Arms has been a surprise hit on the Switch, but the competitive-minded players who have latched onto it are having difficulty establishing a standard format for high-level Arms matches.
Each fighters in Arms has three default choices for each of their arms. Helix has his Blorb, Ice Dragon and Guardian, while Min Min has Ramrams, Megawatts and her signature Dragon. Though every player starts with these options, as you play the game more, you can unlock new options for each character, either arms from other fighters or souped-up “+” versions of arms.
The conflict comes in deciding whether these custom arms are allowed in tournaments or not. Though the game allows them in online play, both in ranked and normal matches, the process to obtain all the custom arms is arduous. It can take a lot of time grinding out coins and punching boxes in the randomized arms-acquiring mini-game to get the ones you want, much less every arm in the game.
For some players, custom arms are the only way to go. It evens the playing field by eliminating default arms, which allows some characters to shine in spite of their lackluster default loadouts (see: Helix). Reddit user /u/TheJamaicanGamer summed it up well in a post to the Arms subreddit this morning:
If it an issue of variability and balance, then I think that custom arms would become better for balance overall, as characters would not have to be locked to a few arm combinations, so we can think of characters separetely [sic] from arms, instead of now where we may have to choose our most disliked character in order to get the arms we like, or the most viable arms, keeping only a few characters played to get the arms we want.
Though it increases options for players, custom arms can also create issues for tournament organizers. The amount of time and effort to unlock the necessary custom arms for competition is demanding, and that would require events to have multiple Switch consoles with fully unlocked arm arsenals. Since there’s no save data transfer on the Switch at the moment, it would take manual effort to unlock the content on all those devices for tournaments.
One major upcoming tournament, the 2GGC Arms Saga, has already mandated that only default arms with no upgrades can be used in their event. An online exhibition tournament was hosted last night in Japan however, commentated by the game’s producer Mr. Yabuki, that allowed custom arms to be used. The difference is that this was an online event, however, so the onus was on the competitors to have their own custom equipment unlocked to play.
Some hold out for a tournament mode which standardizes all of this, but until then, it seems up to the event organizers and players to determine their own competitive ruleset for Arms.