Having sold north of 2 million units and still standing as one of the best-selling titles on the Nintendo Switch, ARMS doesn’t necessarily need a new lease on life. Nevertheless, it’s getting one. With a yet-to-be named ARMS character being included as part of the season 2 Fighter Pass for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, an open online tournament, and free trial available now on the eShop, ARMS is relevant again and I’m so happy for it.
At the time of its release in the spring of 2017, the game got a somewhat lukewarm reception. Garnering a Metacritic score in the high 70s, it fell a bit short of the high bar Nintendo set for itself. Some of that was self-inflicted. Unlocking arms was a huge grind, the roster was a bit short on characters, and I think a number of players didn’t get it. Many unfairly compared it to Smash Bros. and more foolishly, Punch-Out.
[For the record, Punch-Out is not at all a fighting game in the way that ARMS, Smash Bros., or Street Fighter are. Little Mac stars in a single-player puzzle/rhythm/action game with fighting in it. I adore Punch-Out, but comparing it to ARMS is as nonsensical as saying Fortnite and Time Crisis are on the same wavelength because the primary action in both is shooting guns. But I digress.]
Sure, one can have fun waggling to their heart’s content. But what hooked me in for 200+ hours was its deceptively deep gameplay. Between the challenges that come with hitting moving targets in a 3D space, to numerous character and arm combinations, there isn’t anything quite like it. Furthermore, everything has been tuned to withstand tournament-level play. It was a feature game at EVO Japan one year while also making a number of stops at other major tournaments where serious fighting games are played. The last fighting game tournament I actually competed in was for ARMS, where I finished top 8.
The game’s competitive chops were enough for me at launch, but it had a lot more going for it. An eclectic mix of heroes were filled with style and personality. It also had one of the coolest online lobby systems that cycled players through a variety of modes. And the music! So many earworms on that soundtrack that are just dripping with international flair.
Over time, most of its deficiencies got sorted out through numerous patches. Many new characters were added to round out the roster, including a new final boss. The ability to custom map buttons to the traditional controller was a godsend. Different arm attachments could all be unlocked for free for the purposes of local tournament play. Nintendo even took out the wildly game-changing Snake Park stage from Ranked rotation, proving that Nintendo cares about maintaining a competitively viable environment. By the time Nintendo wrapped up its support, ARMS was an awesome and fully-featured fighter with enough going for it to appeal to casual and hardcore players.
When Nintendo first unveiled Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I thought a character from ARMS was guaranteed to make the launch roster. To my dismay, the franchise only got Spring Man as an assist trophy. Then I was let down again as none of its characters made the cut.
Better late than never, as we’re finally getting an ARMS character in Smash Bros. later this year. Not only am I glad to play as a character from a fighting game I adore, but this announcement and all of the other activities Nintendo is doing to support this news puts ARMS back in the spotlight. I’ve since gone back to play ARMS in light of the news and immediately fell in love with the game all over again. Though I don’t expect the game to experience explosive sales growth in the coming months, I hope all of this helps at least a few more players see how awesome this quirky fighting game is.
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