‘Arms’ is the successor to ‘Punch Out’ the Nintendo Switch needs

In Gaming

Believe it or not, it’s not the boxing theme that ties these
games together. It’s that they’re both deceptively simple.
Nintendo’s original pugilist action game masquerades as a
straight slugfest. Punch your opponent. Dodge. Block. Punch
again. It seems obvious, but actually playing this way almost
guarantees a loss. That’s because
Punch Out is secretly a puzzle game
. You can’t win
by being a “better fighter,” you have to suss out your
opponent’s “tell” — openings hidden by taunts and affectatious
animation that let you break through each character’s
increasingly impenetrable defenses. It’s a baffling hurdle for
first-time players, but it’s a challenge that’s immensely
satisfying to overcome.

Arms doesn’t use Punch Out‘s “tell” mechanic,
but the core game is no less deceptive. At a glance, it

looks like a dressed-up Wii Sports ripoff
, but flailing its
motion controls wildly or mashing buttons won’t get you
anywhere. Instead, players have to master the “puzzle” that
lies behind every great fighting game — a ballet of each
character’s special moves, attributes, strengths, weaknesses
and timing. In Arms, this means knowing which arms
(the weapons in the game) can block another weapon’s attack, or
knowing how to use a fighter’s special attribute (such as Min
Min’s defensive kick move) to deflect an incoming punch. It
means learning how the speed of each telescoping attack can be
used to create a tactical advantage.

It’s this hidden challenge — and overcoming it — that makes
both of these games great. Players can pick up either title and
have fun with the basic gameplay, but the complexity beneath
the surface transforms each experience into something genuinely
satisfying. Figuring out how Bald Bull telegraphs his punches
(in Punch Out) or learning how to counter attacks by
equipping different arms (in Arms, of course) makes
the player feel smart and accomplished. This design that rounds
out the gameplay and lends what could have been a shallow title
a challenging experience curve.

For Arms, this culminates in a game that is
easy to pick up and play for fun
but has a huge amount of
depth for players to dive into. The basics of punching and
dodging are easy enough, but every arm changes how a character
plays and effects what kind of attacks they can counter or
overpower. Different loadouts change punch speed, which can
have a huge impact on the amount of time you have to tactically
react to your opponent’s movements and exploit them to land a
counter or grab attack. Between the game’s strong core
fundamentals, and its hundreds of possible loadout and
character combinations, Arms becomes a game where skill and
knowledge absolutely matter — at least if you want to compete
online or in the single player mode’s higher difficulty levels.

The game has its flaws. Beyond multiplayer, the grand prix mode
and a few mini-games, it just doesn’t offer much. Much like
Super Smash Bros, Nintendo’s Arms will
ultimately live or die on the strength of its charming
characters and core gameplay. For me, that’s probably enough. I
may have discovered Punch Out decades after the fact,
but its expertly crafted gameplay and design brings me back to
it again and again. After
putting a dozen hours into Arms
, I feel the same
way about it. This is a title with good fundamentals and solid
core gameplay — and I’m glad I didn’t dismiss it out of hand
as I did with Nintendo’s original boxing game.

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