Nintendo’s long awaited new IP is finally out! So, what the hell is Splatoon, anyway?
Splatoon is a third-person shooter where you play as a “fresh looking” humanoid squid child that runs around shooting ink all over the place. Oh, and you can turn into an actual squid and swim in your ink. You have a choice between four main weapon types (handgun, machine gun, sniper, roller) which all have different sub-weapons based on which specific model you choose. There are actual 20 weapons in total, which unlock one by one as you level up. This is Nintendo’s first big step into the realm of online multi-play, and as such, this game is extremely focused on that aspect. There’s a single player campaign mode, which is about six hours in total, that serves more like a training module over anything else; and that’s okay. What it lacks in content, it makes up for in sheer charm. As a tool for getting yourself familiar with the mechanics of the game itself, it works really well. The biggest mechanic you’ll have to get used to is spreading the arenas with ink and learning how to maneuver within it. Unlike most shooters, Splatoon‘s overall goal isn’t to take out your opponents, but rather to cover the ground with as much ink as possible*. Oh sure, you’ll have to take out people to survive and gain the upper hand, but it won’t win you points in the long run if that’s all your focusing on. Oh, and you need those points to level your character up, which grants you access to better weapons and gear.
The most interesting thing about Splatoon is the variety to customization your character can have. Shops get new gear in every day, so you can make your character look as fresh as possible. Clothes are treated as gear, and therefore have attributes associate with them that lend you a hand in battle. So, customization does more than just make you look cool; it’s an incentive to try out new items based on your playing style. Before any of the shopkeepers will sell to you, you need to be “looking fresh.” So, you’ll have to get your hands dirty in multiplayer and level your character up before you can buy anything. While leveling up doesn’t directly affect your character, it does gain you access to better gear in the shops.
Now, let’s talk about the game itself. As I stated, it’s mostly an online multiplayer game; probably the first of its kind for Nintendo. Thus far, I’m actually impressed with how well the servers have been holding up. While I have run into a few fumbles here and there, it was nothing to get bend out of shape about. Issues were quickly resolved in a matter of seconds. Only once did it actually kick me out of a game entirely. As of now, the only game you can play is a “Turf War.” This pits two teams of four players against one another in a three-minute battle to cover as much of the arena in ink as possible. It can get really intense, and the best battle are those you have with people in similar level rankings as you. And that leads me into my only real complaint about the game.
Splatoon isn’t very fair most of the time. When you get into a room, chances are good that you’ll be playing with people that are at an array of different levels; the max level being 20. That gives some players access to way better gear than others. Imagine starting off as level 1 and getting thrown into a game consisting of people at 15 and up; you’re not going to fair well. Sure, the game has a degree of tact and skill you need to apply, but when others have gear that gives them three additional attributes as opposed to your level 1 gear, there’s only so much you can do before you’re taken out. The game also randomizes all the players into different teams. There doesn’t appear to be any reasoning behind how it divides players either. There were quite a few matches I played where everything was extremely one-sided. And this isn’t me complaining about losing either; I was on the winning side quite a few times. Matches can be a slaughterhouse. So, I think they need to add in some sort of level capping for matches to make them fair. Granted, you still get stuff when you lose, it just takes you longer to level up and gain better stuff. It’s not a deal breaker, but for some people, this might upset them.
The biggest complaint other people have is the lack of online chat. Nintendo, being family-friendly, decided it was best to leave out the ability for people to talk to one another in the game. Considering that I typically get paired with people from Japan, it makes zero difference to me. You also can’t communicate with anyone on your friends list either… like most Nintendo games. That kind of sucks, but it’s easily solved with a simple Skype call. Honestly, Splatoon is a game where you don’t really need the voice chat. All the information you need is available right in front of you, without having to speak a single word to anyone. By looking at the gamepad, you can tell where you teammates are, who’s winning the match, and what areas you need to cover. After a could of level gains and experience you gain from playing, you will instinctively know what your role is along with where/what you should be doing.
When you get paired with teammates around the same level, and who all know what role they should play, it’s a beautiful thing to watch everything come together. I play the roller. It’s a weapon that can cover a lot of ground with ink in a short amount of time, but it has practically zero range of attack. This leaves you open the vast majority of the time. Sure, you can run people over… but that means you have to get close without getting shot. My job, as the roller, is to cut a path to the more vital areas of the map so that teammates can follow behind quickly. While I’m covering the ground, I’m basically a sitting duck… so everyone else needs to defend me. My weapon that I enjoy using (Krak-On) allows me to drop beacon points to get teammates back to me as quickly as possible if they die. Sometimes I play with people that understand this mechanic… and then other times I play with people who go for the “every man for themselves” tactic. When you lose, you have to just take everything with a grain of salt and hope that others pick up on what their role should be.
Other than those minor issues, Splatoon is super fun. While I love Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros., Splatoon is definitely the title that should convince you to buy a Wii U. I’m not big into the shooter genre unless it does something innovative and fresh, and Splatoon definitely delivers on that end. It’s bright, colorful, and comical. It’s riddled with clever puns and word plays. It reeks of Nintendo charm in all the right ways. The music is hip and exciting; something you’d jam out to in the car. Okay, maybe not you… but I would. It’s something that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of skill-level, while still being an in-depth tactical shooter. That’s how games should be: something simple enough for anyone to pick up and enjoy, but with a lot of depth for older players.
I’m loving it to pieces. I’ll update this as a continue to play the game!
*I should note that Splatoon isn’t completely finished yet. Overall, when you compare it to other shooters, it’s actually lacking content. Turf War is the only online mode you can play, with Ranked Battles coming soon. The single player campaign is fairly short. Local games is a 1v1 balloon-popping battle mode, which is pretty neat in small doses. Oh, and there’s a total of five maps available. However, more content is coming every couple of weeks, for free, all throughout the summer. And, I can’t really complain about that. They put out what they had finished, which all works well, and said, “Get good at this. Figure out the game. More content is coming.” Maybe you’ll want to wait until everything’s available. Maybe you’re okay with this like I am. The Amiibo will add an additional 2-3 hours to the single player mode, which add variety to every level you’ve played. You might think it’s a rip off, paying $13 for content, but at least you get a super neat figure out of it. I know you’ve paid more for less-giving DLC.