A lot of online gaming experiences tend to revolve around a lot of mature content and are catered to a very specific audience. Splatoon, with its colorful, cartoonish visuals and it’s squid-kid characters and amazing art direction fills a void that we never knew needed to be filled. Splatoon is an online third-person shooter that looks like it caters to the casual gaming market, but it’s also a game that has some deep gameplay mechanics that will satisfy the older and more experienced players.
The first thing most people notice when they see Splatoon are the visuals. Splatoon has a unique art direction with its use of bright colors, weird characters and the world that Nintendo built. The game is often compared to an old but memorable Dreamcast classic, Jet Set Radio, which was unique for a variety of reasons. It was a game where you roller-skated around a city, spraying graffiti on various surfaces. It was a game that was different; visually it was unique and bright, while the music was eclectic and upbeat. Mechanically there wasn’t anything like it. You weren’t killing anything. Splatoon is similar. It’s a third person shooter but instead of shooting bullets or laser, you shoot bright colored ink. You’re not human, but an Inkling with the ability to morph between your humanoid and squid form at will. When you play in your humanoid form, you can shoot ink that covers the environment around you in your team’s color allowing you to also swim through the ink as a squid if you choose to. Swimming through ink as a squid makes you faster and it’s an effective tactic if you want to out maneuver and flank your opponents. All this comes together to create an atmosphere that exudes positivity and cheerfulness.
Splatoon features two modes, a single player campaign and a multiplayer mode. The single player mode plays similarly to Super Mario Galaxy where you’re flying from one section of the map to the next, navigating obstacle courses and taking down the evil octopus race, the Octarians. The goal of each level is to rescue the Zapfish, the source that powers your city, Inkopolis. The multiplayer aspect of Splatoon is split into two, Regular Battle and Ranked Battle. The more casual of the two is Regular Battle in which both winners and losers gain experience and money depending on how well each individual does in their respective teams. The Regular Battle mode is called Turf Wars. The goal of Turf Wars is to cover as much of the environment in your teams ink-color within three minutes. The mode for ranked battles is called Splat Zones, a king of the hill style mode in which your squad of Inklings fight to control a designated area by covering it in your team’s ink and then holding on to it for an allotted amount of time. This is a high risk, high reward mode, because if you lose, you don’t get any money or experience, but if you win, you win big.
The money you make in these two modes can be spent to improve your character by buying new equipment: t-shirts, shoes, helmets and weapons. Each day the shops will have different stock. Each piece of equipment offers different stat and ability boosts. There are three different types of weapons you can purchase. You have your Shooters, Chargers and Rollers. Shooters shoot ink rapidly while the Chargers are inspired by sniper guns and have a long but narrow range, and rollers are just that, paint-rollers that can cover lots of ground but have a short range. Each type of ink weapon has its pros and cons and each weapon has its own sub-weapon such as ink sprinklers, ink mines or bombs.
Splatoon encompasses what makes Nintendo a great company. It doesn’t attempt to cater to one specific group of people. It’s a game that can be played by the young and old. A game that doesn’t take itself too seriously while treading into new territory. It’s a game that can be played for short or long bursts. Nintendo seems to have struck gold with Splatoon and I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned it into a new franchise just like Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. Splatoon is a wonderful experience and brings new life to a genre of video games that has been growing stale and is another reason to consider owning a Wii U.