Skip to main content

Nintendo's incredible year continues, but not without a few minor casualties along the way

A call to Arms.

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.

The cadence of new releases for the Switch has been nothing short of phenomenal, with Nintendo managing to hit a major new release every single month without too much by way of padding and re-releases (and when those re-releases are as handsome and full-blooded as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it's hard to grumble too much). That's not even counting the indies and smaller titles that have crept up into what's fast becoming a gold rush on the eShop - Golf Story, Puyo Puyo Tetris or the exemplary output of Inti Creates, to name but a few.

Arms is great, but! a) Where are my Amiibo?

It's inevitable that a few of those games would fall by the wayside, then - time is limited, even when you're able to play wherever you wish, and there's simply been too much to keep up with on the Switch. The biggest casualty? For me it'd be Arms, the impeccable fighter from the minds behind Mario Kart 8 that remains, despite some fierce competition, one of the best games available on Nintendo's system. Come the year's end, it'll only be with a slight contrary glint in my eye that I'll personally declare this as Nintendo's greatest game this year.

What makes it so special? Seeing new Nintendo IP is hardly a regular occurrence (even if, as Arms' producer Kosuke Yabuki pointed out to me, it's not quite as rare as some of us might think), and when it's one of the company's most talented teams behind it, it's worth sitting up and paying attention. Like Splatoon before it, Arms knocks it out the park on its first attempt, and it's a dazzlingly adept and enjoyable fighting game, delivered with the kind of polish and character that only a handful of developers could ever attain.

Watch on YouTube

It's also better now, of course, given Nintendo's shift to offering up games as a service when it comes to titles like this. The additions to Arms in recent months have been, if not exactly dramatic, then steady enough to ensure this is a very different game to the one that launched. It's certainly a better one, with a slightly larger character roster and, more importantly, a proper training mode and the ability to map buttons. The most recent update was one of the more significant, adding in 'badges' - a selection of achievements that help incentivise further play.

Not that you should need it, though it has helped motivate me to come back for more. And, after some 50 hours, I've realised I've barely scratched the surface of Arms, a fighter that - despite its reputation for offering a more casual flavour of pugilism - runs wonderfully deep. There are the fighters, sure, and the fundamentals that smartly crib from fighting game essentials, but where Arms really comes alive is - as the title kindly suggests - the Arms themselves. It's an ever-expanding meta, a toybox that keeps on throwing up different combinations and new ways to play. How about pairing a Clapback, with the delicious staccato it adds to combat, alongside a curving Chakram, then tie that all together with the dexterity of your Ribbon Girl? Go double Bubb to keep it nice and simple, or mix and match elemental attacks to create your own blend of punishment. There's an endless alchemy there for those who want to experiment.

And b) Why can't I taunt?

There are plenty that do, as well, and it's something of a lie to suggest that Arms has been a failure. After all, how many failures can boast of over a million units sold in their first two weeks? Or, for that matter, of having a vibrant, enthusiastic community that remains another of Arms' greatest assets? Here's a fighting game where others are actively willing to help you learn, whether that's in exemplary YouTube tutorial series such as Arms University or through the friendly Reddit that's always open to newcomers. It's not exactly a problem finding a game online, either, no matter where your skill level is at.

The problem - and, again, it's not exactly the biggest worry in the world to have to endure - is that Arms is in danger of being squeezed out of the conversation by the likes of Splatoon 2, whose release ran uncomfortably close, and by Mario and Zelda. Arms belongs up there with the very best, because it's truly up there with Nintendo's finest. Everyone deserves to feel the satisfaction in taking down a grab-spamming Ninjara in a ranked match, or in the exquisite dance when you face up against someone on your own skill level. Everyone should be embracing this brilliant little fighting game with open arms.

Read this next