I have been looking forward to trying out ARMS since its initial reveal back in January. So much that I will often grab an single JoyCon and hold it vertically in my hand just to marvel at how comfortable it feels; like an ergonomic joystick with triggers in just the right places. So, when Nintendo announced the Global Testpunch for ARMS, I was super stocked. This morning, I finally got my first taste of what this title has to offer.
My first few minutes were spent on the mandatory tutorial which did a decent job of explaining most of the controls: moving, dashing/dodging, jumping, punching and grabbing. Then, I was pinned against a computer opponent for a single match. This first match felt horrible and, even though I somehow won, I did not really enjoy it that much. The controls felt awkward and the action too slow.
But, of course, I kept going, wanting to give the game a solid go. Once past the tutorial, the Testpunch’s limited menu came up. “Party Match” was the only mode available so I clicked it and, after a couple of connection errors, was thrown into an online lobby with several other players. What followed was a seamless parade of players getting randomly paired one-on-one, two-on-two, and even three players for a free-for-all.
In some sort of pattern, rounds changed between standard fighting and playing Volleyball. One-on-One fighting was definitely where the true challenge for me was. I was able to stay in control on several fights, mainly by jumping and dashing towards the opponent to get into grab range for easy damage. Then, there were opponents that completely destroyed me, either by outmaneuvering me or using their ARMS more strategically than me. I was definitely not expecting the depth and difference across the different ARMS to be so noticeable. I played mostly with Min-Min and made sure to try different combinations of her three ARMS and each experience was very different. Only towards the end of the hour had I started to find interesting grooves with some of the combinations. Also, certain combinations will work better depending on the situation. For example, during encounters with multiple enemies, I opted for having the Dragon and Megaton ARMS. Megaton served as my punch-shield to block incoming attacks while the Dragon’s beam could hit opponents at a distance, usually scoring hits on both opponents before retracting back. But then, opponents who were smarter and faster would figure to maneuver around my two slow ARMS and score hits on me. In two-on-two matches, this was not much of an issue since my partner would cover my flank and keep opponents at bay. But, in three player free-for-all, I had to opt for the Dragon/Boomerang combination in order to have a faster ARM to work with.
Volleyball left me with mixed feelings although this is probably because I really sucked at it. One-on-one or two-on-two can participate in volleyball which goal is to not let the ball touch the ground on your side. If the ball gets juggled long enough, its air will pop (making it hard to push away) and will probably explode on the side where it is at. I cold not quite figure out a good ARMS combination for the event since faster ARMS did not seem to push the ball that far while slower ARMS would push it nice and far but, being slow, made it harder to hit the ball before it hit the ground. Maybe after some more practice, I will find a good groove there too.
The whole online experience was so seamless (barring the initial connection errors). And, much like Mario Kart 8, players in the lobby continued to come and go in between matches throughout the hour. Even better was that, at no point, did I have to wait more than thirty seconds to get paired up for the next match. It was a non-stop hour of fun! There also seemed to be some sort of reward system. Players were given three coins after winning a match while only one coin for losing. Since you can see other players’ running total, players who remained in the room longer started looking more “prestigious” than newcomers to the lobby. However, it did not look like coin tally was being taken into account when pairing up players so these coins do not seem to be the game’s ranking system. Furthermore, there did not seem to be a use for these coins on the actual Testpunch. They might however be used in the full version of the game to purchase ARMS and other items from the in-game store.
To wrap this up, the first five minutes of the experience were pretty awful. But, that was quickly rectified as I continued playing and the mechanics started to “click”, especially how different each type of ARM feels and performs. Just by looking at these and the variety of characters, each with their own movement styles and abilities, the true depth of the game starts to become evident. I definitely plan to participate on a few more Testpunches before the event is completely over. If you have a Switch and have not tried it, download the free app from the eShop, find a time slot that works for you, and give it a go. It started yesterday (Friday) and will continue to run through this and next weekend. Do not miss out!