Splatoon - Header
Splatoon | Cover
Title Splatoon
Developer Nintendo EAD SDG No.2
Publisher Nintendo
Release Date May 29, 2015 (WW)
Genre Third-Person Shooter
Platform Wii U
Age Rating ESRB: E10+/PEGI: 7+/CERO: A/OFLC: PG
Official Website

What needs to be said about Nintendo’s eclectic Wii U lineup that hasn’t been said already? Although there are plenty of great games on the system, the company wisely remembered that their eighth-generation console can’t survive on Mario alone. Considering the Wii U’s mediocre sales numbers, it’s a system that desperately needs new IPs–and not just excellent niche exclusives, mind you. No, it needs another game like Mario Kart 8 or Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, both of which have a special kind of simple, pick-up-and-play that is easy enough for newcomers, but with enough intricacies to make hardcore fans smile. Here’s another game that joins those ranks–with color to spare and a streetwise flair.

Splatoon | Street
Inklings: stylish in the streets, and even more so on the battlefield.

Splatoon is Nintendo’s spin on a popular genre that has been sorely lacking on the company’s consoles: the online multiplayer shooter. (The DS’ underrated Metroid Prime: Hunters is probably the only other game that comes close.) Yet, Splatoon is in another league entirely from its would-be competitors for several reasons. The gameplay is in a class by itself, the single-player mode doesn’t feel tacked-on, and the game sets all of this in an atmosphere that epitomizes cool. Not only is it a great family-friendly alternative to the typical shooter, but the qualities that set it apart from its kin are what make it so, well, ink-redible. In other words, it’s a truly ambitious and risky new IP that covers all the bases like ink covers all its stages.

Splatoon‘s colorful art design really does set it apart from the pack, especially within a game genre that is often made fun of for being drab and dreary. Its cool and modern art style feels very streetwise and is definitely inspired by Tokyo’s cosmopolitan ward Shibuya, and these aspects echo such games as Jet Set Radio and The World Ends With You. But what sets Splatoon apart from those is the occasional nod to Nintendo’s typical Mario-style weird cuteness. The Inklings’ design is a great example: there’s definitely a Jet Set Radio look to their human form, but their squid form looks like a Blooper’s adorable long-lost cousin. The unique influences in Splatoon‘s art style carry over to its simply stunning graphical quality. The game runs at a flawless 60fps, and neat little touches in the game world abound. From the graffiti straight out of Miiverse posts to the numerous outfits and such to choose from, there is much to like.

Splatoon | Spawn
Going to your team is a breeze…let’s hope spawn campers don’t take you down. (And believe me, they do.)

Splatoon‘s music is composed by frequent Nintendo collaborator Toru Minegishi, who has also done work on Animal Crossing and some games in the Zelda series, and it’s just as wacky as it should be. Minegishi has taken just about every music genre one could think of, chiefly punk, hip-hop, metal, reggae, and even idol J-pop, and created an interesting hodgepodge of tracks that all get you hyped up during matches.

Splatoon‘s base controls, while intuitive once you get used to them, do have a bit of a learning curve. The game uses a hybrid of dual analog and motion controls, with the standard controls using the left joystick on the GamePad to move, the right joystick to move the camera’s x-axis, and the GamePad’s gyroscope to move the camera’s y-axis. In addition, you jump with X, reset the camera with Y, shoot your primary weapon with ZR, use your secondary weapon with R, and turn into your squid form with ZL. It’s as simple as that. Those averse to motion controls can turn them off, however, and it might even be worthwhile to do so when wielding certain weapons. GamePad-less second players who want to replicate the experience in Battle Dojo can even strap a Wii Remote Plus to their Pro Controller, another odd feature that works surprisingly well.

Splatoon | N-ZAP
Speaking of Nintendo controllers, one of the weapons is a freakin’ NES ZAPPER!

As far as the gameplay goes, Splatoon is a total 180-degree shift from the oeuvre of Nintendo’s EAD division Software Development Group No. 2, which has previously worked on the Animal Crossing and Wii series. Although it’s easy to pick up and play, Splatoon is also far more frenetic than the pedigree of that particular Nintendo division would suggest, and has a surprising amount of depth to it. At the time of this writing, there are three major components of Splatoon: the online multiplayer, which is most certainly the highlight here, a rarity for a Nintendo game; the single-player campaign, a beautiful marriage of Nintendo’s trademark platforming with shooter mechanics; and the two-player Battle Dojo mode, which is pretty fun, if a little bit tacked-on.

No matter what mode you play, the core mechanics of Splatoon are the same. Inklings like to have fun by engaging in battles with one another and looking awesome while doing so. As the meme goes, first they’re kids, and then they’re squids. In their former form, Inklings shoot a certain color of ink, whether they’re on a team with 3 other Inklings in the multiplayer or by themselves in the single-player or co-op. In their latter form, they can recharge their ink and get to places faster by swimming through ink of their color. If an Inkling steps into the ink of an opposing team or enemy’s color, they slow down and have their defenses lowered.

So what is Splatoon‘s gameplay really like? Check out Page 2 for your ink-stained answer!

Will Whitehurst
Will joined the Operation Rainfall Campaign soon after news broke of that infamous French interview about Xenoblade. Subsequently, he got actively involved and became a staff member in July/August 2011. He is currently the head of the Japanese translation team, and loves to play, discuss, debate and learn more about games. Will gravitates towards unconventional action games and RPGs, but plays pretty much anything except Madden. He is also currently attending college, honing his Japanese skills and preparing for medical school. (Coincidentally, Trauma Center is one of his favorite game series of all time.)