With each week that we get closer to the imminent release of Nintendo’s next (read: FIRST) Switch-exclusive release, I’m noticing the hype train for it picking up steam, as well as new passengers. I can’t help but feel a little odd as the train chugs past because for the first time in quite a long time, I’m just not quite feelin’ it.
ARMS represents a few things for Nintendo: It’s the first new IP from the House That Mario Built since their cult success Splatoon. It’s their first multiplayer-focused console game since then, as well. It’s their first 1-on-1 fighter since Punch-Out!! on the Wii. It’s also stylish, innovative, and (supposedly) intuitive and accessible as well. ARMS also represents a few things for the games industry as a whole, too. ARMS features split-screen multiplayer, something the industry seems to have abandoned as of late. It appears to be geared and molded for the eSports crowd, something that has the potential to give it an unexpected popularity boost. Finally, like its predecessor Splatoon, it’s also styled as kid-friendly, which can easily put a hole through ARMS’ hypothetical FOOT if the game isn’t much good. Other than the last segment, it sounds like ARMS has a lot going for it. Then why is it that I just can’t seem to get in on the hype?
Reason 1: The Characters
From the first trailer Nintendo dropped for their new property, I felt a bit of an odd disconnect with the main cast here. I know that part of it lies in the core concept itself; my stupid, stupid brain can’t get past the ARMS! The very thing that makes the game unique! Not everyone in their world is born that way (as proven by newcomer Twintelle), so the appendages are a bit weird even by their world’s standards. It’s just that in a post-Overwatch world (another game I’m in the minority for not necessarily enjoying as much as others), character-based multiplayer at every level is going to have far greater expectations weighing on their shoulders. The world inside the player’s minds is just as (if not more) important as the world depicted onscreen. I may lack imagination, but I can’t find it in my mind to become curious about any of these characters. Please do note that I, of course, welcome every opportunity to be proven wrong, but beyond what we’re told and what’s obvious in the character art, do you think we can expect a girl with ramen noodles for hair and a twisty dragon arm to deliver a compelling character arc? Can we expect the cheerleading Ribbon Girl’s motivations to be something untried and unique? And outside of the game itself, could you find yourself interested enough in Spring Man to wonder how a day in his shoes would go? Overwatch (again) had a unique cast of characters that spoke to many gamers on not only a “they look cool!” level, but also on a whole new level of representation, including race, hobbies, and even sexuality. I didn’t expect Nintendo to take the same cues (It’s a-me! MARIO!), but they actually seem to have taken a couple of steps backward on these kinds of matters.
Note: I’m not a race-baiter. I just kind of have a unique say on the matter, because I’m Romanian, Mexican and Apache, so if I took race super-seriously I’d have to hate some part of myself and/or my family, and I find enough reasons to hate people without worrying about what their ancestors did. Also, being multi-racial means my form of representation can’t exist, unless there’s a buffalo-hunting vampire mariachi coming as DLC. Romexican American representation is one of the rarest representations XD
Let’s start with Min Min, the Asian lady with a hair made of ramen and a dragon for an arm. ‘Nuff said. Ninjara, your stereotypical ninja, complete with green hair. Master Mummy, the only person on the roster with a skin color darker than a peach, and he’s purple. Mechanica: D Va ‘Nuff said. Helix, who’s... what the fuck is he?? Twintelle, who seems to be becoming quite the fan favorite for her unique... assets /endoverusedjoke, as well as what I sadly think is a misunderstanding; I wasn’t on the team or anything, I can’t say I’m certain, but I’m pretty sure she’s not the foxy new POC boxer everyone wanted. Her style, from the flowy blonde hair to the tight leather pants, appears (to me, at least) to be based more on the Japanese Gyaru subculture; a group of women who are into American fashion and tanning. Finally, we’re down to the first 2 characters shown; Spring Man and Ribbon Girl, who, without their trademark spring-arms could be clip art for nearly any connect-3 mobile game on the market. The problem isn’t that they’re not unique without their ARMS, it’s that everyone else has ARMS, so they’re not really unique at all. Combine these observations with my being spoiled by everything from Street Fighter Alpha 3 to Smash Bros. 4 and I can’t see paying full admission to a show that’ll probably only feature 10 characters, none of which I’m crazy about.
Reason 2: The Controls
Oh here we go. Andrew, once again, whining about something he knows nothing about. And you’re right, I don’t, which is half the problem. See, ARMS is built from the ground up to take advantage of the Switch’s unique brand of motion controls, allowing you to throw punches by flicking remotes then put a bit of English on your punches by twisting your remote as your fists fly. There are Pro Controller, Joycon Grip and even single Joycon controller options, sure, but Nintendo hasn’t spoken to what the control changes and/or limitations will be, and at the very least, single-joycon has far fewer inputs than any of the other options, so if playing this way limits something like say, individual punch-steering, then getting the full experience for two people to play at home is not only the $60 price of admission, but another $80 for a new joycon set as well. $140 to anyone who got their Switch originally to play Zelda and wants a lil’ bit of multiplayer action. Ouch! With a little luck, though, maybe it’ll be just as fun to play with one joycon as with 2.
Reason 3: The Variety
Or lack thereof. I know, I know. It’s a boxing game. Are they supposed to go kart or something? Look, I get that it’s boxing so I should expect boxing, but that’s never how it’s done. That’s never how Nintendo does it. Not until Splatoon, that is. See, until Nintendo decided to throw its hat into the eSports ring (most likely influenced by the omnipresence of their own tournament fighter Super Smash Bros at such events) their games were packed to the gills with different things to do and more collectibles to unlock. Nintendo hasn’t shown any other modes than straight up boxing, nor have they teased a single player story mode, which are integral to me. I have no doubt there’ll be a one-on-one single player mode, but will there be a campaign? Will there be story? Or are they hoping to coast on character style and likability, with their fans filling in the cracks themselves (with so much Twintelle booty-spackle)? All of this is still unknown, and I’ll be damned if I ever pay full-price for an online-mostly game after Titanfall. Which brings me to...
Reason 4: The Competitive Scene
Probably the worst thing for a completionist like myself is a game with an online-heavy focus. Without sacrificing your life (as some players undoubtedly will) there’s never a clear path to reach the top of any leader boards, and without achieving that sort of goal, the catharsis that comes from finishing a game is left unfulfilled. And even if I did play it and had some freakish natural ability that propelled me to demigod like status early-on, a week or two of heavy work schedule will leave me unpracticed and unfamiliar with whatever the Meta turned to. And the Meta in any competitive game is just the worst. Frustration over encountering the same fighter with the same fist loadouts match after match always makes me rage quit. What? I didn’t say all of these problems were with the game, did I? Sometimes it’s our own shortcomings that don’t allow us to enjoy things.
Reason 5: The Announcer
Fuuuuuuuuuuuck this guy. Pretty certain that I might have boarded the hype train if it wasn’t for this asshole and his corny, dead-air filled, predictable-ass comments on every new Direct. I can’t stand him, his design, his voice, his pronunciation of everything and anything and most of all, his upset fuckin’ face when he’s supposed to be callin’ all aboard the hype train! Worst. Conductor. Ever. And if he actually does VO for every match, I’d probably go batshit insane after my first couple of matches.
How do you feel about the hype surrounding ARMS? Are you going to take up ARMS when it drops June 16th? Are you up-in-ARMS over some problems you have with it as well? Then please feel free to comment below... with your ARMS.... Ok, I quit.