When ARMS was first revealed at the Switch event in January, I could not have cared about it less. We had awesome trailers for Zelda, Mario, Splatoon, and even Xenoblade Chronicles, and all of this excitement surrounding these well-known franchises, not to mention just the Switch itself, drowned ARMS in a pool of apathy. It was Nintendo showcasing yet another game using motion controls that they still seem hell-bent on convincing the masses of, and nothing more. The trailer shown was confusing, switching between live-action and in-game footage of the punches without the characters actually landing any hits. It was just... boring.
But it didn’t have to be. Start at 1:46 and watch the rest of the trailer from there.
Right off the bat you see two actors using the Joy-Con in the grip you’re supposed to use in the game so that you know how it’s controlled. It’s shown in a way that looks exhilarating. Every time an actor does a motion, the in-game, not CGI, characters make one to correspond with that action. It’s fast. It’s fun. And it’s informative.
At 2:09, the trailer goes crazy. New characters, stages, and ARMS are being introduced by the second in the way only a GameXplain analysis-machine could comprehend. This carries on until the end. In the final 48 seconds, it’s a fantastic trailer. But it’s a fantastic trailer bogged down to death by one minute and 45 seconds of slogging. Here’s how ridiculous it gets:
Watch the first 37 seconds and then pause the video.
What just happened?! Some trailers get their entire point across in 15 or 30 seconds, yet 37 seconds in, almost 25% of the entire trailer, a guy with a smolder to put Flinn Rider to shame “dramatically” walks into a dark room with a girl doing the same, sans smolder. I have no idea what this game is, nor do I care. Not only that, this trailer starts almost exactly like the 1-2 Switch trailer, leading me and many others to unfairly compare the two as gimmicky motion-control games that aren’t meant to be taken seriously.
Now watch until 1:30 and pause again.
Thus starts the painful transition into actual gameplay. I will applaud how Nintendo expertly correlates the actors’ punches with those of the characters and ARMS, showing how the game is controlled, but this process takes far too long and detracts from the time that could be used presenting actual gameplay. At the 46-second mark, the actors begin fighting with the CGI ARMS. At 1:13, the CGI characters appear alongside the actors. At 1:19, the trailer goes full CGI, showing Spring Man and Ribbon Girl fighting. Finally, at 1:30, more than 58% into the trailer, the gameplay finally starts.
Now watch until 1:46, back where we started.
I’m starting to get impatient. The gameplay finally starts and it is the most boring match in ARMS history. Punch, dodge, move. Punch, doge, move. I’m not excited watching this trailer. I’m bored.
None of that was necessary. We could have kept the awesome 48 seconds or else had a two-minute trailer that kept the style of those 48 seconds and fleshed it out more. Regardless, it was a game that showed promise, but was presented in such a boring way, especially compared to all of the more exciting games announced within the same hour.
The next day, and over the following weeks, the media and public were able to play ARMS at Switch showcases leading up to the system’s launch, but who would want to play some unknown IP with motion controls when you could be playing Zelda, Splatoon, or Mario Kart? Even if people did play it, there were simply games that held their interest more, leading to not a huge amount of discussion about the game compared to some of the others.
It wasn’t until April 12th’s Nintendo Direct that I started being convinced by ARMS. A large amount of the direct was focused on explaining how everything in the game worked, as well as introducing new characters that people began to love, the same way people love Overwatch in no small part thanks to its characters.
But then came the big one: the ARMS Direct. Splatoon fans were drawn in by the promise of a new Splatoon 2 trailer, but otherwise it was all ARMS all the time, blowing the lid on every single detail within the game, with the promise of free DLC post-launch the same way Splatoon did it. Nintendo had recovered from its missteps and steadied the course for ARMS to succeed.
Now, with the Global Testpunch, anyone with a Switch can experience for themselves what the game is like, and the response seems very positive. I only got to play half an hour of it, but hot damn that was a fun half hour, and I can’t wait for next weekend to be able to play it more.
Even the way it’s being sent out to media is commendable. Unlike what was the case for Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, where review copies came in close to E3 that many outlets couldn’t get a review out, gaming journalists have already gotten the review codes, and now all that remains is when the review drops. Hopefully this will be well before the start of E3 so that it doesn’t yet again drown in the hype of larger games. Regardless, I’m very excited for ARMS. It’s looking to be a great first AAA Switch-exclusive.