If you haven’t seen it yet, Nintendo held a special Direct conference (May 7th) to discuss some of the upcoming features in Splatoon. At the end, it was announced that a demo of the game would be available to download… but there was a catch; it could only be played at specific times. The first was Friday night at 11 p.m. EST and went for an hour. There will be two more: Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. By “demo” Nintendo really means that they’re stress-testing the online server to see how it handles. They chose the times they did in order to ensure that they game was available to a wide audience. I have no way of knowing how many people joined in globally, but I will say that I dropped out one time the whole hour. Finding myself back in a game too absolutely no time at all. So, that’s a good sign. Honestly, given their recent flubs with online services (PokeBank/Club Nintendo) I’m glad that they were conscious enough to run a stress test.
But Rico, what about the gaaaaaaame?! I’m getting to that. Don’t get your knickers in a bunch.
If you haven’t seen anything about this game, let me briefly explain it. Splatoon is a third-person shooter, of sorts, where you command an Inkling (squid-humanoid) around a large arena. Instead of regular guns, Inkling command paintball/Super Soaker style weapons. Objectives vary based on the type of game you’re playing.
This is the first time the general public has been granted an opportunity to try out Splatoon, and I can say with confidence that the hype is not overstated; it’s a blast! After a fairly quick demonstration of the controls, you’re ready to jump into the game. You decide what your inkling is going to look like and what weapons you’d like to use. In Splatoon, you have a main weapon, a sub-weapon, and a special weapon. From what I understand, you can mix and match these to your playing style. In the demo, secondary weapons were tied to your primary weapon. Each weapon has a completely different play style, as to be expected. You have a pistol weapon, a machine-gun type, a sniper, and a roller (like, a giant paint roller). I found myself using the roller until the game dropped; then I switched to the pistol. I much prefer the roller. The real interesting thing about Splatoon is being able to transform into a squid and swim in your color ink. You can hide in ink and ambush enemies… or swim up walls. It’s also how you refill your ammo. So, figuring out the right balance between attacking and recharging can be tricky.
There are a few different multi-player games, but the demo was limited to one where the objective was to cover the ground with your color ink. These matches were limited to 5 minute burst sessions, which seemed like the perfect amount of time. I wasn’t super great at the game, but I seemed to be on the winning side most of the time. Getting the hand of everything takes a little time, and it can be a slightly disorienting… but once you get the hang of it, everything comes natural.
Splatoon released on May 29th. I can’t wait!
EDIT (5/11): Talking Points
Being sick on Saturday, I was granted an opportunity to stay in and play the third, and last, testfire for Splatoon (3-4pm EST). It’s still just as much fun as the first time I played, if not more. I can’t speak for the game as a whole, but if I was just given what I was, I could definitely see myself playing for hours. I have a feeling that this will make one hell of a fine addition to the Nintendo roster of games, as well as new IPs.
I encountered a connection problem about a half hour into the session. After I backed out of my game room to switch weapons, there was roughly a minute where I couldn’t get back into another room. Beyond that, I didn’t encounter any other issues. Honestly, given Nintendo’s track record and slightly archaic online functionality, I was a bit leery with how everything was going to run. Aside from the mild issues trying to get back into a room, playing nearly 12 rounds smoothly and without lag is almost unheard of. So, maybe Nintendo is finally starting to wise up with their online functionality to properly meet demands.
As for the game itself, there does seem to be some balancing issues. I wouldn’t say that any of the weapons were overpowered, as they all seem to balance/counteract one another out pretty well; but in certain instances, weapon combinations can make the game a little one-sided. You don’t pick your team in Splatoon; all eight played get shuffled back and forth between both teams. In one particular instance, I was placed on a team with three other rollers. I too was using a roller. In a Turf War battle, where the objective is to cover as much ground as possible with your color ink, having four players that function the best in that situation seems a bit unfair. It was. My team not only won, we dominated the other side. It was the same 8 people I had been playing with for over 20 minutes. We were all pretty damn good and doing our best to deal with what we were given. In a Turf War, when you’re going up against four people with weapons designed to cover as much ground in ink as quick as possible with regular guns and snipers… you don’t stand a chance. Even if you take one out, there’s another one right there to take control again. And again, this isn’t be bitching because I lost. I won this round and I’m telling you that it wasn’t fair! I think an easy fix would be to have one of each main weapon type on a single team. Everything would be balanced and teams would be on an even playing field.
One of the other things to remember is that, like most Nintendo titles, online communication is non-existent. That’s right! Would you like to chat with your friends while play MK8, SSB or Splatoon? Then you better get on a Skype call. And a lit of people are complaining about this. For me, since Chim is the only one I ever play online with, having online chat isn’t a big issue for me. We get on a Skype call and problem solved. I thought it was amazing that people from around the world, different ages, genders, religions, ethnicities, all managed to come together and play a game. I didn’t know who these other people were (except the Japanese ones, thanks to the letter characters), and I didn’t care. We didn’t speak a single verbal word to one another, but we somehow managed to coordinate together and work as a team. Everything you needed to know was clearly visible on screen or one the gamepad… and it worked well. At first, we all needed to get a feel for everything. After a few rounds, we all knew our proper roles and were covering grounds based on our needs. It was great. You don’t need voice chat for something like this.