ARMS Global Testpunch (Nintendo Switch) Preview

By Albert Lichi 07.06.2017

Review for ARMS Global Testpunch on Nintendo Switch

Nintendo's newfound success with Splatoon on Wii U proved that it was more than capable of creating a fresh concept using established shooter conventions. With its latest console, ARMS seems to be headed in a similar direction: a boxing game that has the panache and Nintendo flavour and creative spark. The Global Testpunch gave Cubed3 some insight into the potential for ARMS, but is this new Nintendo property a knockout or as limp as a noodle? Read on for Albert and Tom's individual thoughts from their time with the pre-release build. Expect a full review to come very soon.

Albert Lichi

The first thing anyone will notice about ARMS is that it has a lot of style and appeal in the same way Splatoon did. The "Testpunch" build allows use of six characters with their unique parameters, as well as load-outs to uh... arm their fists with to make combinations. There is a sort of Overwatch-esque appeal to the designs of these characters that feels right for a modern Nintendo IP. From the girl in a mech-powered armour, to the gigantic lumbering mummy-monster man, there is a great deal of care put into these character designs and animations. All of this ties back to the gameplay, since paying close attention to the animation is definitely core to victory. Knowing when to block or side-step means becoming intimate with the opponent's movement and keeping a watchful eye for openings.

Depending on the mode, some characters just would be utterly useless, like the slower fighters being at a complete disadvantage during the volleyball games. It is hard to know how something like that can be addressed (if at all), but outside of moments like that, ARMS seems to be pretty well balanced - at least for basic fights. There are situations where it looks like all odds can be against you, but with focus and understanding of the systems, the match can be completely turned on its head. Much like Power Stone, the combatants in ARMS can go into a powered-up super crazy mode. Unlike Power Stone, though, this game is fairer and users actually stand a chance against an opponent that starts launching fists at the rate of a howitzer machine gun.

Screenshot for ARMS Global Testpunch on Nintendo Switch

A patient fighter can be defensive, focusing on blocking and side-stepping and waiting for the other fighter to throw a punch across the stadium, and then give them the ol' one-two. These fights can sometimes feel like boss battles in a way, since these characters have a fair bit of variety, like how the mummy guy's animations don't get interrupted, which means there is a specific strategy when approaching him, whereas the girl in the mech armour is capable of longer airtime, which in turn means assessing the arena differently.

ARMS certainly has the basics and core mechanics down exceptionally, with its easy to learn combat mechanics. There is even a fair bit of physics involved when throwing punches depending on character movement, which makes for a pretty high skill ceiling, so there is potential for it to be a pretty hardcore competitive game. Like a big fat cherry on top, not only does this look and play buttery smooth, but the test run was practically lag free, and matches were beginning in quick succession.

Screenshot for ARMS Global Testpunch on Nintendo Switch

ARMS shows great promise and could be like Nintendo's next Splatoon, but with boxing instead of shooting... Just as long as the motion controls are avoided. Sadly, as polished as this is, it makes a horrible first impression by forcing a motion control tutorial, which can only be described as bewildering as Nicholas Cage screaming with cockroaches spewing from his eyes and mouth. The motion controls are unresponsive, and the game plays so much better when using the standard control set-up, whether the Switch is docked or in portable mode.

The only reason to ever use the motion controls is for a deliberate handicap to give opponents a better chance for victory. Unless Nintendo refines the motion controls before release, don't bother, because it feels like it will lead to an injury. ARMS gets the basics down perfectly. It is not known if the final product will be a complete enough package to sustain interest, however. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo implements various modes and single-player campaigns into this boxing title.

Screenshot for ARMS Global Testpunch on Nintendo Switch

Tomas Barry

Uncertainty surrounded the ARMS Global Testpunch, particularly after the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire from a couple of months back, which provided a small window into that series but also felt like more of a technical demo for research and experimentation than any sort of proper introduction. In this case, gamers are being introduced to a brand new IP, so it was with relief that the sense of polish and finesse was more pronounced here than in that weekend demo experience.

Having said that, perhaps it was still not the best way to introduce potential future owners to the world of ARMS. These small windows of playing time don't allow for much learning and adjustment. While happy enough to see a basic control tutorial before online play, and opportunities to practice between matches, maybe the best option would have been as follows: a single-player demo first, which allows people to grasp the motion controls on their own terms whilst battling the CPU only, followed by the online multiplayer component coming the next weekend, or even spaced out more. This would have given players a real chance of getting to grips with the game, but instead it felt like the two hour-long play sessions were pretty chaotic and, as such, a bit incoherent.

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This was the main issue with the ARMS Global Testpunch. The game itself is vibrant and energetic, along the same lines as Splatoon, but probably with more polish. However, getting the hang of the motion controls is, admittedly, quite a challenge and it has to be wondered whether it will all come together with the depth and complexity Nintendo is aiming to achieve. Actually throwing punches seems quite intuitive, especially the way they can curve based on the angle of the swing. However, the other important aspect of battling is character movement, which didn't feel natural at all. Having to lean the Joy-Con to move and then throw up a bar to block, or go straight into swinging, is very difficult and oddly conflicting. Obviously, a new game requires new pattern recognition, but there is a distinct feeling that some people's muscle memory might have issues with the motion controls since aspects of swinging a punch and moving your character are bizarrely disconnected.

The problem with this being anything less than perfect is that people will resort to spamming inputs, which was indeed plenty present online. This is frustrating, to say the least, although it's worth noting these players were easy-pickings with a Pro Controller, which is the preferred weapon of choice since it is button-based with no discernible motion input. This does help turn the tides on people incoherently motion-mashing but, then again, finding that sweet-spot is tough, as is a combat tactic that feels perfectly comfortable. The element of what gear you wear from round to round certainly adds a measure of interesting tactics, but it will be important that each character's abilities are truly balanced out. The window of opportunity wasn't wide enough to find that out here, whether that's because Nintendo is still fine-tuning or not, though, is unclear.

Other aspects: the visuals are a treat, with very detailed arenas, often with elements of environmental hazards to take advantage of. Clearly a lot of work has been put into the character roster, which seems well varied, with interesting unique traits. There's a lot to consider strategically based on character choice alone. Ribbon Girl for the win, by the way. The lobbies seem to run very smoothly, with a cool and clean interface, suggesting Nintendo is taking plenty of advice about online structure on-board. Hopefully, this aspect of ARMS will continue to be strengthened, as this is another region where Nintendo should aim to step up its game. The early indications are good, though.

Screenshot for ARMS Global Testpunch on Nintendo Switch

Final Thoughts

Overall, it seems like ARMS could be a real winner - but it needs to shake off any idea that the motion inputs lack the depth and concise control of traditional means, otherwise it could fast gain a reputation for being a slightly incoherent motion experience. In this respect, it really depends on how much Nintendo pushes that control method. It will definitely be getting plenty of time very soon, but hopefully that reveals depth, not shallow waters. ARMS could be the perfect multiplayer game to introduce many people to the Switch with, like Wii Sports for the Wii. However, it should be more ambitious with its use of motion controls, since theoretically, Nintendo has had lots of practice, now.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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