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ARMS (Nintendo Switch): Combat Tips and Tricks

Nintendo’s new competitive multiplayer game ARMS is a stylish brawler that has you duck, jump, bob, weave and punch your way to victory playing as an assortment of colourful characters with spring-like arms and a range of crazy attachments that give you an edge in combat.

With the game’s June 16th launch there every chance that you’re now swinging and flailing your JoyCons around from one fight to the next but if you’re still struggling to come out on top in the arena we’ve put together a few tips and tricks that might ensure it’s you who’s delivering that final blow.

Use motion controls. No, really

History has taught us that given the option, motion controls are almost never the way to go, especially when reaction times are involved, but in ARMS we’d much rather pull real jabs and punches against are long-armed adversaries than simply trying and hammer on the ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons.

Not only is using the detached JoyCons a far more fun and visceral experience but it’s markedly easier to throw up your guard (by tilting both JoyCons towards each other so that your palms turn downwards slightly) or curve your punches, which when playing with docked JoyCons or the Pro controller, are both tied to the left analogue stick and call for a much more precise and awkward action.

Guards and grabs

As much as you may want to, you can’t throw punches all the time; ducking and avoiding incoming hits is part of what makes for good technique. Sometimes simply sidestepping a well-placed fist (or bird or boomerang for that matter) isn’t going to work and so you have to know when to guard.

ARMS: Guard position when using motion controls
The guard position when using motion controls

Guarding is essential to minimise damage, usually resulting in around only 5HP being taken each time an oncoming attack makes contact. Guarding also charges your attacks so that they do that much more damage on their first successful hit, so sometimes it pays to guard even when you don’t have to fend off your opponent. A good time to do so is either after a successful rush attack or any point at which they’re momentarily immobilised or floored. Taking too many hits whilst guarding will temporarily disable your ARMS.

If your opponent has a mean guard game then there’s a sweet and simple means of breaking it by using a grab. Firing off both of your fists at exactly the same time serves as a grab that, if successful, will pull your opponent in towards you before smashing them into the ground at which point they’ll suffer severe knockback too, all of which results in suitably potent amounts of damage, of course. Just be warned that simple single-arm punches can deflect attempted grabs if you’re not careful.

ARMS: Guard
Ninjara with his guard up

Grabs are easiest to pull off when your opponent’s arms are at full extension (provided you’ve dodged them both) or they too have tried and failed to grab you, leaving a suitably large window of attack open to you.

How to change character colour

Whether you’re playing locally or online you can actually change your character’s colour, although it’s not immediately apparent how to do so.

ARMS: Helix colour swaps

On the character select screen, move to the fighter you want to play as and click down the left analogue stick. Whilst the stick is being depressed move it left, right or down (up is your character’s default colour) and then, whilst still holding the left stick down and in the direction you want, select your character as you would normally by pressing ‘A’, ‘L’ or ‘R’.

You won’t see what colour your character has changed to until you actually press the selection button, but there are some pretty nice palette swaps on offer (camo Mechanica and pink Helix are our personal faves).

Using the arenas to your advantage

Part of what makes ARMS such a dynamic fighting game is that alongside anticipating your opponent's moves the game’s various arenas have their own unique traits or qualities that can potentially make or break a fight.

Take SpringMan’s native stage, Spring Stadium, likely the first arena combatants will square off in. It’s, for the most part, a pretty simple square arena, however, the trampolines running around the edge of the field can be used to devastating effect in the hands of the right player.

Take ARMS producer Kosuke Yabuki’s finishing moves at the tail end of the first ever ARMS Invitational, held at E3 2017. Yabuki San schooled finalist Zerk with a grab, quickly followed by a rush attack that resulted in a knockout, all of which was compounded by Zerk’s inability to recover as his Master Mummy simply bounced around at the edge of the stage.

Not all the game’s arenas offer such interactive elements but even height or obstacles like the pillars and ramps found on Mechanica’s Scrapyard can help sway the tide of a fight.

Size and speed

Whilst the game doesn’t openly provide statistics on characters or the gamut of ARMS themselves, you’ll quickly learn that different combinations yield wildly different results in terms of speed, power and range.

ARMS: Master Mummy

Master Mummy is easily the game’s heaviest and slowest character, with the shortest dash and jump ranges but he also suffers the least amount of knockback and can replenish small amounts of HP when guarding.

ARMS too have different weights, so heavier ‘gloves’ can deflect oncoming attacks from lighter ones whilst some offer greater range at the expense of damage. The key is to experiment!

Read next: Our Nintendo Switch Review and our Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Tips and Tricks feature

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