Nintendo doesn't do new that often but when it does, you're guaranteed two things. Firstly, you'll get a new and unexpected spin on a well-worn genre and secondly, they'll get it right.

ARMS, Nintendo's new fighting game, is no exception to this rule.

Although it's a fighting game, it's not stepping on the toes of Super Smash Bros, the company's beloved, more traditional fighting franchise that sees Nintendo's stable of video game stars duking it out against each other.

Instead ARMS pulls inspiration from the old NES favourite Punch Out!!. That's because the game offers a similar third-person, behind-the-back view and is essentially, at its core, a boxing game. Albeit a fanciful, fast-paced and frantic one.

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Nintendo has streamlined the usual complex button combos and systems you find in fighting games in favour of a far simpler approach. You can punch, block, throw and ... that's pretty much it.

Defensively, there's dash and jump and after dealing a certain amount of damage you can unleash a special move, but it's all very easy to learn and, more importantly, execute.

The system is that long punches can be blocked but blocking leaves you open to grabs. It's simplistic, yes, but boy is it hard to master. Like boxing, you're always searching and looking for your opportunity to strike. ARMS is tactical, although that term belies how frantic its bouts get.

The quirky Nintendo spin is revealed in the game's title: each of the 10 available boxers has gangly, springy arms that can be equipped with various power gloves. The spring-enhanced arms allow you to punch from huge distance curving your arms around obstacles or defensive blocks, while the depth comes in equipping the right kind of glove to combat the strengths of your opponents. In a neat twist, you can mix them up ... say rockets on one hand, and a lumbering but powerful ball on the other.

The fighter design is top notch, each boxer full of character and, it has to be said, pretty cool looking. So it's a wasted opportunity that there's not much filling out of their back stories. Or any story to speak of at all. That side of things is disappointingly bare bones.

Despite its kid-friendly look you need to know that the AI here is not fooling around. It's easy enough to cruise through the early rounds of the single-player Grand Prix mode. This is basically 10 bouts, some of which are mini-games. But when you hit the halfway mark it gets brutal. Expect to get more than a few beat downs as you move up in difficulty.

Although some of the gimmicks are fun, some really don't land, such as the volleyball mini-game or the infuriating characters that have partners with them. It's more difficult than it should be to target the sidekick instead of the main opponent, and when you hit the harder difficulties, it gets infuriating.

But the tactical challenge of the game kept me coming back, with each well-fought victory feeling hard-earned and incredibly satisfying. And although I wonder whether it can go the distance, especially as a single-player experience, there's no denying that so far it's been a lot of fun.

ARMS is a strong contender, especially for fight fans, but a few niggling snags keep it from being a king hit.


Platform:

Nintendo Switch


Rating:

M (violence)


Verdict:

A quirky and fun spin on boxing but its longevity is questionable