Friday: Splatoon officially released
Friday noon: my copy (including green calamar amiibo) is delivered.
Friday evening: I play two 1 on 1 local multiplayer matches with my wife.
Saturday: I put the Collector’s Edition box and green calamar amiibo in my man cave, smiling.
Sunday: I finish the first nine levels of the single player campaign and defeat the first two bosses.
Monday: I tell you all about my first weekend with Splatoon.
Some of you may have been living under a rock. That’s okay. It probably means you are a squid, a troglodyte or a hardcore Nintendo enthusiast. If you count yourself to be part of that last category, as I do myself, then it’s probably not the first time either you heard that reproach. It just means you are part of the select group of people who are most likely to have heard of Nintendo’s newest WiiU game, Splatoon, which is the big N’s first real take on the multiplayer centered third person shooter. If you haven’t heard of the game, don’t blame yourself. Although Nintendo says Splatoon has a marketing budget as big as the latest Mario Kart outing, which is pretty big, it is quite hard to believe those words, especially when you live in Europe: where are the commercials? Where are the billboards? Right, as I thought, they’re probably hidden underneath some rock. So if you haven’t heard of the game: congratulations! First of all, this means you’re not a squid, nor a troglodyte. Sadly, this also means that you are not one of the 10 million or so hardcore Nintendo fans (nor are you married to one) that Nintendo seems to be reaching these days. Which also means you may be missing out on Nintendo’s first real outing in the genre that has dominated the gaming scene for the last decade or so.
Nintendo is notoriously known for showing up late at parties (i.e. they stubbornly hold on to dated hardware architectures, online infrastructure, game mechanics etc.) and when they do decide to party, they oftentimes start another party entirely (i.e. they innovate in ways no other company can, be that with motion controls, glasses free 3D or game mechanics). Nintendo is a unique company. On the one hand it is very traditional and is oftentimes repudiated for it. It is also one of the most innovative game companies out there, but because of their (let’s be honest) far from perfect communication skills it sometimes seems that they can create a hit out of thin air (with the Wii’s controller being the perfect example, since you were actually moving air with that one) or that they didn’t quite get which way the market was going in.
Splatoon is both a traditional Nintendo game and an innovative shooter. You play as an Inkling, meaning you are part kid, part squid – no, I kid (or squid) you not – and you change between the two forms by holding or letting go of the ZL button. While you are a kid you can shoot colored ink with the ZR button at Octolings, other players, and most importantly, the environment. As a squid you can traverse that same environment at greater speed than as a kid, you can make dazzling jumps or you can stealthily disapear. The only caveat is that you can only move quickly, jump dazzlingly or disapear stealthily in your own ink, which is why you want to splatter as much of it on the environment as you can. It is exactly this little trick that makes Splatoon such an exhilarating play.
Although I haven’t dabbled in the online multiplayer yet, the single player campaign is very Nintendo-esque. There are five worlds which you can access from a hub, think Super Mario Galaxy, and each world has six levels (apart from world one which only has three) in which you need to progress from segment to segment, also à la Super Mario Galaxy, by shooting Octolings and learning that specific level’s special gimmick, whether that be moving platforms or filling up spread out sponges with ink so they become platforms. The fact that I used the word “platforms” twice in that last sentence is exemplary of what the biggest part of the single player campaign actually feels like. It feels more like a typical Nintendo platform game in which you happen to shoot rather than an actual shooter. That’s not a bad thing. For me that’s actually a good thing.
Every world (apart from the first one) does have an arena level in which you have to confront several NPC’s throughout an open, euhm, arena. You will have to tackle these levels differently than the other ones. You’ll guickly have to get an overview of the whole area, while dodging and spraying ink, since in these levels you’re not trying to get from point A to point B – well, you are, but your trajectory isn’t as linear as in the other levels. These levels are the most challenging for me because they play more like what you’d expect from a shooter game. They provide Splatoon with some needed variety. Also the boss level at the end of each world will really test your shooter skills. These are great fun as well.
Apart from the first few single player levels, I played two local multiplayer matches with my wife. The only mode available in local multiplayer (for now) are the 1 on 1 matches in which you have to shoot more balloons than your opponent. One person looks at the TV. The other at the gamepad. Since my wife has a lot of problems with using the camera stick on the pro-controller these matches didn’t prove to be too exciting (poor thing). I’ll let her use the motion controls on the gamepad next time… Maybe… Maybe not… My inner squid just told me he doesn’t like the idea of a possibly lost match.
For those of you who own a WiiU: get Splatoon. The single player doesn’t seem to be very long, but it’s very Nintendo. The levels are varied and can provide a challenge for anyone. If you’re into shooters, you’ll love the shooter levels and find a new challenge in the more platform orriented levels. If you’re into platform games, you’ll love the more platform orriented levels, and find a new challenge in the more shooter orriented levels.
For those of you who don’t own a WiiU: maybe it’s time to crawl from underneath your rocks? There’s a plethora of exclusive games from more known (Nintendo) series already available on the system (Super Mario, Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Mario Party, Bayonetta, Donkey Kong, Pikmin), and with the innovative shooter, yet traditional Nintendo game, Splatoon added to that library, there really isn’t an excuse anymore not to get a WiiU. You may say: too little, too late, but I say: just accept that a party isn’t a party until the big N shows up.