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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

ARMS North American Online Open April 2020 Recap

By HEAVY LOBSTER - I entered the largest competitive ARMS tournament in history. How did I do?

Recently, Nintendo has been working to bring their 2017 fighting game IP, ARMS, back into the limelight. An ARMS character has been announced for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo’s offered a free trial of ARMS for everyone with Nintendo Switch Online, and during said trial period they held a North American ARMS Online Open. This helped attract the largest turnout for any ARMS event in the game’s history with 880 entrants. I was one of them. For this tournament, the build I largely relied on was Ninjara with Slapamander/Hydra/Roaster, a loadout favoring faster fire-element ARMS to match Ninjara’s speed and elusiveness. Hydra is there to serve as a fast, light poking tool and anti-aerial; Slapamander is there as a fast curved arm effective at going around larger ARMS and catching side dashes; and Roaster is there as a fast and versatile glove for situations where an ARM with more weight/better horizontal tracking is preferred over Hydra.

Like many fighting games, ARMS has a best-of-3 round format, and on top of that this tournament, like most others, has a best-of-3 games format, at least up until top 8. Unfortunately, the tournament was also single-elimination until top 8, with completely random seeding. This might have been a necessary compromise given the size of the tourney, but it could still be rough on anyone who got paired with a top player in their first match. The stagelist was a bit liberal compared to what the competitive community normally uses, but it still at least got rid of Snake Park/[NAME REDACTED]/Cinema Deux, which are generally considered the worst offenders for competitive purposes. The stages were randomly selected, another compromise to avoid taking extra time with stage striking, but it added another element of luck into the mix.

My first three matches were fairly straightforward, with two Mechanicas and a Helix, and in general I dealt with them without much trouble, considering fire ARMS cut right through Mechanica’s armor and Hydra/Slapamander is pretty effective at forcing Helix out of tower mode and punishing his jumps. Match 4 was when the difficulty started picking up.

My next opponent was a Kid Cobra, widely considered to be Ninjara’s toughest matchup due to his burst movement options and large arm girth giving him the ability to exert a lot of pressure. He used a combination of the electric multishot Revolver and the fast, poisonous Skully. Kid Cobra is notorious for applying aerial pressure thanks to his fast jump and strong aerial drift allowing him to apply pressure while avoiding attacks. Against Cobras, I typically lean on Hydra to punish him for excessive jumping, but in this particular case Revolver has the ability to beat out other light ARMS because the first hit cancels it out while the next two go through, and if one of them connects the electric effect can confirm into a free grab, which is especially punishing due to Cobra’s above-average grab damage. So frequently Cobra would jump and use Revolver to go through Hydra, ultimately causing me to drop my first round of the day.

However, in Round 2 I adjusted by utilizing the vertical angles of Slapamander more, as it’s a medium-weight arm that can cut through all of Revolver’s shots while still being able to function as somewhat of an anti-air. After this slight adjustment, I was able to deter him from jumping and punching as aggressively, which made it easier to poke with Hydra and pull out Rounds 2 and 3 to advance to top 64.

At this point things were really starting to heat up. My next opponent was a Twintelle main who used the combination of Thunderbird and Megawatt, taking advantage of her arm-slowing aura to get in close with charged ARMS, bait out attacks, then counter with a charged electric attack capable of confirming into either a grab or Rush Attack. While her electric ARMS are comparatively slow, they offer the potential for massive amounts of damage if they land a charged hit, so my preferred strategy as Ninjara would generally be to keep my distance and poke away while using my superior mobility and attack speed to keep her at bay. Unfortunately, Game 1 took place in the cramped alleyways of Via Dolce, a stage where it’s fairly easy to get cornered and her heavier setup would generally have the advantage. Nevertheless, I managed to eke out Round 1 and had a decent lead in Round 2 before she managed to back me into a corner, tag me with a charged Thunderbird, and convert it into a Rush to extend the game to Round 3, in which her pressure game allowed her to take Game 1.

