Nintendo has always been the game changer when it comes to the video game industry. There is rarely a genre they haven’t had their hand on at some point in their illustrious history. They created the 3D-platformer with Super Mario 64, dabbled in First-Person shooters with Metroid Prime and made a non-threatening RTS fun with Pikmin. Nintendo have even created their own “genres” with games like Luigi’s Mansion.
One area that Nintendo has yet to set foot in is the online, competitive shooter market. Well, Nintendo has done it again: this time with their new 3rd Person, online arena shooter, Splatoon. When Nintendo steps into a new genre, they don’t go the easy route. No, they choose to go in a more… colorful direction.
Splatoon invites you into the bright and cheerful world of Inkopolis, where half-human, half-squid hybrids called “inklings” rule the landscape. Everything about this world shows off Nintendo’s famous charm. From the humor of the store owners, to the almost squirt-gun like look of all the weaponry. Even the way the characters move and tentacles sway as they run is adorable. It is all sprinkled with that special Nintendo magic.
As you turn on Splatoon, you are dropped into the hub world, or “Booyah Base”, as it is called. In this world you are greeted with a variety of paths to take. You may head to the shops to upgrade your clothes and weapons, try out the single player campaign, or even take on challenges that are unlocked with Splatoon-specific Amiibo. However, the real meat of this game is the online multiplayer.
Currently, the main mode of online play is called Turf Wars. The objective is to cover the enemies turf with as much ink as possible. The matches are 4 vs 4 and are limited to 3 minutes per round. I know this may seem short, but Nintendo has found what I consider to be that sweet spot. You always feel that you have enough time to turn the tide of the battle, but not too long that you feel it dragging on. But what would an online shooter be without its weapons? Nintendo has definitely brought out its creativity for this one!
Splatoon is based on the use of four core weapon types. You start out with the standard Splattershot, a weapon that is very similar in appearance to the super soaker you would use for your summer water fights as a kid. It has a steady fire rate, and allows you to cover a fair amount of ground. The smaller version of this weapon, the Splattershot Jr, is very similar to the Splattershot, but fires in faster bursts but with less of an impact on your enemies.
The third class is the sniper class; also know as the Splat Charger. The weapon has a slow fire rate, because you need to charge it before each shot; however, once fired, it will streak a long trail of paint across the entire battlefield. This weapon is fantastic for taking out enemies, and finds its groove in a more supportive role in modes such as ranked battles.
Lastly, the final weapon type is known as the Splat Roller. As the name implies, this weapon is a giant paint roller. It definitely covers more ground than any other weapon, but it has the shortest range. The roller is often compared to a shotgun. If an enemy is close by you can easily just roll them over, but if they are at a distance you are at a clear disadvantage.
The game is controlled traditionally with sticks and buttons, but with a twist. While you move your character with the left stick and the camera with the right, you are able to gently tilt the gamepad for additional accuracy through motion controls. I must say that after playing a shooter with this style of control, it will definitely be difficult to go back to the older play style as it grants you a precision rarely felt in console games.
Once you cover the ground with your ink by pressing the ZR button, you are then able to turn into your squid-form and swim through the ink for additional speed with the press of the ZL button, filling your ink tank (see ammo) as you swim. You can even hide in the ink, which is a great strategy for sneaking up on your enemies.
As of this writing, Nintendo has just two online modes with 6 maps. The ranked battle mode and one additional map were recently added on June 1. They have planned free DLC through the month of August to add modes, maps, and content. The real question is: does the audience have the patience to wait that long? Within the first 48 hours of the games release, many players have already hit the max level of 20. Will the new content be enough to bring them back?
With the newly added Ranked Battle mode, the game forces you to think in an entirely different way. Where Turf War has you trying to cover as much ground as possible, Ranked Battle has you fighting to command a certain point of the map for a designated amount of time. Once you “claim” an area a timer starts to count down. If your team can hold it until zero, you win, but if the enemy claims it their timer begins to drop.
The match only lasts 3 minutes, just like Turf War, so if no clock reaches zero, the game divides points among the teams in relation to the amount of time left on each clock. Where Turf War is much more laid back, this mode is fast, furious, and in your face. This must be why Nintendo requires you to reach level 10 before you can even attempt these ranked battles. This mode does bring up a flaw with the game: no voice chat.
With games like Turf War, where not much strategy is involved, the absence of voice chat doesn’t seem to be much of a hindrance. Yet when you are playing the rank battles, you really need strong teamwork to succeed; so this flaw becomes more apparent. While the game is still enjoyable, it would have helped the overall experience.
The online multiplayer is something that is very ambitious for Nintendo, while still showing their fear of stepping into the unknowns of the online space. They appear to be dipping their toe in the water, instead of a full-on cannonball of content. Could this approach backfire on them? Nintendo is not known to release a game “incomplete”, so the staggered release may all be part of their overarching plan.
Splatoon is made for its multiplayer; nevertheless it does also feature a single player “campaign” of sorts. The word campaign should be taken lightly though, as it is more mini-challenges linked by boss battles, instead of a full on story mode. It is great that Nintendo added this mode to extend Splatoon‘s content, yet it takes roughly 5-6 hours to complete as long as you don’t try to search and collect everything. It is no Titanfall “campaign”, thank goodness, but it is still on the shorter side.
To increase the single player, Nintendo has added additional challenges through Amiibo support. Depending on the Amiibo you choose, you will play through the single player “campaign” again, only this time with special circumstances. The girl Inkling makes you play through with a Splat Charger, the boy Inkling makes you play through with a Splat Roller. The Squid Amiibo adds different challenges, such as completing a course under a certain amount of time or with a certain amount of ink. Please make note that the Squid Amiibo can only be purchased through the special Splatoon Amiibo 3-pack.
With Splatoon, Nintendo has done something truly special. They have taken what has been known as a violent, stressful, and super competitive space and turned it on its head into a family-friendly, colorful, addictive game where you never feel out played. Everyone stands a chance, yet the game remains challenging and full of Nintendo charm. While the lack of voice chat may be an issue for some, and the staggered release of modes and maps is frustrating, Nintendo always seems to know what they are doing. They have created something unique in a way that only Nintendo can. If you own a Wii U, Splatoon should definitely be part of your gaming library.
FINAL SCORE: 9.2/10
Splatoon is available on the Wii U.