Gaming

Arms Review: The Sweet Switch Science

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I love fighting games. But I’m terrible at them. For all my desire to play a real-time game of chess, in which I predict and counter my opponent’s every move, I still launch into a Shoryuken when I meant to let loose a Hadoken. I am mechanically bad at the genre, so I have enjoyed fighting games only at the margins. Arms changes all of that.

Springing into action

Arms is exhilarating from the get go. The sick vocal samba track (which we recommend listening to as you read our review) amps you up for the bouts to come, punctuated (punch-tuated?) by the title screen that strikes with its graphic design. This is from a Nintendo infused with bold new blood.

The game pits people who woke up one day with extendable arms and decided to fight with them, to the adoration of fans worldwide. Just go with it. You control your colorful fighter — in my case, a Chinese woman named Min Min who has literal noodles for arms and a ramen bowl beanie — in over-the-shoulder one-on-one battles where you use your extendable arms as projectile fists. It’s boxing with Voltes V’s ultraelectromagnetic tops.

Mask on, mascots

The art direction in Arms speaks for itself. The characters are instantly recognizable. Hero games are all the rage (think Overwatch), and Nintendo enters the ring with this fighter that fuses the dev team behind Mario Kart with the freshness of Splatoon, proving again that they are the masters of creating video game icons.

Each of the game’s ten characters are instantly readable — you’ll never confuse Ribbon Girl with Mechanica. All thirty of the game’s titular arms (the weapons at the end of Min Min’s noodles) are also easily identifiable, and tell you if this particular fist is electric or fiery, heavy or light. The springiness of the characters’ arms communicates immediately whether your opponent’s attack will reach you, or whether you have enough time to slip in a counter. This readability is aided by the flawless 60 frames per second and 1080p/720p in docked/handheld mode, with antialiasing to boot. These visual elements combine to help you keep abreast of everything at any point during a match.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Fighting in Arms feels great. I started off using traditional controls in handheld mode, and fell in love immediately. Nearly all inputs are one button, from dashing, jumping, blocking, and activating your super (here called the Rush). Left or right punches are thrown with the respective triggers. You grab by punching with both arms at once. The left analog controls your movement as well as allows you to curve the punch. That’s it. Its simplicity makes Arms not about complicated button combinations, but about spacing, movement, and timing: the fundamental fighter essentials distilled.

There is one egregious issue in the traditional controls — no button remapping. Block is mapped to clicking in the left stick (my least favorite input), which has led to the double-edged sword of me never blocking. This leads to Muhammad Ali-like weaves through punches, but also renders me vulnerable to Rush attacks that I’m unable to dodge fully.

His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see

Nintendo polishes a central mechanic to the point that it’s blinding. Grand Prix, the game’s single-player component, does a great job of putting it all together and serving as a tutorial for the brutality of online.

The mode has seven difficulty levels, which represents the most gentle learning curve I’ve ever seen. Ranked is locked behind beating Grand Prix at difficulty level 4, so upon beating the cakewalk level 1, I jumped right into 4… and immediately got annihilated by the CPU. But by taking it one increment at a time, I was trained in the game’s basics. By the time I made it back to level 4, I could stand toe to toe with the AI, and even managed to score a Perfect against the secret final boss.

The mechanics are such that every time you lose, it’s your fault, and the game shows you why. You can review a CPU match immediately afterward with the replay functionality. It lets you see things in slow motion from the opponent’s point of view, from an overhead perspective, and from a variety of cinematic angles. Even if you lose, it still feels good, because hopefully you’ll learn from it.

Rumble, young man, rumble

This positive reinforcement is good training for the saltiness of online. The Party Mode is good clean fun, with a volleyball variant (the ball is a bomb that explodes when it hits the ground) and a basketball minigame (your opponent is the ball, and if your grab succeeds, you dunk your opponent or get three points if you’re behind the line).

There’s a more serious 1v1 fight mode, but it’s peppered in between the sports modes and the absolutely insane 1v1v1, 2v2, and 3vCPU modes. It’s a great way to practice against real people, and the lobby is refreshingly presented — there will be times when you aren’t matched up, but you can peek into the progress of ongoing fights via the bubbles in the lobby. As of the most recent patch, a proper Spectator Mode has been added, but that’s currently limited to four in a lobby — two fighting, two spectating (normal lobbies have a max of 10 players).

The real meat of Arms is in Ranked. It’s gated behind beating the Grand Prix at level 4, so everyone there should theoretically know how to play. I say “theoretically” because I rocketed from ranks 1 to 7 without losing a single best-of-three game (Ranked peaks at 15 for now). I’ve never been competitive at a fighter before, and there’s nothing like the mind game of prediction, counter-prediction, and reading your opponent.

It’s early days yet for Arms, and figuring out the intricacies and depth brought by the different characters and arms (each of the ten characters can use all of the thirty available arms) is exciting. By getting in on the ground floor, we’re building the metagame in real time. It’s a good start for Nintendo’s branching out into games as a service.

Fast casual

“Let’s play,” I tell Belle, my cousin. We’re waiting for our food at Pancake House, and I figure this is the perfect time to live out a Nintendo Switch commercial. For medical reasons, I’d never tried the motion controls before. Belle boxes in real life, so I know she’ll like this. I pop off the neon blue and red joy-cons and hand them to her, and take out another pair. They’re Arms yellow, vibrant as a highlighter.

She looks through the character screen with great interest. “Is she black?” says the palest, most privileged woman in our family who’s learning about social justice at the Ateneo de Manila University. She’s talking about Twintelle. “She uses her hair to punch? I want her.”

