There are a lot of unlockables in Arms. There are 30 different arm attachments and every character can gain access to every arm. But each fighter starts out with only 3 of them by default.
It gets worse. You can collect each arm a second time to get an upgraded version which does extra damage. You can take your unlockables, including your damage upgrades, into online modes with you as well. This stuff is a pretty big advantage if you want to be competitive online.
Each arm and each upgrade for each character is a separate unlock, so that means there are 570 total unlockables in the game. Nintendo is planning to add more characters to Arms as free updates, and that probably means the number of available unlockables is set to grow over the next few months.
Arms gates these upgrades behind its Arms Getter minigame, and in order to play the minigame you have to earn coins. Most things you do in the game pay out coins, but you can expect to play for over a hundred hours to open everything up if you’re just playing organically.
If you want to get the goodies a little faster, however, you can be strategic about optimizing your play to earn more coins while using them as efficiently as possible.
Earning coins in single player Grand Prix
Arms’ story mode is a good source of coins. Each round you win pays out a few coins and the payout improves as you increase the difficulty; a full clear at level one gives you 24 coins, and the rewards scale up to 90 coins at level seven, which is the hardest difficulty. You can also earn a bonus coin for each round in which you defeat an AI opponent without taking any damage.
However, losing at Grand Prix is one of the few activities in Arms that awards you zero coins. You can take another run at the same opponent without losing your progress when you get beaten by the AI, but you don’t get your payout until you win, and you earn the same number of coins for winning each fight without regard for the number of tries or the amount of time it took.
Playing Grand Prix on a difficulty level that really tests your skills, therefore, is going to award you fewer coins per hour than playing on a difficulty level that allows you to breeze through. If you are struggling to get through Grand Prix at the fourth or fifth difficulty level, you’ll definitely earn more coins if you spend that same amount of playtime blowing through three or four easy-mode campaigns with perfect rounds.
On the other hand, if you spend long enough struggling with the harder difficulties, eventually you’ll get to the point where you can beat them without struggling. If you get good enough to breeze through the level seven campaigns without many losses, you will be able to earn boatloads of coins. In terms of raw hours, practicing in order to improve may not get you as many coins, but it’s a good investment in your future.
And polishing your skills will help you be able to earn more coins in Arms’ multiplayer modes.
Multiplayer is where you can earn real bank
The online Party Match mode pays out three coins when you win, and one coin when you lose. If you win more than three matches in a row, the game will begin to handicap you by reducing your starting health. If you continue to win with the handicap in effect, you’ll get bonuses for that: two extra coins when your health is reduced by 25 percent, three when your health is reduced 50 percent, and four coins when your health is reduced 75 percent.
You also get an extra coin for playing three games in a row, two coins after your fifth game, three more after your 10th game, and five bonus coins for every 10 games you play after that. That means you can get seven coins for a win with the maximum handicap, plus an as many as five additional coins for playing a bunch of games in a row.
If you win often, and particularly if you continue to win even after the game imposes the handicap on you, you can earn coins very quickly in Party Match. However, this is a mode where some players get to be the farmers and others are stuck being the crops. If you lose a lot in Party Match, you’re better off going back to Grand Prix, where you can earn coins and work on your skills without getting dunked on by better players.
If you want to open a bunch of unlockables as quickly as possible, and you aren’t concerned about whether the method of earning those unlocks improves your play or is actually any fun, there is a cheesy trick you can use to earn a lot of coins. This can likely get you three times as many coins per hour as most players can earn in normal play.
Under the two-player Versus Mode menu, you have an option to select “Training.” This starts up a two-player local version of the basic tutorial, and asks you to move, dash, punch, grab and use a rush attack for each player. You can do this using your left and right joy-cons as separate controllers. Then it starts a one-round match, which you can end in about fifteen seconds by just beating down the second player with the first.
When the round is finished, the game awards a coin for each player, and offers a rematch. The rematch is just the one-round fight; you don’t have to replay the tutorial. You can continue to rematch, earning about four coins per minute for as long as you want. You can unlock everything in around 30 hours if you don’t mind a good amount of boredom.
The “Get ARMS” minigame
The minigame that distributes arms is similar to the Skillshot minigame you can play in Versus mode and that sometimes comes up in the minigame round during Grand Prix mode. Targets pop up from the floor, and you have to hit as many as possible. You earn bonus multipliers for smashing multiple targets simultaneously. More targets will pop up as you progress, enabling larger combos. The more points you earn, the more new arms you earn.
You can play a 25-second “short timer” round for 30 coins, and you get a 50-second “medium timer” for 100 coins. 200 coins gets you a 90-second “long timer.”
The longer rounds cost more, but they do come with some benefits. The short timer starts with just one target at a time, and you have to level up to start getting combos. The long timer starts at a much higher level, allowing you more time to earn points with more targets and higher combos.
There are also stopwatch icons that sometimes move across the back of the arena. If you punch them, they add time to your run. They only give you five extra seconds with the short timer and medium timer, but they give you 10 extra seconds on the long timer.
The opportunity for big combos means a long-timer game can be significantly more efficient than the shorter timers. But the outcomes of the short-timer games are much more predictable.
The short-timer game will usually award three arms, and that outcome is pretty reliable due to the lower number of targets. The outcomes of long timer games depends on skill and good luck with the stopwatch spawns, which seem to be random. Many of the more successful players also seem to be curving their punches in two directions at once, which suggest they’re using motion controls. It’s worth a shot if you really want to maximize every second.
Skilled players seem to be able to get more than 20 arms per round pretty reliably, with lucky rounds reaching as high as 30. That’s significantly more rewarding than the short timer. There are also many videos from players who earned 12 to 15 arms per round, and those players would be better off just doing short timers.
You don’t have to grind if you just want to have fun
Arms has a lot of depth for a game that looks like Wii Sports boxing, and is likely to support a competitive scene. You will need many unlockables to be a part of that, but do you want them badly enough to justify coin grinding?
It’s up to you to decide how hard you want to commit to the game, and whether having all the arms is worth running hundreds of extra Grand Prix modes or dumping a few dozen hours into a mindless, joyless grind.
I hope you now understand how the different approaches work and how to maximize your returns, however. A smart player is a better player!