Arms Shows That Switch Motion Controls Might Actually Be OK

With Nintendo's motion controllers now into their second decade of life, I find myself… agnostic. I like Wii Sports and I think pointer aiming in Twilight Princess was awesome, but I don't like gyro aiming in Splatoon and the less said about Star Fox Zero the better. So where does Arms fit in?

Due June 16 for Switch, Nintendo's one-on-one cartoon brawler can be played either with Joy-Con motion controls or with standard controllers. But at a preview event held earlier this month, Nintendo only let everyone play with motion. I can't tell you what I prefer without trying both, but I can say that motion doesn't feel bad, so far.

In fact, thinking back, what I liked about it was that it didn't really feel like "motion control" at all. You hold the two halves of the Joy-Con upright and vertically, tilting them in tandem left, right, forward or back to move your character. It's essentially like playing a twin-stick arcade game, like Virtua On or something, only the "joysticks" in this case are unmoored from any base.

To punch, you don't have to take a big ol' swing with your arms or anything — just lightly and quickly flick the Joy-Con forward, and you're golden. Once your extendable robot arm is flying through the air, you can put some English on it by tilting the controller in the direction you want your fist to fly. Flicking both controllers at once will attempt a grab-and-throw. And that's about it for motion controls.

...Oh, well, I guess there's a little bit of waggle-and-flailing whenever you fill up your super meter, because then you have to punch rapidly and without any sort of precision to beat on your opponent. But that's maybe five seconds out of every match.

In the many matches I played against various and sundry reporters and YouTubers during the preview event, it started to become clear that the path to victory was less about mastering the controls and more about reading one's opponent. Were they throwing a lot of punches willy-nilly? Probably a great time to jump and air-dodge out of the way and catch them off guard. Were they slow and methodical? Maybe going on extreme offence might work, or else bait them into moving.

Since every one of the game's characters has the same basic control scheme, you can flit between them fairly easily to find out who's right for you. While Nintendo introduced new characters to the game in this build, including the sure-to-be-fan-favourite Twintelle who fights with her hair, I just stuck with reliable old Ribbon Girl because she can double- and triple-jump. Good enough reason.

As an over-the-shoulder, one-on-one fighting game with free 3D movement and motion controls, Arms is asking you to do a lot of things that few if any other video games have in the past. To that end, the game's numerous bonus modes all seem geared around teaching you specific skills. "Hoops" takes place on a basketball court, and you must grab and throw your opponent to put them through the giant basketball hoop and score points. And "Skillshot" tasks you with punching a series of targets, so you can learn how to curve and aim your fists precisely where you want them to land.

While I still don't know even the basics of how Arms will control without motion, I did find out from Nintendo that you will be able to play it with a single Joy-Con held horizontally. This will probably be the least comfortable way to play it, but considering that the game has a two-versus-two team battle mode, you may have to deal with it unless you want to spend a few hundred dollars on more controllers. In this mode, players on each team are tethered together, which doesn't restrict your movement around the arena, but does make you work together as a team — if your opponent gets thrown, so do you, so you are incentivised to keep them safe.

Besides the eternal motion-control conundrum, you may find yourself wondering: Is Arms esports? Perhaps. It's impossible to tell, at preview events, how these games will be played six months, a year, two years later by devoted fans. While there's no telling if it will end up playing in the same pool as Mario Kart and Splatoon, for now Arms seems to have a lot of potential. (Just be sure to look out for our review in June for an analysis that goes beyond the surface level.)


    I'm assuming you never played the original Splatoon then. Gyro controls are tops and 99% of players agree it's the way to go.

      but I don't like gyro aiming in SplatoonPleb confirmed.

      I never really got the gyro aiming in Splatoon. It wasn't until I started using it in BOTW to aim arrows that I realized it is without a doubt the best way to aim accurately.

        Yeah, much more accurate. You get the broad direction with the sticks and then hone in for the shot with gyro.

    Since maybe the end of the Wii's first year, you could instantly pick the sneer and disdain out of any article written about the thing or its games with one word: waggle.

    It was hard to pinpoint for a long time, but the sturm und drang that this little machine's legacy has managed to whip up from games writing for now over a decade is truly amazing.

    On the other hand, for something like VR or iterative consoles, it's nothing but champagne and strawberries ahead, apparently.

    ARMS looks absolutely boring and derivative to me, but so did Pikmin once. If this new Nintendo franchise hits home and gets half as popular as as Splatoon did, then I'm not going to dismiss it out of hand. Too much of the Wii and Wii U's games were not treated seriously, and despite what you think of Nintendo or whatever they've done to piss you off this week, that's a real shame.

      Owned all of Nintendo's consoles since the N64 plus a couple of different handhelds. Splatoon looked like some crazy japanese game that I was just not into. Never been into online shooters either so I kind of dismissed it. I eventually picked it up after months of universal praise and fell in love with it after a few sessions of getting to grips with the controls in single player.

      I've felt much the same way about ARMS that I initially did with Splatoon but this video has got me a bit pumped for it. Will get it day 1, maybe with another set of joy cons because my son is super pumped about it too.

    If it has motion control equal or better than Wii Sports resort, than i'm fine with it. I love the Motion+ in Wii Sports resort, and the sword/boxing games in it were awesome.

      Table tennis, in advanced mode, was the shit!

      Archery was great too.

    If you could use a button to launch punches i would totally make a virtua-on setup for the game.

    Converting the motion controls to a wheel/pedals setup made mk8 amazing, and i reckon arms could benefit the same way.

      You can use a pro controller or grip to play this, or even a single joy con if you must.

        Yeah, i know that, but it only helps if i can mix and match control setups.

        If the buttons work AND i can use motion, then the virtua on is happening.

        Gonna find out next weekend.

    I still load up Wii Sports Golf now and then.
    Gotta keep my form up

      Track down a copy of the last ea golf game (the masters), the controls are incredible!

      The original Tiger Woods on Wii was pure gold. So many hours playing rounds of golf with my mates on rainy days.

      Good times.

    I can only see the regular control scheme working just as good as the motion controls one way . Use both joysticks to move . Tilt them to face one another to block . Press the L button to throw your left arm , and the R button to throw your right arm . When you press which ever arm you want to send out use the corresponding joystick to control your arm . When you double tap the desired direction with the joysticks, it allows you to quick step .Pressing the (a) button allows you to jump . Your flurry attack can be any of the remaining buttons .

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