During the ARMS Test Punch over the weekend, I set a personal record for looking at my wristwatch. It wasn’t out of boredom, and I wasn’t playing the game out of any journalistic. Instead, I was trying to figure out how many more games I could squeeze in before the beta test concluded, and when I finally received the “server is going down for maintenance” message, I instantly wanted more. For a number of days, I racked my brain, trying to figure out what grabbed me about the game. Finally, it struck me; ARMS is the most accessible fighting game I’ve ever played.
Though I appreciate fighting games, and have played my fair share, they still intimidate me. The prospect of playing endless training matches, stringing together complicated combos, and honing my timing down to individual frames was a barrier to entry that never seemed worth the time investment, especially with the rapidly diminishing returns. There would always be someone just a little faster, a little more skilled on the sticks, and I wasn’t interested in the chase.
But with ARMS, the playing ground felt level. Part of that is due to the game’s ingenious pick-up-and-play simplicity. Punching with the motion controls is about as natural as it gets, and even using traditional controls (which I did), it’s incredibly easy to learn. For those that want to go even deeper, there are dodges, grabs, blocks and specials, but those are equally accessible. Before long, I punched, juked, and dodged my way to a few consecutive wins, and suddenly I felt like a prize fighter.
The more I considered it, the more I’ve come to believe that the key to my success was the broad assortment of game modes. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was sharpening my skills by playing a volleyball minigame or a chaotic free-for-all battle with four players. Those moments were similar to the practice mode found in traditional fighters, just a lot more fun and interactive. The game taught me through action, not endless screens of button combinations.
Of course, there’s a chance that this accessibility will come at the expense of depth, but we won’t know until the game is released. And while I highly doubt that ARMS will find a place in competitive gaming circles, that’s okay. It’s a game that’s meant to be enjoyed by the masses, and at the very least, ARMS is set to introduce a younger generation to fighting games.
In 2013, Brian combined his love of video games and passion for writing to create Games Under Pressure, a gaming website, based in Milwaukee, that focuses on both console and ultra-high-end PC gaming.