A New ARMS Interview Details the Game’s Origins, Extra Modes, and More

Did you think ARMS was merely something built upon Wii boxing? You were probably not alone, but as it turns out Wii boxing, neigh anything at all from Wii Sports, had absolutely nothing to do with ARMS. Even down to the conceptulizing stage, it was about trying to present traditional fighting games in a new way. At least, that’s according to Kosuke Yabuki, the producer of ARMS. He sat down for a chat with Famitsu magazine this week. Here’s some snippets:

Arms was announced at the presentation. How did its development come about?

Nintendo is always coming up with various prototypes for games, and we were involved in that process where ideas go on to become new games. Out of these numerous prototypes, we chose one that would fit well alongside the Switch’s launch, and it became the basis for Arms.

I’m assuming that these prototypes are created to test very basic gameplay concepts. So, what kind of concept did Arms originate as? I would imagine it started as a boxing game where the characters’ arms would stretch out…

No, it was not originally a concept for a boxing game. There are many fighting games, like Street Fighter or Super Smash Bros., or even “3D fighters” like Tekken, where the game is viewed side-on. Since the beginning of fighting games, the side view has been the mainstream, but I’ve always thought, why couldn’t we do it a little differently? However, it can be difficult to gauge depth in games where the camera is behind you. So I was absolutely convinced that it would not be suited for fighting games, which require precise distance control. But the fact that your arms extend, and that it takes a bit of time for them to impact, makes it quite likely your attacks will succeed. My idea was to have the game’s tactics revolve less around whether your attack would hit or not, and more around the timing and delay between your attacks connecting. So in pursuing a new kind of fighting game where the camera is behind you and your arms extend, Arms was born.

When playing, it almost feels as though there’s a shooting mechanic in the game.

They’re punches, but there is an aspect of them that’s similar to missiles, which you’re aiming and looking for a chance to fire.

Honestly speaking, when I first saw the game, I thought it would be like the boxing in Wii Sports, where you’re engaging in very exaggerated punching motions. But, even though you can play Arms like that, if you become skilled enough, you can also evade your opponent’s attacks perfectly, and predict their movements to land your own attacks. So if you put some effort into playing, you’ll be able to enjoy that sort of strategical gameplay.

We had no reason to create another Wii Sports. As someone who worked on Mario Kart, I’m always coming up with ideas to spice up the gameplay by adding unrealistic movements and gimmicks.

You announced a single-player and online mode, but will there be any other modes available?

There are many more that everyone can look forward to… but I can’t talk about them (laughs). Having only 1v1 matches in the online mode would be too exhausting, so there are other modes being prepared. However, the game is boiling down to 1v1 battles in the end, with them as the main focus and the other modes being on the side.

So will those modes be challenging, unlike, say, a party game?

We’re trying to make the kind of game where your skill in 1v1 matches naturally increases as you play the various different modes.

The character designs are quite interesting too. Their arms are things like springs, ribbons, and bandages.

The five characters in the demo are all pretty straightforward, with the ‘spring’ motif as their basis. Well, aside from the girl riding in the robot (laughs). There will be more bizarre characters like her appearing in the game. The cast will be very varied, with everyone having their own unique features.

Is the time period of the game supposed to be set at some point in the future?

I hear that a lot, but it’s not quite ‘the future’. It feels kind of like older comic books to me, but everyone views it differently depending on where and when they grew up.

It’s difficult to explain this game using others as an example, isn’t it?

There are games like the Virtual On and the Gundam VS series that used this kind of camera, and some people have been reminded of them. We spent a lot of time playing games like those, so there are probably some influences from them in Arms.

I see. What was the reason you chose to use the ‘thumbs up pose’ out of the numerous control schemes available?

During the Switch’s development, we were wondering how we could hold the Joy-Con to play games. Even though it supports the standard grip, the Joy-Con fits in your palms nicely if you tilt them. I thought, if we were to make a game that involved swinging the Joy-Con around, it should use that kind of grip. So, we decided to combine the prototype that became the basis for Arms with that grip style. And, since the internal sensors are more accurate, you can control it with much lighter movement, so I don’t think it will be that tiring. Since there will probably be some people who aren’t good at the physical controls, we made it possible to play using the buttons as well. They can use the buttons on the Joy-Con, or the Pro Controller. It is also possible to play using just one Joy-Con, so you can share the fun and play with others.

Can they play without any problems, using only one Joy-Con?

Yes. But their available actions might be a little limited. So you should use two Joy-Con when you’re looking to get serious… that’s how we designed the game.

What were the reactions from people who played the demo at this event?

I think they were able to understand the controls immediately. But many people were using wild movements, perhaps because they were used to doing that on the Wii. Of course we are making it possible for people to enjoy the game like that as well. But we think that once they move past that stage, people will be able to fight more calmly and aim at their opponents, so I think we’ll have to give people different kinds of advice to help them reach that level.

You can find the full interview completely translated over at Nintendo Everything.

Nathanial Rumphol-Janc

A veteran in the video game media sphere, Nathanial co-founded Gamnesia, founded MetroidWiki.org, ran the news the segment on the Zelda Universe Podcast, found and ran Zelda Domain from 1998 to 2006, and built Zelda Informer as the Editor-in-Chief from 2008 to 2017. He now owns and operates Nintendo Prime. You can follow him on twitter @NateJanc, otherwise just stay tuned at Nintendo Prime for more of his work.

  • I would like to suggest a darker tone for the font used on the interview here. The light gray is hard to read against the white background.