / midnight CEST.