Readers, let me level with you. I’ve sliced the legs off enough Guardians in Breath Of The Wild to open a Doctor Octopus cosplay shop. I’ve stared off many cliffs wearing Samurai gear at 4:30pm on Presidents Day just to see if a moon will show up in Super Mario Odyssey. I’ve willingly played 1-2 Switch more than once. Yet with all of these harrowing adventures readily in my library, there’s one game I can’t seem to put down for very long on Nintendo’s portable home console. It’s one game that, without any significant milestones left to reach, I pick up just because I have so much fun playing it. The amazing thing about the Switch is I could be talking about a bunch of different games at this point. While many other games have their draws, the one that reaches me the most is Nintendo’s Arms. Which, when you phrase it like that, makes it sound like a great conspiracy theory about Nintendo secretly brainwashing children to stomp turtles to death. Phrased like a normal person, I mean I’m talking about the 2017 Switch fighting game, Arms.
It’s no secret Arms lost a lot of players early on for launching with enough content to fill up a gluten free bread basket. Even after the major updates stopped rolling out, it only really ever got to slightly more than a gluten permitted bread basket. For the solo player who’s email address line auto fills themselves, you got a 10 match series of fights for Grand Prix, or the ability to play against bots by yourself if you really have something against Helix. Multiplayer consists of online and offline matches, the online matches either being ranked or unranked. The updates didn’t seem to quench that thirst for something more. Granted, five characters, five stages, few extra multiplayer modes, and an achievement style badge system brought a good chunk of player base back out of their hidey holes to see where they were going with this. But in the end there wasn’t any major new modes to fall back on. It ended on being a multiplayer game with Single Player busy work. They tossed the remaining player base out with the end of the updates, and I don’t think this baby will be getting back into the bath water without a sequel.
Yet I find Arms really hard to put down for a long period of time. I’ll scroll past the icon on the Switch to get to Shephy, stop for a minute to gaze at Spring Man getting his jaw dislocated, and think, “Bah, those sheep were mostly gonna die anyway” Instead, I spend it dislocating jaws as Springtron and people dislocating mine as Ninjara. I come up with elaborate stories for the random online players, based on name and character choice alone. I stare in existential horror into space, realizing that my life has technically been leading to this moment of psychotic pretend that shows growing concerns about my mental health, right before I snap back to reality to the sound of a vaguely Japanese voice screaming “ARMS!”. After that, I lay down for bed, tying my hands behind my back so I don’t instinctively try to throw the next person who might walk into the room. Then I come to the realization that I have to get back up in four hours and I was supposed to be doing something productive.
What keeps me coming back to Arms is what keeps me coming back to Breath Of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey: the core gameplay. Even with no clear objective, all three of these games are simply fun to play. Controlling Link, Mario, and any of the colorful Arms characters feels versatile enough to never feel like you’re repeating yourself. In Zelda, you feel like a walking, growing arsenal that’s always changing how you play the game. In Mario, you’re always capturing new things and pulling off tricks to get past well-crafted obstacles. Arms is similar, but does it in a much smaller space. As a great rapper once put it, it’s all in the mind. You’re constantly jumping around and predicting your opponent’s next move, which is typical for a fighting game, yes. But it’s got the elements of a shooter by having to aim your arms and keep track of your targets location in a 3D space. It’s exceptionally simple, with no real combos to speak of, but the depth comes from what gloves you use, how you use them, and your ability to ballet your way across the map to gain the advantage. It creates this perfect balance of the head hunting and spatial management of a shooter with the focus and enclosed space of a 1 on 1 fighter.
Simply put, there’s no other game like it out there. Which makes it more valuable in my mind. I can think of plenty of 1 on 1 fighters to mess around with off the top of my head. The King Of Fighters 94 through 2003, about four versions of Street Fighter II, two versions of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and the Genesis version of Clay Fighter all would do if I needed 2D fighting action. And even if I didn’t own a single shooter, I could draw a funny looking alien on my shoes, walk around the block, and come home with ten of them crouching behind my sofa taking aim at my feet. So what this means is that Arms has a monopoly on a very fun, very specific kind of gameplay style, ensuring I can only play it if I’m in the mood for a game like it. This is similar to what Smash has done, where in spite all of the clones that exists, there’s only one game series to cure the need to play “Smash”.
This whole piece is one long way of saying “I still play this game because it’s fun”, but as obvious a message that is, many often short change Arms for the lack of content. While that is something Nintendo deserves an especially hard slap on the wrist for, I don’t think the whole game should be discredited for it. Online Multiplayer is enough for me to come back after clearing all the other modes, even if it isn’t as feature filled as many other fighters. A fun game is always worth going back to, no matter the volume of content. Even if there’s very little of that fun thing, it can be redeemed if it’s unique enough. I think Arms is that unique, and deserves a chance.
So, Readers, the question I pose to you today is, “What’s the one game that pulls you back to the Switch?” Let us know in the comments and in the forums!
HautDeForme is a collector, a self proclaimed historian, and most of all, a player of video games. When he’s not writing about that, you can find him writing music for no particular reason and advocating for the localization of Mother 3, whether people listen or not.