Hands on With ARMS: 5 Takeaways from the Global Testpunch

After spending a few hours with the ARMS Global Testpunch, we've learned some important things about Nintendo's upcoming fighting game.

With several hours of the ARMS Global Testpunch now under our collective belts, we can finally form some solid opinions about Nintendo's upcoming fighting game for the Switch. Though we went into the open beta with many questions (and still left with some), here are five things we can still take away from our hands-on time with ARMS.

1. This is Not Wii Sports Boxing...

...and I mean that in all the best ways. Though revolutionary at the time, it's hard to deny that Wii Sports' boxing game was essentially a technique-less contest of who could flail their arms the fastest without letting the Wii remote slip out of their hands and shatter the television screen. Doing the same in ARMS will earn you nothing but a left Slapamander to the face; and trust me, that will hurt you. 

In fact, despite the cartoony aesthetics and downright silly cast of characters, ARMS is much closer to actual boxing than many boxing games. Here, victory is not dependent on who presses the most buttons or who has the largest health bar, but rather on things like precision and technique. Consistently striking your opponent in ARMS requires the patience to wait for your opening and the skill to perfectly aim your fist (or wrecking ball, or dragon gun, or rocket fire bird thing). A misplaced punch will leave you vulnerable to punishment.

Similarly, dishing out constant damage necessitates watching your opponent and getting a feel for how they fight (and then countering that). Does your foe always open his assault with a hook from his right? Keep dodging to your own right. Does he or she tend to use both ARMS to attack at the same time? Jump upwards to dodge them both and then use the throw maneuver.

Much like real boxing, ARMS is about the technique behind the punches rather than the punches themselves.

2. The Motion Controls are Actually Legit

No, seriously. No, seriously, seriously.

After a weekend with the Global Testpunch, it's evident that ARMS' motion controls have what it takes to stand on par with standard controller input. The "thumbs up grip" pictured above is smooth and responsive, but not so much that you end up accidentally strafing every time you want to execute a throw. Though it may take a few games of practice to perfectly nail the technique of motion controls even when under pressure, they are intuitive enough that even a newbie can pick up a pair of Joy-Cons and be ready to rumble right away. 

But even if you're still not a fan of ARMS' motion controls, regular button input is still an option, and both have their pros and cons. Personally, I found button input to be better for jumping and dodging while curving punches was more intuitive with the motion controls. Regardless, both standard and motion inputs are perfectly legitimate, and that's a rare statement.

3. Nintendo's Online Service Has Come a Long Way, but Still Needs Improvement

Many players reported difficulties connecting to servers during Friday's Global Testpunch. While reports of these issues did diminish over the course of the weekend, they still persisted for a few. While some players were able to fix their connection troubles with a simple restart of the Switch, others were forced to fiddle with their connection's DNS settings (a big no-no in the Pleasant User Experience Handbook).

Though perhaps not as widespread, these connectivity problems mirror those seen in Splatoon 2's Global Testfire back in March. If the problems continue to fester even during ARMS' and Splatoon 2's full releases in June and July respectively, that could create a huge lack of confidence in Nintendo's online service right before it shifts to a paid subscription model this fall. 

But not all hope is lost.

Many players noted that once connected to a game during the ARMS Global Testpunch, their connection went uninterrupted until the scheduled server shutdown. Also -- and of utmost importance in a fighting game -- lag was nonexistent. It is also important to keep in mind that the purpose of limited-time betas such as these is often to serve as both a demo and a stress-test for servers. The one-hour windows are typically intended to funnel players online all at one time to simulate peak server activity, therefore allowing the technicians to examine where improvements need to be made in order to handle the expected load. Only time will tell if these improvements can actually be implemented.

4. ARMS is, Indeed, Quite Fun

Punching peoples' figurative lights out through a digital medium has always been fun, but doing so in ARMS is positively delightful. Between the silly character designs, over-the-top ARMS choices, and hidden layer of depth to the gameplay, I simply can't get enough of the game. I don't appear to be alone in my sentiment either. Though there are mixed feelings about V-ball mode and a significant number of concerns regarding the unfairness of 3-way matches, the online consensus appears to be largely positive, with players praising the motion controls and 1 vs 1 mode in particular.

That being said, it is much easier to be fun in a handful of one-hour sessions than it is to be fun for days, weeks, or months at a time. The answer to whether or not ARMS has the entertainment value to remain fun even outside limited play windows will have to wait until the full launch in a few weeks. 

5. That Music Will Haunt You in Your Sleep

OOHH OOHH OOHH OOHH OOHH OOHH OOHHHHHHH OOHH OOHHHHHHH OOHHH OHHH OHHH OHHH.

That rising chorus, fit for a Rocky training montage, is present on the title screen, during matches, in the matchmaking lobby, and in my dreams. I have no complaints about this. In fact, I would very much like to make it my ringtone.

 ---

ARMS is set to have another batch of Global Testpunches June 2-4 before its official release on June 16. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news and info on ARMS

Published May. 30th 2017

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