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ARMS Review: Ready, Set, Punch

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A new IP for a new console? While many would run in fear when this comes to mind, Nintendo, on the other hand, embraced their new arcade fighter and it totally paid off in the end. ARMS is just as addictive as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition that saw me coming back every day for a few matches whether or not my previous gaming session went well or not.

I invited friends to play with me and they loved it, and no matter how much I tried to pull myself away from the game, it kept grabbing me with its long dangling arms and pulled me back for more. 

ARMS is one of the most unique games I have ever played that manages to take simple formulas and gameplay mechanics and make an enjoyable fighting game that feels casual, but at the same time, can get rather relentless. 

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Punch your way to victory

In a nutshell, ARMS is pretty simple. You enter an arena and need to use your arms equipped with different weapons to beat your opponent by either punching them silly or beating their score at one of the cool arcade games. These games include a volleyball mini-game, a basketball mode and a mode where you have to punch targets before the timer runs out to rack up the most points. 

Each arena is wonderfully designed to give you a variation of a different environment, and some arenas even have mechanics and objects that will further add to the combat, like cars parked in the way to hide behind and floating discs that you can use to move around the stage. Everything it bursting with colour and personality as you explore the lobby system, levels, and all the individual fighters. 

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ARMS can be played in various ways using the Pro Controller, the motion of the Joy-Cons, or just the Joy-Con attached to the dock. While the game pushes towards using the motion to play, it is not ideal. Tilting the controllers left and right lets you move in that direction, and punching them forward replicates the attack in the game. While this is a fun way to play the game, it seems almost a bit slower than a simple press of a button and a swish of the analogue to move in the direction you want. 

Movement is vital in the game and the motion just fails to give you the precision you need. This is why I opted in for the Joy-Con dock and portable mode to play the game as it gave me overall better control of my character and actions. Fights can get rather intense as you will need to jump, dodge, slide, and do it all at once to evade your opponent's attacks and grabs.

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So much charm

ARMS has 10 different characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities to utilise in a match. Each fighter has the ability to change their arms across a wide selection available in the game. While some might have specific weapons to use, in order to unlock more for that fighter you need to simply play the game and find them in a unique minigame where you punch boxes and targets for points. The thing is that you need coins to spend on this game in order for a chance to find these weapons. It is very similar to the mode in Super Smash Bros and it works, it just means there is a small grind for a chance to unlock a specific weapon for that fighter.

Still, if you love a fighter's weapon, chances are another fighter has it as all the weapons are available, but they are limited to specific fighters at the start of the game. Kid Cobra has a rocket launcher, Twintelle has a set of boxing gloves, and Btye and Barq has a homing missile shot. It also makes a big difference that you can equip up to three different weapons in a loadout on each fighter, so when you are in a tournament you can change across these in between rounds and matches.

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Fighter weapons are awesome and by far the highlight of ARMS. Every glove looks fantastic and also has a unique combat approach that you need to take into account when using it and fighting someone that has it equipped. Mastering these gloves in turn with your combos is the key to success. Freezing an enemy and then quickly grabbing them to follow up with grab combos was rewarding, or freezing someone and then tossing the huge electric ball at them while frozen would then shock them leaving them paralysed for yet another grab attack. 

Ultimate abilities are also a vital part of the battle. As you fill up your yellow bar you can execute a super attack which will prove to be an extremely powerful series of punches depending on the weapons you have equipped in your left and right hand. During the battle, yellow or green phials could drop too, which will let you either fill up your health or refill your super bat by standing in the radius of the phial for a few seconds. These small features could change the tide of battle when you are losing terribly or even winning. 

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Everything is also then playable with friends in 4 player split screen and it is a tonne of fun to experience. Each player can use a Joy-Con rotated sidewards and experience the game without sacrificing on the controls. ARMS works in magical ways to make sure that no matter how many people are playing and with what controllers, it is still a fast-paced punching fiesta. 

Online play is also flawless in the party mode where you are placed in an ever-changing lobby that shuffles players across various modes and fights. You never know who you will be fighting with or against and in what mode. You can choose specific ones but I really loved this random selection as it kept every match fresh. If you are not feeling social then head into the tournament that sees you face off against ten opponents to fight the final boss. This is a new take on the Tekken arcade mode and one that was extremely enjoyable with and without friends by your side.

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No matter how hard I tried to stay away from ARMS, it kept pulling me back into the addictive combat with its unique personality. It is so easy to play, but hard to master and the amount of depth you can go into with the unique weapons and fighters is truly untapped potential at the start. The more you play the game the more you will find yourself engrossed in its layers of mechanics, but if you not in the mood for that you can just pick up a controller and head into a casual 1V1 match. 

Available On: Nintendo Switch | Release Date: 16 June 2017

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"This is a new take on the Tekken arcade mode and one that was extremely enjoyable with and without friends by your side."

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