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Arms takes the Splatoon approach to fighting games

A call to Arms.

Friday's Switch reveal might have been dominated by unpleasant surprises - the Switch's slim launch line-up for one, and heaven knows what Nintendo's thinking when it comes to the extortionate pricing of the games - but there were some more savoury ones, too. Chief among them was Arms, an all-new Nintendo IP that shows that, after the 14 year wait between Pikmin and Splatoon, the company now has a healthy appetite for creating something from scratch. And, just like Splatoon before it, Arms is looking like an absolute treat.

As with Splatoon, Arms is all about Nintendo turning its attention to an existing genre and adding in some of its own magic. This is an exquisite take on the fighting game, if not exactly sanitised then certainly softer, more approachable yet still capable of some delicious depths. I was lukewarm on Arms for the first couple of plays, but it was only after getting acquainted in a longer session that everything clicked into place. Like Splatoon, this could be something seriously special.

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Perhaps the first thing that obscures the potential is the motion control Arms is built around. After a generation in which waggle has been largely absent, there's something retrograde about being asked to wave your hands in the air all over again, although Arms is more refined than the likes of Wii Sports - even if its motion control is slightly more intrusive than something like Splatoon's gyro controls. With a Joy-Con in each hand, a small jab is translated into a spiralling punch in Arms.

The design works well to overstate your actions. Those arms themselves do it at first, uncoiling out from each character like weaponised slinkies. A little twist of the wrist when throwing will cause the arm to curl its trajectory, giving you a way to work past blocks (achieved by holding both Joy-Con controllers horizontally) or to simply throw a curveball in your opponents direction. There's a special to be charged, and when your meter's full you can unleash a devastating flurry of attacks.

The fundamentals are familiar - the rock-paper-scissors basics are there, with throws beating blocks which beat punches which hit through throws - but there are more than enough crinkles to give Arms a flavour of its own. It's a flavour that's quick to get you giddy, too, with punches being met mid-air by counter punches, leaving the extended arm to fall limply to the floor. In action it's joyously kinetic, the short fights having a real pep and fizz to them.

Depth is to be found in the roster, limited in this early demo to five fighters. There's a touch of Overwatch, not just in the design of each character but also in their diverse abilities. Master Mummy is powerful but slow with the ability to heal when blocking, while Ninjara has access to an air-dash that allows him to blink in and out of the action. Elsewhere, each character can customise their own arms with different loadouts, whether that's attaching a boomerang or using a trident that's not so dependent on accuracy.

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Again like Overwatch, Arms ushers you in with open arms and impeccable manners before revealing a world of hidden depths. Whether it's the kind of fighting game that would be welcome on stage at Evo remains to be seen (the flailing required by playing on the Joy-Cons doesn't help, though it is apparently possible to play with a more traditional set-up), but Arms looks like it's up for supporting more dedicated play.

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It *is* possible to play Arms without motion control - and you'll want to when playing on the move - but how exactly that works isn't clear yet.

Seeing as to get the most out of Arms you're going to need two pairs of Joy-Cons - and in keeping with Nintendo's policy of scalping with the Switch, an additional brace of Joy-Cons will cost you Ł75 - it's set to be an expensive game. At least it feels expensive, and there's a joyous arcade sheen to Arms. Splatoon already showed that Nintendo's not shy to have a look at Sega's scrapbook from the early 00s, and there's that same sense of colour and verve to Arms. There's slightly more than that, too, with the default tank control scheme that sees you moving both Joy-Cons together to move about the arena bringing to mind Sega's own Virtual On.

An arena fighter that takes in some of the classics while folding in some Nintendo magic? The atmosphere around the Switch's big reveal on Friday was understandably downbeat, but if this is the quality of games that's in store - something that's off-beat, unexpected and more than a little strange - then the console's prospects are already looking good. If Nintendo is willing and able to support new IP such as this, maybe the Switch will have legs after all.

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