Nintendo has always been known for being unique. Games like Smash Bros. and Mario Kart deviate from their respective genres, creating new experiences, while games like Super Mario define them. However, for a while they have also been known for relying on old IPs, with their last big one being Pikmin in 2001.
With the shooter becoming the most popular gaming genre in the last decade, new IPs and shooters were big categories that Nintendo was lacking in. Then along came Splatoon: An unconventional game nobody was asking for that filled both roles.
Splatoon differentiates itself from an industry oversaturated with bloody, military games by being a colorful and lighthearted. The presentation is unlike anything ever seen before.
The game takes place far in the future of planet Earth, where humans are now extinct. A new species, the inkling, dominates the land. Inklings, who tend to be hipsters, are half kid and half squid. They can change their form from that of a humanoid to more squid-like at will. Players can customize their own teenage inklings with their own sense of style.
There are many interesting supporting characters in addition to inklings. Sheldon is both a horseshoe crab and a military fanatic. He loves discussing weapon blueprints and runs the weapon shop Ammo Knights. Spyke is a cockney sea urchin who sells the player off-the-market gear. He shares only some resemblance with a drug dealer.
Jelonzo is a jellyfish who runs the shirt shop Jelly Fresh. He changes his shirt every day, as the owner of a clothing store naturally would. Judd is a 12,000 year old black and white cat who also serves as the judge to all of the multiplayer matches.
Annie is a reserved sea anemone who runs the hat shop Cooler Heads. And of course, who could forget Moe, the manipulative clown fish who never shuts up yet refuses to leave the safety of Annie’s hair. All of these quirky characters are very unique, and they play a large part in developing the world around the player.
Another unique aspect that adds to the immersive world of Splatoon is the Squid Sisters. They are a pair of inklings who present news on their show. Whenever new maps are playable, or when new weapons are released, the Squid Sisters are always there to inform the player. Furthermore, the addition of an in game news show adds to the feeling of the interconnected world.
Splatoon also kept players connected with splatfests, day or two long events in which players took sides between two things, such as dogs vs cats, and fought for what they chose. During splatfests, it became nighttime, and the plaza turned into a party scene with the Squid Sisters, along with many other inklings, singing and dancing. Even the matches took place at night, with the Squid Sisters’ signature song playing throughout them.
In fact, all of the music that plays during Splatoon’s matches was made by musical groups that exist in the game’s world. They even have “lyrics”, too, although naturally, neither the inklings nor any other creature in the world of Splatoon speaks English. Interlocking the music with the lore is not something many other games do, and it helps pull the goofy, cartoon world together in a way that many realistic-looking games don’t ever accomplish. To top it off, most tracks are incredibly good, pumping players up during matches and sticking in their heads long after.
HOLD ON TO YOUR TENTACLES
The presentation and atmosphere of Splatoon are put together very well, but the bulk of what makes the game great is its unique, innovative multiplayer, which revolves around many unique mechanics. Players use ink as ammo in Splatoon’s 4 vs 4 matches. Each team, including their ink, is represented with a specific color. In addition to being able to shoot and kill enemies, ink falls onto the floors and sticks to the walls and other surfaces when shot.
Players can switch between their humanoid and squid forms with the simple press or release of a button. They can only shoot when in their humanoid form, but when they turn into their squid form, they can swim through ink of their own color. Swimming inklings go significantly faster than walking ones, and they are very hard to see, their position given away only slightly by a small stream of ink.
When they are under their own ink but are not moving, they are completely invisible. However, it is impossible to attack or spread ink while in squid form, so to do so one must come out from hiding.
These unique mechanics allow Splatoon to be a game that truly stands out. They culminate in a movement based shooter, where players strategically shoot turf in the best places and use their turf in order to swim around, get an advanced position on their opponents, and take them out. Skilled players can take advantage of the mechanics by rapidly swimming around, avoiding enemies, popping out of the ink, and killing enemies. At the same time, casual players can still help their team by spreading a lot of turf, allowing other players to navigate more easily.
The mechanics are simple enough for anyone, but they can become as complex as the player allows them to be, depending on how much he or she takes advantage of the weapon and movements options at hand.
The maps are designed incredibly well for the movement based gameplay. Players can swim through valleys, climb up walls, and jump between ledges. They are incredibly varied in their themes. One stage takes place in a skatepark, the next at a museum, another at a resort, and so on.
Additionally, various types of weapons are available, providing loads of ways to play. Shooters, rollers, chargers, blasters, sloshers, and splatling guns all offer different ways to play. Within these types, there are many more weapons to choose from.
There are also sub weapons, such as splat bombs, ink mines, and squid beacons. These can be used very effectively as mix-ups.
Finally, there are special weapons, which act similarly to ultimate powers in Overwatch. They must be charged to use them, and are a fun reward for helping the team. A welcome feature, they successfully change up the gameplay without being too overpowered. The many types of weapons combine with the other elements of the gameplay to ensure that Splatoon never gets old.
The movement based gameplay in Splatoon is absolutely critical, being the number one factor that makes the game stand out. Unlike in many other close-quartered shooters, getting killed, or splatted in this case, is not simply a matter of who saw who first. If a player is getting shot at, they can use the environment around them to swim, jump, or climb out of the way, perhaps launch out a splat bomb as a distraction, and then sneak up on the attacker from behind.
On the contrary, the the original attacker can spread ink in a way that makes it difficult to do so. Encounters are both exciting and varied. Of course, complex movement is nearly impossible on your own. Teammates can give the player more options to work with simply by spreading turf, which encourages teamwork.
The last part of the masterpiece that is Splatoon is its controls. Instead of relying on the right stick, the default controls have the player use the gamepad’s gyroscope for aiming. While they seem awkward at first, play for a few hours and one will realize how amazing they really are.
Instead of the imprecision of an analog stick, one can easily make minute adjustments in their aim. The gyroscope controls rival the accuracy of a mouse and keyboard while maintaining the comfort of a controller. They have the potential to be revolutionary, and are something that all multiplayer console shooters should adopt.
In addition to more precise aiming, the gyroscope controls allow the player to do more tasks at once, such as jumping and shooting at the same time, which is absolutely necessary for high-level Splatoon play. Despite their clear advantages, they can still be turned off if one is so inclined.
THE SPLATTERRIFIC VERDICT
Splatoon is a great shooter. A creative, detailed world, enticing music, and masterful controls combine with phenomenal game mechanics and map design, leading to one of the greatest and most unique experiences in gaming, let alone the shooter genre. Not only is Splatoon great on its own, but it’s something that reassures trust in Nintendo to create the types of franchises that gaming as a whole has come to know and love.
Splatoon was a light in the dark room of the WiiU. Due to low console sales, not many people were able to try this gem. However, with the Switch, Nintendo has already shown a Splatoon game of some kind. At this time, it is unknown whether it’s a brand new game or an enhanced port. Regardless, it should be a great chance for gamers everywhere to try and perhaps fall in love with the franchise. It won’t be a new IP anymore, but surely, Nintendo will add enough for it to stay fresh.