Nintendo's Most Neglected Franchise
My experience with the high-energy, amusing Switch title that deserves more.
It's about time this game got some more love.
While everyone else was hyping themselves on Animal Crossing, I spent my last week of March helping myself to the free trial for ARMS - a game that I honestly didn't care for much when it first launched, but with the then-recent Smash Bros. DLC announcement and free trial complete with a new special event, it couldn't hurt to finally dip my toes into such an out-there fighter.
Then, on the morning of April 6th, when I booted up my Switch and it informed me that my trial had just ended, I honestly felt sad. I'd devoted most of my free time up until that point to this quirky game; I was - and still am - seriously in love with it. I couldn't fathom why Nintendo seemed to forget that it even existed; besides the fact that it was a Switch launch title, the game was good. A modern Punch-Out! with a highly diverse cast that each lend their own unique abilities to help the player create the best strategy for victory. With how popular anything with the Nintendo branding becomes lately, how in the world did this one slip under the radar?
The more I looked into the game's history, though, I just felt bad for the poor thing. You'd think after the splash success of Splatoon on the Wii U that Nintendo would push ARMS further than it did, but the little game just happened to launch at just the wrong time: just a month after Splatoon 2's launch in 2017, and a couple months after the Nintendo Switch itself launched that March alongside some little games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.
It would be difficult for any game to follow that beast of a lineup, but ARMS fell even deeper between the cracks not just because players were too busy with other games to care, but Nintendo themselves hardly seemed to care after a while. There were infrequent updates for the rest of the year which introduced new playable characters, plus special events called Party Crashes (basically, the game's equivalent to Splatfest) that were just as infrequent until 2019; the final Party Crash until the 2020 free trial took place the weekend of June 14 - 17 that year.
But even with these events and updates I rarely saw anyone talking about ARMS before March 2020. Even though it's supposedly one of the top-selling Switch titles out there, Nintendo have hardly acknowledged it the way they have with other games; I don't remember seeing even a single advertisement for the Party Crashes when they were still somewhat common. In fact when I watched the Nintendo Direct Mini on March 26th and saw that an ARMS fighter would become the next Smash Bros. Ultimate fighter, it struck me that I'd forgotten the game even existed.
Like I said before, the game doesn't deserve this treatment whatsoever, because it's legitimately just as fun as the likes of Splatoon or even Mario. It's the kind of ridiculous, sometimes nonsensical fun you'd expect from a Nintendo property. It's incredibly accessible while also providing real challenge, especially in the Grand Prix's higher difficulties (I still shudder to think of Level 7 Spring Man...). Every character has their own unique properties and special abilities, so that you actually have to build strategy and play smart instead of simply mashing buttons to punch mindlessly; Spring Man is light and had quick dashes, Ribbon Girl can quadruple jump to throw opponents off, Mechanica and Master Mummy are unflinching heavyweights with the latter's guard healing him when held long enough, et cetera. The characters with the more unique and and even outlandish abilities - like, Lola Pop can inflate her body and bounce around the field while Helix can squash and stretch his gooey form to evade attacks - keep you even more on your toes, forcing players to think hard about their next action in order to throw their opponent off and get the hits in. And then, as if the gameplay wasn't diverse enough, you don't have to fight with only boxing gloves; you can choose from an impressive number of available ARMS - from Poppers to Dragons to Claptraps to Lokjaws - each with their own special properties that could decide a match. And that's not even going into the actually-pretty-decent side modes like Skillshot and Hoops.
But beyond just the gameplay, the world of ARMS is fascinating to me, and the characters radiate the kind of unique, quirky, and (again) diverse energy you'd expect from the cast of an original fighting game. The image above illustrates perfectly what I'm talking about here; every character has a distinct and charming personality that makes them lovable (yes, even the villainous characters). They each have their own unique story and, although it's only told through background details and tidbits in the art gallery, the backstory of the ARMS universe is incredibly interesting and has all the makings of a fantastic story within it.
I sincerely hope that the Smash Bros. DLC will invite more people to ARMS and spark a resurgence in the fanbase, competitive or not, because the game truly deserves it. After three years of being a neglected black sheep in the Nintendo Switch first-party lineup, it needs all the love it can get.
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