With my tournament life on the line, I opted to go with my secondary, Min Min, with the powerful Lokjaw on her left arm and the spreadshot Tribolt on her right arm. Unlike with most characters where a particular ARM being on the right or left side usually doesn’t mean all that much outside of comfort, with Min Min it is important, as she has the ability to permacharge her left ARM, greatly increasing said ARM’s size in addition to giving it more power along with its elemental effect. In combination with the unique Lokjaw, it allows her to fire off a large, powerful energy blast while shielding Min Min’s smaller frame rather effectively. This energy blast, much like the laser beams that Dragons fire off, is unaffected by Twintelle’s aura, and the large size and heavy weight of the ARM make it very useful for deterring her from being as aggressive in close quarters. I paired it with Tribolt as a fast, light poke that can use its stun element to convert into a grab at close/medium quarters, and said grab will also activate Min Min’s left ARM permacharge.

After switching my character, the match began on Spring Stadium, a stage which is usually banned in community tournaments because it’s fairly easy to perform high-damaging Yabuki combos by throwing the opponent off the springs surrounding the stadium and confirming into a Rush Attack. The combo is named after the game’s creator, Kosuke Yabuki, who first demonstrated the combo in a pre-release exhibition match. While such a combo can be performed by both sides, it’s especially hard to deal with when an opponent can combo a charged arm into a grab into a Rush Attack, which will take out more than half of your health, something that’s not common for a guaranteed combo in ARMS.

Knowing the threat after having just been hit by a pivotal Rush confirm in the last game, I strove to keep my distance as best I could in spite of the small stage layout. I managed to land a Yabuki combo first off a raw grab, dealing a little under half her health bar,

but it wasn’t enough to finish her off, then she tagged me with a charged Megawatt into a grab into a rush off the spring, taking out nearly 2/3rds of my health and putting us in a frantic last-hit situation, which she ultimately pulled out.

Round 2 I got off to a hot start yet again, getting her down to less than 1/4th of her health before taking damage, but she once again landed a devastating electric Yabuki and managed to come from behind to end my tournament run.

I finished tied for 5th place in the Biffler bracket (one of 8 the entrants were divided up into) under the tag "Heavy."

Overall I thought it was an enjoyable and reasonably well-run tournament, in spite of a few ruleset irregularities like the single elimination format and the questionable stagelist, but it was nevertheless a major positive that Nintendo was able to get through a fairly large tournament with no major issues that I’m aware of. As for the overall results, AstroNinja took 1st place, GoreMagala took 2nd, JMCanada took 3rd, Gryffical took 4th, Resolve and Gouf tied for 5th, and CCLandFrog and HESS tied for 7th. Generally these results weren’t too surprising, since these are largely among the most decorated North American ARMS players over the competitive life of the game, with CCLandFrog being a slight dark horse relative to the other names, but he's still a known and well-regarded Ninjara player. So whatever complaints one might have had with the ruleset and formatting, the cream still rose to the top. It was a good opportunity to revive interest in the game and competitive scene, and I’m happy that Nintendo is giving this fanbase some love. 

What are your thoughts on Nintendo's renewed interest in ARMS? Would you be interested in seeing an ARMS 2?

KoopaTV live-reacted to that Yabuki exhibition match here!
The previous Online Open covered on KoopaTV was the Spring 2020 for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
ARMS demo not enough? Try Splatoon 2 a month later.
ARMS is getting another tournament four months later!


  1. Hello, HeavyLobster43. I’m Tangerine, one of the viewers from the website. I’m glad that I was able to get the link by Ludwig, and there are some things that I want to comment on this article. First of all, I really appreciate the amount of detail that you use to describe the gameplay and types of ARM combinations in the game. I’m not familiar with the game since, I never played ARMS until the game gain popularity by Nintendo of America when they gave players the ability to play ARMS for a short amount of time. Since I’m new to the game, I wasn’t able to get far into the bracket because I played against a professional who has 80 hours into the game. Having an article that went as far as 8th place into the bracket is enough to share the tournament to newcomers of the game. Other than that, I’m hopeful that you will be able to help carry the website by sharing various gaming genres that are not often found in a website about video games. Thank you and have a nice day! - Larry Koopa

    1. Thanks,I wanted to show how I think about things to help explain why I like the game. I've been playing off and on since launch and I really like all the different kinds of builds you can mess around with. I'm glad you liked the article!


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