Impressions from the Arms Global Testpunch Event

With this weekend’s Arms Global Testpunch wrapped up (There are additional times next weekend), I’m pretty surprised to say I’ve come out with a more skeptical opinion of Nintendo’s newest Switch game. I was really looking forward to Arms, and to an extent, I really did enjoy my time with it this weekend. However, there are some concerns that I have now after playing it, which I will address here.

The Characters Are AWESOME

I really loved Arms‘ 1v1 mode, its main mode. It really has the addictive pull of a good fighter, and I feel driven to explore the abilities of each fighter, all of which feel really different:

Spring Man is the perfectly balanced, middle of the road fighter of the game, which makes him a really good starting point. He is relatively simple, especially since his main ability is a passive one: he becomes stronger once his health drops to a certain amount, making him a fearsome foe when he’s down. Ribbon Girl, on the other hand, is all about mobility. She can jump several times in the air, as well as quickly dash to the ground, allowing her to zip around the stage like no other character can.

Ninjara is all about avoiding enemies, since he can disappear when he successfully blocks an attack, allowing him to counterattack. Min Min can deflect enemy attacks in mid air by kicking them away, and Helix can famously contort his blubbery body in odd ways. The two heavyweights, Mechanica and Master Mummy, are both slow, but Mechanica can hover in the air with her jetpack, and Master Mummy can heal himself while blocking.

There are additional characters that will be included in the final version, but so far, the roster is actually really good. I loved all of the characters, and I felt compelled to switch between them constantly, like in Overwatch in its early days.

The 2v2 and Voleyball Modes Suck… A Lot

While I really enjoyed the 1v1 mode, which allows for exploration of each fighter’s abilities, all of the game’s tactical depth is sucked out in its other modes. The 3 and 4 player free-for-all modes, and the team-based 2v2 mode, are both a chaotic nightmare. When these modes were first revealed, I pictured a good kind of chaos, like in Super Smash Bros. However, this is not the case in Arms. Adding additional players makes the stages feel horrendously cramped–You will often have one person hitting you from behind, and switching your target is not a simple feat when you’re punching away with the Joy Con controllers.

Even worse is the Voleyball mode, which comes in 1v1 and 2v2 variants. In this mode, you have to keep the ball from falling on your side of the court, but punching the ball to keep it in the air is simply not that fun. This leaves the normal 1v1 versus mode as the only great mode in this demo. That’s a little concerning to me, since I’m not sure if that mode is enough to carry the whole experience.

I’m a Little Mixed On the Controls

One of the most notable things about this game are its motion controls, which work pretty well for the most part. I found myself getting really into the motions, and I got really immersed in the game by playing while standing up and punching away at the air. My main issue is that almost all actions, not just punching, are gesture based. You move around by leaning both of the Joy Cons in a certain direction, and you guard by turning them both inward.

After the novelty wore off, I found that these controls are not ideal for a competitive game. While the controls are very responsive, there is a small percentage of the time where the gestures don’t get recognized like you want them to. For example, you can try to guard, but perhaps the game won’t recognize it because you didn’t turn the controllers inward the right way, and then you lose a fight because of this one mistake. That exact kind of situation caused me to lose a few games.

Thankfully, there is a normal control option, which I highly prefer. I had a blast playing the game with my Pro Controller, and I think this is going to be my preferred game style once the game releases. Playing with a normal game pad, you instead move around with the control stick, punch with A and B, and manually block by pressing in the left stick.

Verdict: Cautiously Optimistic

I’m still looking forward to Arms, but my expectations have been tempered a little bit. The 1v1 mode is very fun, but the other modes that we got to try… Not so much. Hopefully, once more details come out about the game’s modes, we’ll get a better idea of what to expect in the final package.

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