When I sat down to watch the Nintendo Switch presentation, one segment had me intrigued. It featured two people with springy-arms and boxing glove hands. Body-horror aside, the game’s colourful appearance and light-hearted nature emphasized everything I love about Nintendo. But there was one lingering thought; could this be a new Punch-Out?
It wasn’t. It was ARMS.
While 1-2-Switch looks to be Nintendo’s way of showcasing what their handheld-home hybrid can do broadly, ARMS focuses on one element; the motion controls. Players hold a Joy-Con in each hand, and throw their fists at opponents by simulating punching motions. Fights can take place over long distances, with stretchy arms snapping back-and-forth over the arena.
I say “simulate,” because this isn’t one-to-one tracking. Moving your hand forward will jab outwards, but lateral movements aren’t really picked up. Instead, minutiae comes in the form of wrist rotation; throw out a punch from long distance, and twist your wrist mid-flight to add some curve to the swing.
The speed of your punches isn’t blazing fast, meaning ARMS isn’t about wailing away like the boxing minigame in Wii Sports. The game shares a bit more in common with fighting games than it lets on. A lot of the depth comes from spacing, and reading your opponent’s movements. But if you’re averse to that genre, there are also some more readily apparent features to test out.
There’s a roster of different fighters to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Larger characters hit harder, but are slower and present bigger hitboxes to exploit. Conversely, smaller characters move at a rapid clip, but dish out less damage. You can also customise different gloves to wear before the start of a round, but details were sparse as to their function at the preview event.
You aren’t just limited to the ground however. You can jump up and initiate aerial punches. While it doesn’t appear to offer a different moveset, it does keep your opponent guessing. You can also grapple by pushing both Joy-Con forward at the same time, triggering a pre-canned throw animation, which gives you some breathing room. I accidentally found myself throwing out too many grabs though – whether this was a result of my wild flailing, or the window on punch inputs being too wide, is hard to say.
You also have a super meter, which builds up over the course of the match as you dish out damage and take it. Triggering it unleashes a special attack, which takes off a significant chunk of your opponent’s health. It’s pretty clutch too, and can turn the tide of a fight – but as I learned the hard way, it’s also possible to miss with it completely.
ARMS has me intrigued. While the game won’t be a launch title for the Switch, I’m fascinated to know what types of players will pick it up, and if they’ll stick with it. I’m unsure if it will take off in the fighting game community, simply because the game’s fuzzy inputs might hamper precise execution. We’ll find out when the game launches in Q2.
Keith travelled to a Switch press event in Melbourne, courtesy of Nintendo.