Arms Features

If you had asked me at the start of this year what I thought a year spent playing multiplayer games would look like, I probably would have talked about muting people and about the frustration of being shot from halfway across the map by someone I couldn't even see. Crucially, I wouldn't have thought of Hearthstone or Diablo or any of the other multiplayer games I have always loved, because multiplayer - online multiplayer - for me still meant the unexamined cliches I had carried with me for years. Multiplayer was something I did not do, so the multiplayer games I already played all the time must be something subtly different.

I rarely play fighting games, and, man, I did not expect them to be this soothing. Arms is violent for sure - enemies are pummelled, the ground judders with impacts, and a last-minute defeat can still throw me into an internal rage. But rages, internal or otherwise, are actually fairly rare here - far rarer than last-minute defeats for sure. Most of the time, when I think of Arms - and I am in that honeymoon phase where I think of it constantly - I think of a game that presents itself as a series of nested delights. There's the music at launch, and its theme of wordless bellowing joy. There's the way the UI slides in and out in vibrant bursts, like the screen furniture for the best sporting show ever. There are the badges that you collect instead of Achievements, all neatly laid out in their treasure box screen, and there's the Get ARMS mode in which you cash in in-game money for the chance to earn new and surprising fists to hit people with, by means of a pacey shooting gallery that is rewarding you with stuff while secretly teaching you how to curve punches.

Well, isn't this quite the problem to be having. It really doesn't seem that long ago there were righteous complaints about the dearth of decent Nintendo titles, understandable given a fairly miserable 2016 which saw the Wii U shuffle off this mortal coil with little in the way of love or support. The assumption was, of course, that Nintendo was busying itself for what was set to be an important 2017 - but even then, I doubt anyone could have predicted what was to come.

It's been more than a decade since motion control took the world by storm on Wii and it often feels like a distant memory we're more than happy to forget. Building a fighting game, a genre that's all about precision inputs, might seem overly optimistic, but that's exactly what Nintendo has set out to do with Arms. And you know what? After spending a few hours playing an updated build of the game this week, I can say that it works.

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.