This past weekend Nintendo sent out a free demo for Nintendo Switch users to try to test the game’s impact on servers, they called the timed demo a Global Test Punch. This was the same approach they took to their last e-sports contender, Splatoon, for Wii U a couple of years ago. I missed the Splatoon Global Test Fire, although I did end up buying the game anyways. I managed to get in on the ARMS test punch two different times this weekend, the first was on Friday and again on Saturday. I didn’t bother trying again on Sunday, I already had my fill and learned all I needed about the game.
First, I went in like everyone else, on even footing having no experience. I was playing with the Joy Con’s attached to the tablet as I refuse to play any game using motion controls these days. I won my first 5 matches in a row and was feeling pretty good about myself. I am not a competitive online gamer at ALL. I despise the online atmosphere, the trash talking, the way competitive gamers take their games way to seriously, so I normally only tryout a new online game the first day or so and move on. If a game requires online only play or doesn’t have a significant offline single player mode, that game is not for me. I do, however, love fighting games. But I want a good campaign more, or arcade ladder mode I can play against a CPU opponent, I want the option for a multiplayer mode for when I am in the mood, but I am a loner I play games for the experience, not to socialize. With that out of the way I went in the test punch using it as a demo to try the game out, not as a way to actually be competitive. Needless to say I said I was either going to play just a few rounds, or if I was on a winning streak quite once I lost.
I played through the little introduction level, beat up the bot character, learning the basic controls. I went into the game handicapped against motion control players, at least according to some commentators I watched online. This turned out to not be true on Friday, when everyone was starting out with no practice, I did okay, won 5 in a row and I was having a blast. I was able to play the different modes as the demo just picks random modes and throws you in, which I liked for the purposes of a demo/beta test but if the real game is like that, I might get bored of it.
I didn’t try the motion controls on day one, I learned the buttons and I thought the controls were perfect. It reminded me of Smash Bros. very simple pick up and play mechanics, with enough depth for the competitive gamers to really get serious, while being accessible enough for a mostly casual playing gamer like myself. Not that I am a casual gamer, far from it, but I play more casually in my style. In fact, the only game I am good enough to be competitive in is Mortal Kombat, and the first time I tried that online my perfect winning streak was demolished and I never went back.
The controls are basic, punch, guard, jump, dash, power shot, grab, not much to it. I didn’t try the different weapons I stuck to the default boxing gloves. I was playing exclusively with Ribbon Girl, which I suspect will continue to be the case as I just gravitated towards her and immediately felt natural playing has this character in this game. She has a neat double-jump coupled with some really basic moves that I was able to pull off with ease. I honestly didn’t even bother trying the other characters I just stuck with Ribbon Girl the whole time. I might sample other fighters once I get the full game but for the Test Punch I was fine with sticking to one character for familiarity sake.
The game does play similar to Wii boxing in some ways but is much improved and a ton more fun. I did try the motion controls on day two but I didn’t get to replay the tutorial to learn the basics so I went in blind, wasn’t able to get my character to do anything as I was pounced upon very quickly and couldn’t take even a second to learn the controls. I quickly went back to using the Joy Cons and felt very comfortable. I only played the first day for about 10 minutes out of the 1 hour long demo so I was not at all prepare on day two for how already advanced the other fighters were. I supposed if I had spent the entire hour on Friday getting good at the game like most people I might have stood a greater chance, but over all I lost too much time and all the things that worked on day one the fighters were countering with tricks and moves I couldn’t even figure out.
I like art style of this game and the colors. It does remind me of Splatoon quite a bit, which I fell in love with just based on the style before the game even launched. I enjoyed this game’s art direction very much. It felt like being inside a Saturday morning cartoon fighting other cartoon characters. This is Nintendo at their best, which is why they hire artists to create games and not engineers. Needless to say I enjoyed the graphics tremendously. It had a sort of retro Game Cube look at times, and yes I am kind of taken aback that I am calling GameCube retro, but that is the case so fine.
Before the demo went live I watched the goofy little Nintendo Direct dedicated to the game where it introduced all of the characters that would be playable for the demo. I don’t remember all of their names but the anime looking spring boy and Ribbon Girl were the two that I immediately thought I would try. I picked Ribbon Girl for the two day demo so I decided to just stick with her. I might try the other characters once it launches but just from playing against them I got the feeling there isn’t a lot of depth to these characters at the moment, which is good in a way because some Nintendo characters getting tired I was ready for Nintendo to introduce some new characters. With that in mind, I can imagine these characters as a part of the official Nintendo cannon of characters. Just like the Inklings in Splatoon, these characters have a very distinct Nintendo feel to them and I am perfectly happy welcoming them into the ever expanding Nintendo family.
I touched on this a little with the controls. The game is very accessible like most Nintendo games. The controls are simple and intuitive enough anyone can pick up and start playing, while deep and varied enough for the pros to really latch on and find plenty of ways to play.
I really liked the 4 player brawl, the 3 player free for all, the 1 on 1 matches the most. I didn’t care for the volleyball much, I won every watch so it was easy to pick up and play but I didn’t enjoy it. I also hated the 2 on 2 tethered mode. Mostly because you were tethered to a player with inferior skills, my partners usually died quickly leaving me to carry the match against 2 people who were bashing me endlessly. In 3 player free for all it’s easy to switch back and forth between the two, gang up on one character and once the other guy is in the groove, turn your attention to bashing them. I won every 3 player match I was in so this was by far my most favorite mode in terms of winning. I was 50-50 in 1 on 1 matches, I won mostly early on when everyone was starting out, but I started losing day 2 after I came back with little practice. That being said, I loved it, the gameplay was spot on and a total blast.
I learned enough to know I am going to be playing this game a lot. I do enjoy Smash Bros. from time to time and I can pick up a Mario Kart every once in a while, but this game felt natural to me, like it was the type of game I had been waiting for Nintendo to make. Between this and Splatoon, I think Nintendo finally has enough of a strong catalog of new IP and characters to bring in a whole new audience while bringing back their loyalists like myself.
Confession, I had so much fun playing this I couldn’t wait for release so I already pre-ordered my copy from Amazon Prime. It is supposed to be waiting for me on my door step on release day. I honestly think this is going to be the big sleeper hit Nintendo was needing to ensure the future success of the Switch. I was skeptical at first thinking it was just another attempt to bring back the Wii gamers. Not so, sure most people will be playing with motion controls, but I am glad to say that the basic button controls are good enough to be able to enjoy the game on their own. Once I get the full release in my hands I might try motion controls once more just to see how I feel once I can try the tutorial with them, but for now I am happy to say this game is a blast and I highly recommend it to anyone with a Switch and say to those who don’t, buy a Switch and get this game.