Splatoon is an interesting game, to say the least. It’s addicting and frustrating at the same time. It’s easy to pick up while still managing to be infuriatingly shallow. Most importantly, perhaps, Splatoon is fun. Some of the design choices make me want to head slam my controller. However, like most Nintendo games, Splatoon has that special ‘it’ factor that keeps the controller in my hands for just one more game. It nails all the ancillary parts of what makes a good game with aplomb, but for me it falls short in at least a couple key areas.
It’s a good summary of why I love and hate Nintendo.
Surely you’ve heard of Splatoon, but for those who haven’t, here you go: You play as an anamorphic squid with an arsenal of ink-spraying weaponry and a penchant for leaving a paint filled mess in your wake. You play 3v3 matches against other octo-freaks trying to paint more of the ground with your team’s color than theirs. After three minutes, whichever team has painted the ground more wins. And then you play again. And again.
Now, the gameplay is sublime. It’s fast, frantic, silky, and an undeniable good time. It just feels right. But that’s only when you turn off the motion controls. For the first few hours I didn’t even know this was an option, and was wandering around blasting ink wildly until I dove into one of the menus to turn this off. Whoever decided that motion controls were a good fit for this game either has never played an action game in their life or had a little too much to drink. They simply don’t work at all.
Aside from the gameplay, the presentation is positively “Nintendo,” and that’s a very good thing. The various shop keepers in the hub world spout corny jokes, the music is great, and the color pallet is sharp. We’ve all played Nintendo games, and we know that they almost always nail the presentation, and Splatoon is no exception.
So what’s my beef with the game? It plays well, the presentation is good, and it’s fairly addicting. But, more and more, I get the feeling that some of the leads at Nintendo are so out of touch of what games people play nowadays. I don’t think this is a new trend. Do people at Nintendo even pay attention to non-Nintendo games, or even play their own games? There’s no way that anyone who’s played a first or third-person shooter created in the last decade or so could think that the motion controls were a solid control scheme. Or that anyone who’s played an online competitive game would think that the exclusion of voice chat was fine. It’s simply inexcusable. These are the kind of ignorant design choices that have plagued Nintendo games for a very long time.
I love Nintendo, and I want Nintendo to be successful. But they have to start looking at what other developers are doing so well. The fact that it’s 2015 and the Wii U even exists is shocking. The U runs about as fast as my toaster, and online functionality is sparse and incoherent. The controller is built like a Tonka truck, and third party support is nearly non-existent.
If you watched the Nintendo World Championships this year, you got to see Reggie Fils-Aime play Super Smash Bros. He was awful. Like, really awful. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had never played before that weekend. Yes, he is probably busy running Nintendo, but the whole presentation was so phony. Here was Reggie, the President of Nintendo, who supposedly loved Super Smash Bros and declared he was going to “kick ass”, and he didn’t even know how to use the jump button. This is what frustrates me about Nintendo. They have very talented developers working for them, but how can they succeed when the people making decisions don’t even seem to play video games themselves?
Like I said before: I love Nintendo. Some of my favorite memories growing up are pulling an all-nighter to beat Ocarina of Time, or getting everyone in my neighborhood together to play Super Smash Bros, or finally paying off my mortgage in Animal Crossing. I want them to succeed, but Splatoon simply doesn’t, at least not for me. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s so shallow, and missing some components of a competitive multiplayer shooter that should be standard. It doesn’t even belong in this decade. If Nintendo continues on this route, they are doomed to fail.