Live and let dye!
What’s brown, gray and red all over? Most shooter games these days! At least that was the case, until Splatoon splashed onto the scene with a plethora of bright colors and adolescent angst galore! Most titles in the shooter genre are dark, aggressive and, quite frankly, sometimes hard to tell apart. The same pattern of camouflage and gore is seen across popular titles such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Counter-Strike, and the formula has gotten a bit predictable and stale. This is part of what makes Splatoon such a welcome and refreshing change; it proves that the shooter genre need not be defined by realistic violence and aggression. Unlike fellow games in the shooter category, Splatoon’s gameplay doesn’t focus on getting a bullet through your opponent’s skull – it instead invites you to use your environment in a creative way in order to lay claim to the majority of the territory with your respective team’s colored ink. The results prove to be innovative, light hearted, and fun for all ages.
Splatoon is Nintendo’s first true original title in over 10 years. Most of us might not have noticed, but the last original titles Nintendo released were Animal Crossing and Pikmin back in 2001! Their most popular franchises, which include notable properties such as Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Metroid, and Donkey Kong, were all birthed in the 80’s and 90’s and have been getting sequels, prequels, and spin-offs ever since. It’s a testament to fans’ devotion to those series to be sure, and there’s certainly no shortage of quality, but it’s also problematic that Nintendo has been able to keep reusing the same franchises on repeat dozens of times without all that much pressure to innovate. It is exciting to see Nintendo meet the challenge to take a chance on something new- and the risk is definitely worth the reward in Splatoon’s case.
In Splatoon, you play as an Inkling, which is half kid, half squid, and all spunk. These little tentacle adorned punks are out to claim their turf by splatting ink any way they can. The star of the show is certainly the online multiplayer matches, in which the object of the game is to cover the majority of the stage in your color ink, more so than your opponents’, before the time runs out. You play in two teams of four, each with their own respective color to spread. The Inklings have plenty of gear to choose from including an array of squirt guns, rollers, and brushes to ink with as they please. Each weapon set comes with subweapons such as bombs, beacons, sensors, and sprinklers, and specials such as the Inkstrike, Killer Wail, and the almighty Kraken. The weapons, sub weapons, and specials come prepackaged together so you can’t mix and match. While this might seem frustrating and limiting at first, you’ll quickly realize that this allows the gameplay to remain balanced. The Inklings also have the latest threads to equip themselves with in order to get the job done and look good doing it. Different swag, including headgear, tops, and kicks, give you different abilities such as stronger attack or defense, higher speed, quicker respawn time, and more. The wide range of weapons and gear allow you to switch up your style often. Once you’re equipped, you’re ready for battle!
Splatoon’s ink-based mechanics are ingenious. The more ink of your color you are able to lay down, the better! As a kid you can run amok with your chosen weapons and as a squid you can rapidly swim in and out of your own colored ink. If you’re running low on ammo, you need only dip into a pool of your own ink for a quick refill! Step into your opponent’s colored ink and you are severely slowed and vulnerable! The kid to squid transformation is seamless so you can quickly adapt the proper strategy for any situation; this allows for lots of creativity as the landscape is constantly changing and adapting is key. In addition to online battles, there is also 1 on 1 local multiplayer which pits you against your friend to see who can pop the most balloons before time is up. This mode is rather limited as you can only choose from a couple select stages and weapons, and you can only play against one friend which is a bit disappointing.
Despite the focus on online multiplayer battles, the single player story mode holds its own as well. Your objective is to reclaim the city’s precious Zapfish, their source of power, and defend Inkopolois from the impending “inkvasion” from the Octarian enemy. In the single player campaign maps are less focused on inking your surroundings and more about using that ink to get from point A to B. This shift in focus transforms the game from a shooter to an awesome platformer with some puzzles and surprises, and of course, it wouldn’t be Nintendo without some epic boss battles. Splatoon’s boss fights follow a familiar structure comparable to a Mario or Zelda title, in which you must implement the game’s unique mechanics to exploit the boss’s weakness.
Splatoon certainly gives a nod to the nautical as puns are abound. It took me a week to realize that the adorable news anchors, Callie and Marie, are a play on the word calamari. In addition to the Inklings, the shopkeeps at Booyah Base, include a tempura-fried shrimp, a sea anemone with a clownfish companion, a nerdy clam, and a jellyfish with an accent. There’s even a back-alley street urchin, who will make you counterfeit goods for the right price. The cast of characters are amusing as well as inventive, and play into the marine theme very well.
The settings also take influences from popular Japanese culture. Inkopolis bears a striking resemblance to Japan’s Shibuya shopping district and the Inkopolis Tower looks almost identical to the Tokyo Tower. This game’s Amiibos unlock new content including remixed campaign levels and costumes such as a Japanese school uniform, a Samurai outfit, and even a Mech suit. The combination of urban street culture and ocean life is charming and makes for a unique world.
People may complain about the initial lack of content in Splatoon, but the game is constantly coming out with new content at no additional charge to keep things fresh. The August 6th update brings a large amount of new content to the game, including two new matchmaking modes, Squad Battle and Private Battle, which will allow you to play exclusively with friends so you can finally form your very own squid squad! The update also includes new weapon types, an increase to the game’s level-cap and even 40 pieces of new gear. There are also frequent Splatfests which are special events that allow you to choose a side, such as Cats vs. Dogs or Roller Coasts vs. Water Slides, and duke it out for your favorite team; to the victors go the spoils!
All in all, Splatoon is extremely creative, inventive, and just plain fun. The online multiplayer and the single player story mode are excellent, and now, with the addition of these updates and special events, there is no doubt that Splatoon is worth the price of admission. So gear up, get out there, and of course, staaaaay fresh!!