Hey, so, fuck ARMs.
I’ve been played Nintendo’s new fighting game for the majority of the week, taking breaks from in between our coverage of E3 2017 to willingly make myself as angry as I can ever remember being at a video game. I have stood and faced the Devil of my own personal Hell as the game’s final boss has pummeled my self-esteem for three hours straight. I have emerged, red-faced and infuriated, deeply confused that it’s a Nintendo game that has made me feel this way and knowing only one thing for certain: Fuck. ARMs.
ARMs‘ tutorial ranks high up there on the list of things that do not give a shit about your well-being, right next to McDonald’s and the government. “Punch to PUNCH!” it says, before telling you that you can also twist your arms to curve your punches, cross them to guard and press a button to jump and dash. It’s entry-level stuff, akin to when a platformer tells you to press X to climb onto a box and you feel like the developer may as well drive over to your house, stand in your living room and call you an idiot to your face.
Playing through the first, easiest difficulty level of the Grand Prix, the game’s single-player mode, is a breeze. The CPU opponents barely get any offense in, your punches fly thick and fast and it would be obscenely difficult to lose a single round, let alone fail to make it to the final boss. But ARMs requires you to beat the fourth level of difficulty, the midway point between its easiest and hardest difficulty levels, in order to unlock ranked mode. This is where things start to go wrong.
I haven’t attempted to play level 2 or 3 of the Grand Prix, but I assume that some shit must have gone down in them because level 4 is a mighty steep leap in difficulty compared to level 1. Playing as Spring Man, the all-rounder who is best equipped to let players get used to the basics (apparently), I spent an inordinate amount of time desperately trying to make it past my first opponent who was now hitting me for fun, all while my guy’s arms flailed around and seemed to intentionally try to miss their target.
Each ARM in ARMs has its own unique abilities, and the main hook of the game is discovering how to adequately utilize each of them in a fight, along with making them complement each characters’ unique fighting style. For instance, the discomfiting sentient nostril gunk Hex is armed with a weapon that can also act as a shield, along with another that can sit on an enemy’s head and inhibit their vision. In theory, it would be a good strategy to shoot out this shield, stand behind it and then blob away at your enemy before grappling them while they can’t see you. I say in theory, because I still find it relatively impossible to pull off most strategies outside of “hoping for the best” and “screaming internally.”
ARMs‘ absurd learning curve reminds me of old ’90s Nintendo games. I remember player Super Mario Kart as a boy, and receiving a stern talking to from my Nan after she caught me standing up in the center of the living room, flipping off the TV screen in an act of quiet frustration. This was a futile expression of my anger, of course, as it’s unlikely that Bowser could see me raising my middle finger at him, and even if he did, it’s unlikely he cared while he stood on the winner’s podium quaffing champagne. But it made me feel better, and that’s all that mattered.
ARMs has inspired a similar level of foul language and rage, only this time I’ve been able to loudly express my feelings as a result of it taking place in a house that I pay for. My girlfriend had to come downstairs last night and tell me to quieten down, as she was disturbed by me shouting at Ninjara and telling him exactly where he could shove one of his boxing gloves. My expletive-ridden rants at ARMs have been embarrassing, but it’s driven me to the point where I have nothing to lose; I must keep playing, I must keep getting better, and I must keep telling Ninjara to have penetrative sex with his own arm.