By this point, I’ve had Arms for a week and am deep into Ranked with Min Min. I use a different character for the first time — Kid Cobra, who’s tearing through the tier lists because of his innate advantages in the current metagame that is focused on charged attacks and dashes.

We play three best-of-three matches, and Belle wins every time. Maybe Arms makes savants out of us all.

SEE ALSO: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: The quintessential Switch game

 

Gaming

Sony unveils PlayStation Classic, comes pre-loaded with 20 games

It brings back good memories

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Since gaming consoles today are all about great graphics and superb gameplay, it’s nice to have a break from them and enjoy a classic title. That’s what Nintendo realized with the reborn retro consoles, and now Sony wants to join the fun with the introduction of the PlayStation Classic.

The PlayStation Classic comes almost 25 years after the first PlayStation. It’s a miniaturized version that’s approximately 45 percent smaller than the original release, but it still emulates the look and feel. Here’s a short video showing off the new retro-style console:

Fans of the original PlayStation will be able to relive 20 legendary titles including Final Fantasy VIIJumping FlashRidge Racer Type 4Tekken 3, and Wild Arms. All of the pre-loaded games are playable in their original format.

Unfortunately, you can’t put in your old but still working PlayStation game because it has no CD drive. The open disc and reset buttons have been remapped to serve different functions, but they’re nice to have for the complete nostalgic feel. The PlayStation Classic also comes with a pair of original PlayStation controller replicas.

Sony is already accepting pre-orders in key markets for around US$ 100. The PlayStation Classic will be available in stores starting December 3.

SEE ALSO: The Nintendo Family Computer from your childhood is back

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Gaming

Razer Phone 2 launch date confirmed

This year’s best gaming phone?

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No more speculation needed: The next Razer Phone will arrive on October 10.

Currently named the Razer Phone 2, it succeeds the Razer Phone that was launched in November last year. This will be Razer’s second gaming smartphone, and it’ll likely be a familiar-looking product.

An earlier leak revealed that the new Razer Phone will have the same physique as its predecessor’s, probably so that it’ll still fit into the Project Linda game plan.

This means Razer will have a new gimmick to present in order for it to separate itself from the original — plus more powerful hardware, of course.

We’ll definitely see the return of the 120Hz display, which enables smoother gameplay for certain mobile titles. The inside should get significant upgrades as well, such as a Snadrapdargon 845 processor, up to 8GB of memory, 512GB of integrated storage, and at least 4000mAh of battery capacity.

The event will happen transpire in Hollywood based on this invitation sent to select media:

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Features

4 big announcements headline the latest Nintendo Direct

Not even an earthquake could stop them from dropping something big

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Nintendo did not let an earthquake deter their chances of bringing something explosive to its audience. After being rescheduled to a week after its original air date, Nintendo Direct finally took place and brought with it a whirlwind of game releases. So, if you don’t have a Nintendo Switch yet, now would be a good time to get one.

More classic games for Nintendo Switch

The company’s cloud-based hub Nintendo Switch Online adds more classic titles to the mix before its official release on Tuesday. Apart from the original ten titles announced back in May, games such as YoshiExcitebike, Ice Hockey, and Ghosts ‘n Goblins are among the additional titles added. Nintendo also expects to add in a few more titles within the coming months. The company also mentioned that these titles will now feature online multiplayer — both cooperative and competitive gameplay.

Apart from these titles, there will also be new Final Fantasy games for the Switch in 2019. Square Enix will bring Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X to the Switch through the Nintendo eShop. It was also announced that there will be a remastered version of Final Fantasy X-2 available around the same time as these games.

More Super Mario for the Switch

The popular Wii U platforming game New Super Mario Bros. U will be arriving on the Switch, now in a deluxe package. It will feature the same level of platforming from the Wii U classic, along with your lovable plumber brothers Mario and Luigi. What’s new about New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is the introduction of two new characters in Nabbit and Toadette. Nabbit is a magician-like rabbit that will not take any damage from opponents, while Toadette has the ability to turn into Peachette when grabbing a super crown.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe will also come with another game in New Super Luigi U, with Luigi finally getting a starring role in their adventures. Both games are scheduled for release in January 2019, with New Super Luigi U bundled for free. And speaking of Luigi and his adventures:

Luigi’s Mansion 3 announced for the Switch

While Nintendo still claims this to be a working title, it was also announced that Luigi’s Mansion 3 will also come to the Switch. While a Nintendo 3DS title is already on its way in October this year, Nintendo said that the Switch game would be a new title altogether. This is the first time that the Luigi’s Mansion franchise will return to a console since its initial Nintendo GameCube release in 2001. The company also included new features for the 3DS title, including multiplayer and amiibo compatibility.

Animal Crossing finally gets a Switch title

Arguably, the biggest announcement during Nintendo Direct is the arrival of Animal Crossing to the Nintendo Switch. Part of a two-part announcement at the end of the live stream, Nintendo revealed little details as to the release date of the new Animal Crossing title, but it is expected to come out in 2019. Company executives also revealed that this will be a mainline game, meaning it will feature the same gameplay from before.

The announcement came in two parts, with the first part revealing that Isabelle will be a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. After showing gameplay footage from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it quickly transitions into Tom Nook looking at his computer in a possible setup as a playable character. Instead, he decides to prepare the town when they stop “camping and smashing,” leading up to the reveal of Animal Crossing‘s release.

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