Reviews: ARMS

A truly hardcore motion control game

When the Wii came out, it was a sensation. Motion controls looked like they would change gaming forever. People were interested, if not excited, to see how games would take advantage of this new play control style.

The results were much less exciting. Most games to use motion controls simply treated them as an alternative to a button. Instead of pressing a button for an instant response, you swing the Wii remote and have the game interpret your swinging, realize what you're trying to do, and then your character will do it. Rather than adding to a game through more detailed play mechanics, this instead took away from a game by introducing an annoying delay every time the player performs a particular action.

Motion controls seemed like they were a passing fad, a simple gimmick with little use for games other than the most simple pick up and play variety.

And then along comes ARMS.

ARMS came about as the result of someone in Nintendo wondering out loud why so many tournament fighting games take place in a side-view perspective. Since in real life, punches and kicks can go in any direction, why only punch/kick in front? What would a fighting game with a behind-the-back camera look like?

Well, just trying to punch and block punches wasn't enough to make the gameplay concept work, so the game ended up being about characters who punch with extendable, slinky-like arms. Such arms at least give players time to see an attack coming and try to dodge it.

The concept is brilliant. It's easy enough to learn the basics, that my 8-year-old nephew picked it up and started having fun in the online Party Mode.

But the game has a lot of depth, as anyone who plays single-player on a high difficulty, or jumps online, will learn when they start losing a lot. So, time to start learning about all the little details. Like curving your punches. Punching to the left and right and trying to hit where your opponent might go next. Jumping and dodging. Throwing out one punch to bait the opponent into dodging to the side, then throwing out another punch to the side to hit them, then quickly dodging once you can move again.

Yes, there are certain mechanics at work here that need to be mastered, like the fact that you can't move or block while your punches are extended, and therefore you're more open to attack. Or that strong punches block and cancel out fast punches. Or how curved punches work, and how they're useful against opponents who throw out straightforward attempts to block attacks, or who keep moving a lot.

It took a while, but before I knew it, I was in the groove, instinctively throwing out punches while moving and dodging like... an average player. But I was having a blast and working up a sweat. The game is intense, and like the best competitive games, just fun to jump into for a few quick rounds, or maybe a good half hour. Who knows? But Nintendo has another winner on their hands, and I want to see this game succeed.