The first thing I got to sit down with at PAX East this year was Nintendo, and it’s a big time for them. Coming right off the Switch launch, a product I am genuinely in love with, it’s undeniable to say it has a quantity problem when it comes to games. Their line up over the next couple of months is super important to how early adopters will feel, and how I’ll feel about the hybrid console going forward.
Excluding the port of Mario Kart 8, the two first party titles that fill in that line up are Splatoon 2 and ARMS. I got to play both titles, and I’m happy to say I really loved my time with both.
The first up was Splatoon 2, follow up to a real niche hit to the small audience of Wii U, and a really original and lighthearted take on the shooter. The sequel isn’t trying to remake the wheel here, but the innovations it brings on the hybrid console are interesting, and generally I felt better about the short piece I played of Splatoon 2 (two matches) then I did about Splatoon 1, which I also loved.
The big emphasis on Splatoon 2 was the new weapon configurations, the new dual pistol option, and several new “ultimate” or super/special abilities, like a rocket launcher that you can lock on with and rain down ink from the sky, or a jetpack that lets you float around and unleash rocket launcher barrages while inking the ground beneath you.
All these new weapons and abilities go to make the already elegant Splatoon actually feel more stylish. There are flourishes to the animations that just weren’t there before, and it makes the tense three minute matches of four v four just swing by in stylish extravagance. It’s almost as if they injected more of that Nintendo polish and that certain charm that’s hard to pin down, into a game that already had a lot of it. I can’t speak to the quantity of what’s been added, having only been able to pick four different loadouts in two three minute matches, but the adjustments here felt very much along the lines of Mario Galaxy to Galaxy 2: an enhancement that is subtle, but goes quite a long way.
The other item I got to spend time with was ARMS, which I got to do some one on one versus with Irrational Passions cohost Tony Horvath. I was treated to the full tutorial, and two matches that played out like a default Street Fighter setup: first to two wins is the victor.
Immediately that same gushing Nintendo charm just poured out of ARMS in spades. It’s got great character art, the world and arenas we battled in looked fantastic, and on an underpowered system (all things considered) the look and feel never felt compromised: this game looked brilliant and didn’t miss a beat.
It’s weird to say, but the motion controls for this game actually worked? I mean, there was no Wii IR-sensor nightmares to contend with, and the game never asked me to reconfigure, like a Skyward Sword. We just went into the game and every time I tried to do a thing that the controls told me would work, it’d work. It’s odd only because the Joycons are held out and sideways, meaning that the analogue and face buttons aren’t traditionally accessible, but they’re still needed to access and confirm on the menus? It didn’t make sense to have that layout, but maybe the game wanted you to shift to the proper ARMS controls when it was time to get into the fight. The Nintendo assistant helping us out in getting our game setup encouraged us to hold the Joycons in ready-to-fight style the whole time, so I was just getting mixed signals.
Regardless, ARMS worked, which is more than I could have said. Curving your fist after throwing a punch to curve the swing in or out worked, and worked without fail. Throwing both arms out to grab your opponent felt great, just like throwing every punch. The game was satisfying in a reminiscent way of a fighting game, which it’s definitely trying to echo, and the control scheme fit and worked. It’s as if you took Wii boxing and tried to make it actual real with actual controls and mechanics. Oh, and giant robots and punching arms.
ARMS was super cool, and so was Splatoon 2, making both much more of a “must have” than I thought I’d feel about either. It’s crazy to say that even after I burned out on Splatoon I want more of what Splatoon 2 is putting down, and I can see myself sinking time into ARMS and it’s crazy antics, even though it has motion controls.