There was a large degree of excitement around Splatoon when it was announced during last years E3. Catching observers off guard, Nintendo announced a brand new IP, and more surprising the title was set to take on the console shooter market. Splatoon can be considered uncharted territory for Nintendo. It is unlike anything that the Big N – or any publisher for that matter – has developed. Distinctively Nintendo, Splatoon foregoes the over-the-top violence and the realistic look for a family friendly style shooter that doesn’t skimp on the deep gameplay. Splatoon left a positive impression. But impressions are just that, impressions. Now that the game is out in the wild, does Splatoon fulfill its potential? Does it deliver upon its promise? Does Nintendo have a winner here?
For a game that has a strong focus on online multiplayer, Splatoon has a more than decent single player campaign. Perhaps it is not as well fleshed out or displays the same level of craftsmanship of the Super Mario series; it is, however, a genuine fun distraction from the multiplayer. You will be mistaken to believe that the single player campaign is a glorified tutorial. I found that the single player is a vastly different experience from the multiplayer segment. The campaign itself plays more like a Platformer, with a great focus on precise jumping and overcoming numerous obstacles. Not surprising – considering that this is an Nintendo EAD developed game – levels are well designed offering plenty of clever ideas and challenge. Unfortunately, the single player campaign is bound by the core gameplay mechanic of the multiplayer and because of this restriction I felt by the end of the campaign Nintendo had ran out of ideas to keep the experience fresh. There is a limit to what you can do with the paint and swim gameplay of Splatoon, and this certainly shows towards the end. It isn’t too much of a detriment as the campaign doesn’t overstay its welcome, lasting around 5-6 hours.
Outside the campaign there are no worthwhile content that isn’t online. Additional content comes at a price, and that price being Amiibo. The content in Amiibo are entirely optional and the rewards from completing the content give you no real advantage over other players. The Amiibo challenges themselves are quite literally reworked stages from the single player with a few twist and turns to keep you on your toe. Nintendo has strikes a good balance, the content is not compelling enough to annoy players who did not buy an Amiibo, but it offers enough value to justify your purchase.
Enough with the single player portion of Splatoon, because let’s face it, majority of the time spent will be online with players around the world. And online play is where Splatoon shines brightly. It is the most addictive online shooter to hit the market since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It is fast, focus, fresh and more importantly fun. Splatoon uses a fresh gameplay mechanic not seen in any game before. Once you get hooked, the game will never let go, it will consume you and your time.
The entire game is around ink. Ink plays a number of roles in the meta game and is surprisingly versatile in use. At its basic, it is used to shoot enemies and cover surface. When used tactically, it becomes camoflage, a means of escape and or a method of trapping. One can only imagine the creative strategies in professional play. The game design is quite brilliant and it makes you wonder what took so long for someone to make Splatoon.
Personally, one of my favorite strategies is to trap advancing player with a trail of ink with a charger weapon. Then use the superior range to pick them off from afar. I know some like to hide in their ink and wait for someone to pass before engaging in battle. While others may just want to run and start spraying wildly. Splatoon offers multiple play-styles and is not restricting to serve one.
At the moment, Splatoon offers two modes: Turf War and Splat Zones. In turf War, teams battle it out to claim the most territory with their ink. Here, kill counts are not a necessity as there is a strong focus on the team’s cause then an individual performance. Adept players can push forward into enemy territory, taking turf and picking off enemies. While novice can go on their own accord, spraying ink and taking turf. The other mode is Splat Zones, which was unlocked a few days. In this mode, kills (splats) and skills are essential. Teams are tasked to take and hold a section of the map to start a countdown. The first team to get their countdown to zero wins. These modes are tailored to compliment the ink gameplay and are not throwaways to artificially bloat the game with content. Unfortunately at the moment, Splatoon lacks additional rule-sets. Nintendo has purposefully withheld a couple of multiplayer modes and maps until the population of player has grown. I personally believe that Splatoon justifies its price, but If you are sitting on the fence, then perhaps it would be wise to wait until August. Though the game still lacks voice-chat.
I appreciate the amount of customization’s available for your Inkling. There are over 20 weapon sets to pick and use in online multiplayer, each distinct with their own sub weapon an special combinations. You can also customize the attire of your inkling with gear, which doubles up as the perk system. Each piece of attire has an ability (with more attained with prolong use) attached to them giving you a boost in the battlefield. With so many options available, Splatoon is masterfully balanced. I’ve never felt that one particular weapon or ability was too overpowered that it ruined the balance of the game. It really goes to show the amount of effort and attention to details was put into Splatoon’s multiplayer.
Splatoon is Nintendo audacious answer to its critics. Those who have been clamoring on about the lack of new IP’s and good online multiplayer experiences from the company can firmly shut their gob, Nintendo has delivered on all fronts and more. But more importantly is Splatoon the next great franchise from Nintendo? Possibly… it is too early to tell, but what I can tell you is that Splatoon is an inkredible multiplayer experience (pardon the pun), one that you should definitely give a go.