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Arms guide: Four things you need to know to win

Don’t suck like I did

Arms made me feel stupid before it made me feel smart. I spent nearly a week with Nintendo’s new fighting game before I finally felt like I understood how it wanted me to play.

In short, I failed to understand four things: when to fight, how arms work, the relationship the two and why dashing is so important. The moment they congealed, I started winning.

In this guide, I’ll show you how I figured it out — and how you can, too (in a few minutes, not a week).

Learn when to fight (but mostly when not to fight)

Arms is unlike other fighting games, and its name explains why. To understand Arms, you have to, uh, understand arms. Big, long, springy, floppy arms that your opponents have no problem avoiding.

Battles in Arms are fought at a distance. Your attacks lumber, glide and curve through the air. You’re less like a boxer throwing punches and more like Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion — if his only option was his patented “Get over here!” ranged attack, and it didn’t bring enemies back to him.

Ribbon Girl hops over Ninjaru’s attack, smiling all the way

Throwing punches is one thing. Landing them is another. In Arms, you attack from afar in 3D space, so there’s no guarantee that your punch will land. You might change the direction of your attack. Your opponent could dodge or jump to avoid it (like Ribbon Girl does above). Punching indiscriminately is a recipe for punching air (which was my specialty during those first frustrating days).

The solution: Just consider everything a ranged attack, and plan accordingly.

Don’t think you can attack wildly. (I mean, you can. You just won’t hit anything.) Instead, you have to be considerate about when you attack.

In other words, attacking in Arms is about restraint — waiting until you’re reasonably sure that your punches will land, based on where you are relative to your opponent and how your attack is going to fly.

But before you can do that, you have to understand how attacks work in Arms. And that’s a little weird, too.

How attacks work in Arms

Even a simple attack has depth. You can control the arc of your weapon — with slight adjustments while it’s the air and more drastic consequences depending on what direction you’re pressing when you attack.

Below, you’ll see Ninjara throwing the same punch with the same weapon from the same hand three times, but the path it takes — its trajectory — is different every time.

One attack, three flavors

What gives? It’s the direction I pressed when hitting the attack button. Here’s what you’re looking at above:

  • First punch: no direction, which veers slightly to to right. Think of it as the default attack. It’s the quickest of your options because it travels the shortest distance to the target.
  • Second punch: pressing right, which creates a wide right arc and causes it to hit from the far right. It’s slower than the default, because it travels farther.
  • Third punch: pressing left, which creates a wide left arc and causes it to hit from the far left. It’s also slower thank the default, because it travels farther.

This takes some time to wrap your mind around, and you need to do that before you can understand Arms.

Do what I did and hop into training mode, where you can throw punches with impunity. Get comfortable there, thinking about punches, their speed and when they’d be good to use. Then, when you’re in a real fight, you’ll be able to use your knowledge to unleash the correct attack.

Dash as much as you walk

Up until now, I’ve written exclusively about attacking, but that’s only half of what you do in Arms. The other half is about avoiding attacks, and that’s where dashing comes in.

Ninjara dashes around Helix’s attacks

Just assume that pressing left or right to move is too slow to avoid most attacks.

Whenever you see something flying toward you — or whenever you anticipate an attack — dash out of the way. (Couple a dash with a jump to confuse your enemies even more.) Not only can you avoid attacks that way, but it often sets you up to attack a defenseless enemy. (Just like I did with Helix above.)

In fact, the more I play Arms, the more I feel like I dash as much as I walk. It’s just more efficient and effective for avoiding attacks.

Putting it all together

So, in Arms, hitting your enemy is about three things:

  1. Holding your punches until you’re reasonably sure they’ll land.
  2. Accounting for the distance between you and your target.
  3. Accounting for your attack’s time of flight.

Put differently: distance + time = success.

In the examples above, we use Ninjara’s chakram to illustrate our points, but with the variety of arms in Arms, you’ll also find a variety of behaviors. Variety is your ally.

As you can see below, we have Ninjara’s boxing glove-like buff on our left hand. That arm has a much faster, more straightforward attack than the chakram.

Equip fast and slow weapons together, and you have the recipe for an incredibly effective one-two punch combo.

The old one-two punch

With those categories equipped, you also have the option to deploy whatever attack is appropriate at the moment: a (relatively) quick jab, or a slower, sneakier attack — or both.

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