July 2, 2015
Ever since I saw the debut trailer for Splatoon a few E3’s back, My hype levels have been through the roof. The hyperactive paint aesthetic and peppy soundtrack helped evoke my inner child, the game looked like such genuine fun. Not to mention the outstanding art direction had me intrigued. Very few shooters look this colorful and the 90’s Shibuya fashion motif is a under utilized style. (brings back fond memories of the world ends with you)
Upon booting the game up your dropped into a skippable tutorial and then some dialougue in the main plaza hub world. The introductory fluff is very brief. Being a Nintendo game I was expecting half an hour of tutorials. Thankfully that wasn’t the case.
As for controlling the game, initial impressions are mixed. Juggling paint reserves at the start (especially when using sub weapons) can be difficult as is using the motion controls. About half of the buttons on the gamepad are actually used, The depth comes from mastering what abilities you do have and utilizing them for the correct situation.
The central premise for Splatoon is the ability to swim hastily in your own colour ink as a squid (and remain undetected by the enemy) and also shoot it onto surfaces using water pistol-like weapons as a bipedal squidling. It’s hugely innovative and I hope to see lots of shooters hop on the paintball gun bandwagon.
After sinking a lot of time into the game I now have zero complaints with the controls. Every weapon handles well, the motion controls add a definite advantage over regular twin stick aiming (once you get the hang of them that is) and the silky smooth frame rate makes moving and aiming feel sublime.
outside of gameplay the gamepad is used for shortcuts to various shops and menus. In battles you can use it to teleport and aim airstrikes. This explains why there is no off tv play support. It’s disappointing sure, but given the choice I would rather see more games take advantage of the controller.
Wiping out the enemy team with a well timed airstrike never gets old.
There is one example of off tv play and that’s in local 2 player mode dubbed battle dojo. It’s a simple throwaway mini game where players burst balloons for points. The frame rate is pretty choppy here and being deprived of motion controls is a disadvantage. (however, Nintendo did remedy this in a bizarre patch) Playing with just two people is pretty unexciting and I would have much preferred some kind of LAN mode, or even the addition of nunchuck & wiimote controls might have balanced it out a bit.
The main HUB world area which connects everything is a treat to behold. It works similar to Nintendoland where various Mii’s from other players would be wandering around and showing off miiverse posts. Whereas Nintendoland felt like a cluttered playbox, Splatoon’s feels like a vibrant shopping district. I’ve spent way more time here then I should looking at miiverse meme posts and admiring character animations.
Thanks Craig. You gave me a chuckle.
The single player story mode is a lot better then I expected considering how little of it Nintendo has shown off. The plot itself is pretty barebones. Octopus versus squid is all you really need, It’s window dressing similar to the plot in the Mario galaxy titles. In true Nintendo fashion, the bulk of the plot is self contained to witty banter from likeable npc`s and collectible lore items hidden in every level. (These items give a glimpse into the worlds history and do some eerie world building. Splatoon is actually a post apocalyptic game believe it or not!)
Theres little customization to the single player mode, just some linear upgrades for your equipment. The best shopping comes in the form of multiplayer. You have three pieces of equipment to wear each with a main ability which is more effective, and (up to) three less efficient sub abilities.
Some of the perks can be a bit hard to assess, your more worthwhile going for usable abilities like extra throwing distance & stealth swim instead of behind the scene number crunchers like attack up and defense up.
Of course, that all depends on how much a sucker you are for style.
The level selection at launch is quite meager. 5 including one downloaded. (although seemingly already on the disc. Bad Nintendo!) But there is a good balance, lots of verticality and hiding spots. No level is too big or too small and that goes for both modes available. Regular battles where you win by painting the most floor areas (walls don’t count for much I later found out) and turf war where two teams fight for control of designated areas much like king of the hill.
Of my favorite features in battle is the ability to teleport to another teammate as long as your both standing in ink simply by touching their icon on the gamepad. It’s a subtle way of training you to look at both screens during matches. Keeping an eye on the flow of battle is invaluable, as is catching people sneaking into your base and painting your turf.
The weapons have a great variety, The paint rollers are great for close range encounters and beginners who wanna paint instead of fighting. The machine guns and sub machine guns (named shooters) are a good balanced option and the sniper rifle (chargers) are better for people who have mastered the aiming and play stealthy. Even more variety is added to the weapons by the additions of sub weapons and special weapons. You can’t actually choose which ones are tied to what weapons. This (I feel) keeps the loadouts feeling fresh and balanced.
Hiding in walls and ambushing people with the roller is simply euphoric.
Speaking of loadouts, these are curiously absent from the game. If you want to change your equipment you need to exit a lobby and re-enter. Only a slight nuisance given how blazing fast the loading times are, and how reliable the servers have been. (In my own experience) Even if the connection times were lengthy, Nintendo have supplied a little NES like mini game to play on the gamepad while you wait which is a lovely addition.
like a cross between ice climbers and doodle jump.
Voice chat is absent (in typical Nintendo fashion) which does hurt the multiplayer. If you want to coordinate with a team your limited to 2 simple voice prompts on the D-pad. Plus theres no way to coordinate team loadout’s before a match.
Even worse, no private lobbies with friends or even stat tracking. (aside from how much turf inked with each weapon) This is a big oversight and I hope it gets patched in at a later date.
I can understand why Nintendo made the voice chat concession however, The sound quality on consoles is always subpar consider to other VOIP services available on PC (whenever i game online, i use skype on my desktop + wireless mic) that and Splatoon likely has quite a juvenile user base.
One other gripe is the level rotation system. Every four hours your given a set of two levels to play per mode. Ideally you would play each level one after the other. But most of my playtime has been the same level 6,7 or 8 times in a row which can be irksome.
Upon booting the game up (every-time) your greeted by two squid divas who announce the level rotations for both modes. It’s quite charming the first hundred or so times but now I’m hoping they patch in a skip button shortly.
Playing in regular battles has a level cap of 20 at the moment, which feels extremely short considering how furiously addictive the game is. Ranked has a lot more legs as you can lose your rank if you lose battles. (you start at c- and work up to a+) This system was maddening in Mario kart 8 because of its inherent randomness but it works better in Splatoon since it’s a more skill based game.
I haven’t had the fortune of trying out the Amiibo features (believe me, I tried) but judging from what they offer, they seem like quite good value. Lots of decent equipment and some replayability for the short campaign mode. Plus more mini games to play during connection times.
So should you buy Splatoon? Well with the amount of content available at the moment, full price is a little hard to swallow. But the promise of substantial free dlc down the line helps ease the financial sting. New game modes and weapons will add replayability to the existing content which I feel is the best kind.
The aforementioned problems I do have with the game are minimal considering how sheer fun it is and how addictive it can be. The presentation is flawless and it’s bursting with character.
Nintendo have proudly stated they want Splatoon to have the same effect on shooting games that Mario kart had on racing games and I think they may just manage it.