With the Nintendo Switch proving to be a hit, riding the high of an excellent launch title in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, many fans are anxious about the future of the console. Super Mario Odyssey is set to land this holiday, but after Zelda, owners of the fledgling system have been wondering what to do with their fancy new machine until then.
Aside from indies and classic re-releases, Nintendo is offering a sequel to Splatoon and a brand new property in ARMS this summer. A recent Nintendo Direct fully pulled back the curtain on the latter, and revealed how it may connect with a larger audience. To better understand what to expect from ARMS, one only need look back to the summer of 2015, and how Nintendo built upon the launch of another deceptively childlike property, to know what to expect.
Colorful, cartoon-y characters seem to be the main draw of ARMS. The game is launching with ten fighters, ranging from a bulky, pissed off mummy to a girl seemingly made of ramen noodles. But as Nintendo showed during the comprehensive ARMS presentation, additional characters, maps, and gear will be added for free in the coming months. This will sound familiar to anyone who played Splatoon when it first came out. While the squid-centric shooter was criticized for a lack of content at launch, new maps and weapons slowly trickled out over the next few months, giving players a reason to keep coming back and see what had changed.
Brand new characters and stages are an obvious avenue forARMS’ expansion, but the interchangeable fists and titular appendages might be the most game-changing updates on the horizon. These weapons range in speed and damage attributes, as well as added elemental combinations. The real secret to victory seems to depend on the player’s choice of equipment, and new options should provide a way to counter popular strategies.
Along with consistent schedule of free DLC, Splatoon kept players in the loop about everything they could expect in the near future. The ‘Squid Research Lab; blog was set in-universe and served as a hub for update announcements as well as new tidbits of lore. When a new weapon or map was on its way, this was the go-to source for detailed breakdowns with a tone of voice tailored to the Splatoon community.
The official ARMS website is already loaded with information on the game’s many modes and customization options, but closer to launch players might expect some more detailed introductions to each character. In Splatoon’s case, a constant channel for announcements helped nurture a dedicated collection of players, as events were organized around content updates and game patches. With a heavy focus on multiplayer action, ARMS will need to carve out a similar audience if it is to have legs.
In addition to a steady stream of fresh maps and weapons to learn, Splatoon players were treated to frequent, global competitions called Spatfests, often themed around opposing concepts. Players pledged allegiance to one option out of absurd categories like ‘Past or Future’ and ‘Pirates or Ninjas’ to earn points for their team over the course of a day. For 24 hours, the entire game, from menu screens to map displays, reflected the event and encouraged anyone who logged on to participate.
Special rewards and experience points were given for participating in Splatfests, making each occurrence worth at least checking out. They also helped reveal the popularity of Splatoon’s given loadouts, and led more competitive players to establish definitive weapon tiers. Although ARMS is more of fighting game than a team-based shooter, a similarly structured event would draw a consistent group of players to the game.
Splatoon never became a wildly popular e-sport, but a thriving community did form around it and develop their own competitive scene. And while much of the focus was on multiplayer, the original game was maligned for the lack of content it launched with. While the story was entertaining and quirky, the single-player stages mostly served as tutorials for the game’s weapons and various traversal mechanics. Subsequent updates added more variation to the online play, but the single-player campaign has remained the exact same since May 2015.
All signs point to ARMS having a similar, if not stronger, emphasis for online play. Practice modes will offer the chance to unlock more swappable body parts and learn the various arenas. Grand Prix seems to function effectively as a gauntlet that has you fighting through ten opponents with various modifiers to claim the championship title. However, there are a greater number of competitive modes, including spins on volleyball and basketball.
If the marketing so far is any indication, ARMS is going to be stuffed full of puns and self-effacing jokes. The announcer character that narrated the most recent Nintendo Direct presentation has just the right amount of a playful sarcasm to introduce characters like the professional streaming teenager, Kid Cobra. The neon colors and jovial presentation all call back to Splatoon, which was immediately charming for the very same reasons.
Splatoon’s characters have already almost become staples of Nintendo properties, appearing in the most recent iterations of Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. Before launch, it was unclear whether Splatoon would be worth playing attention to, but fans have clearly adopted the franchise in their hearts enough to warrant a sequel. Before launch, ARMS finds itself in a similar situation, and its reception remains to be seen.
AJ Moser is a freelance journalist and recently exiled Game Informer intern. To read more of his work, as well as musings on Star Wars and the indie rock scene, follow him on Twitter at @AndMoser.