Game Review: Splatoon (2015)

There should be no doubt that I have been quite hyped about this game.  I’ve seen something about it almost everywhere.  And considering a new IP from Nintendo pops up once in a blue moon, there’s reason to celebrate!  This new IP in particular is Ninty’s leap into their own shooting arena game.  Sure, we’ve had some moments of that in Starfox and to my memory even Metroid, but those were far from the main feature of those titles.  Here, we have a unique and high octane game that’s all Nintendo.  Let’s swim deep into the colorful land of the Inklings and find out more!

Splatoon is Nintendo’s newest property, a third person shoot ’em up that’s equal bits Super Mario Sunshine, Jet Set Radio,  Super Mario Galaxy and Team Fortress 2.  In it, the object is simple, take control of the field.  The main characters of these game are humanoid creatures called “Inklings”.  These anthropomorphic beings are kids with squid-like characteristics, complete with nods towards dimorphism among males and females.  (YAY BIOLOGY!)  As you’d expect with humanized cephalopods with guns, you spray ink at your targets and space.  While you’re more than welcome to take out opposing targets, that is not the prime objective of this game.  While this isn’t the first shooter type game to try this, it’s still a change of pace from the age old concept of the shooting gallery.

Now, may of you might be asking me, “Splatoon?  Really Doc?”  To which I say, “Why not?  It’s not just because I want to diversify my review portfolio, I was genuinely interested in checking out this game too.”  And to be honest, my curiosity was slowly stockpiling since last year’s E3 presentation.  I don’t know how long they can keep up the steam with this new IP, but I became a fan of content like Animal Crossing and Pikmin in mere instants and continue to enjoy entries in the series.  I suppose you could count Xenoblade as a newer resent IP, if you’d like.  While people say that Nintendo is shitty with IPs, they’ve usually done a decent job.  And who knows, maybe they can expand this?

Within the wild world of the Inklings, we begin our game in a large and colorful hub world known as Inkopolis.  Or if you’re apt for researching your surroundings, a really bright version of Tokyo, right down to several clever details.  Within this hub, you can customize your Inkling, enter challenges, visit a creepy old man (whose name is literally creepy old man), among other things to get you ready for the rumbling mayhem ahead.  After the real game is all about blasting paint-like ink and turf control!  And beyond that, there’s a wide variety of cool power ups to utilize for both devastating combos and cool effects in general.  While some seem to be coming later in one way or another, we got quite a bit to work with or can be unlocked with enough effort.

Fast paced and thrilling in its gameplay, as you’re racing against the clock and your opponents to command and conquer.  In order to do this, you use a wide variety of weaponry.  Each weapon adds different forms of play and versatility.  For example, the roller covers more ground, but sacrifices combat while the squirt gun doesn’t cover too much but is a good offensive tool against rivals.  This allows for different means of playing and strategy in core game itself.  You can use the ink to for ambushing and stealth, go in guns a blazing, or just take out enemies to make things easier on your team.  And while the main game awaits you, mini games make loading not a tedious bore.  Considering the horror that is the eternal loading screen (looking at you, pre-patch Bloodborne), this does a good job at keeping you entertained while you wait.  A clever homage to Nintendo in general, keeps the game’s quick action and non-stop mayhem to not feel too interrupted or jarring between transitions.  Plus, these three mini-games can be accessed at any time on Inkopolis arcade machines.

Now, let’s talk about soundtrack.  It certainly has the zaniness of Nintendo fare, but with a little bit more post-horn era Aquabats type weirdness thrown in.  Considering the inklings have a similar aesthetic in my opinion, it’s par for the course.  Though, I guess you could say it has a little bit of earlier Devo in it.  It’s electronic, it’s all over the place (in a cool way), it has a danceable new wave attitude to it.  The battle theme itself is addictive and keeps the match going, plus it will stay in your head for countless minutes to hours later.

That said, it hasn’t been all bright colors and cheery fun for me.  One thing that’s a tad disappointing is the limit of maps you can choose.  While jumping into a game, you can pick between a rotating list.  And even then, it’s from a library of 5 maps total.  That said, Nintendo promises Direct support that will grant more maps in the future.  While some would assume this is a Destiny type debacle, it isn’t.  More so a disappointment with a more bare bones launch than was expected.  Not really digging the rotating aspect myself.  This makes the DLC more irksome, as it feels like its needed to flesh out the game more. While I’m at it, single Player campaign feels like the less fun parts of Galaxy at times.  It’s one set piece after another with a few objectives.  It’s not bad, but it detracts from the core experience of the game.  It sometimes feels like it didn’t take advantage of what makes multiplayer great.  Sometimes there’s that rush of mayhem and absolute fun, but oh well.  It’s mostly climbing and jumping and then some Super Mario Galaxy antics, not much more to it.  Not to mention, the single game mode is a little disappointing too.  Judging from what I’ve heard, we’ll probably get more fun stuff to work with later. Now, while people are complaining about the lack of support for voice chat, but I rarely have encountered anything good out of it; mostly fuckheads thinking they’re clever in some way, when they’re just being irritating or needlessly offensive.

Speaking of DLC and supplementary content, I’ll be up front and say I’m not a fan of Amiibo and the way Nintendo is handling them.  With this game, a lot of content feels barely away from hand’s reach unless you dive deep into the insane world of Amiibo.  While Smash Bros was bolstered by it, this game really adds to the almost TF2-like aspect of it.  Now, this game isn’t crazy about making an economy about hats, but fans are really starting to get into the trade aspect much like the debacle that happened with Amiibo itself.  And trust me, I still want a Villager amiibo at a reasonable price.  At the moment, I’m starting to worry about similar anxieties I had during the early developments and time of Titanfall.  While the game has finally gotten pretty good, no one really plays it anymore.  At least the core game is still enjoyable for a while, assuming Nintendo’s clever schemes only help the game grow for the better.

All in all, Splatoon’s a tight and fun game.  The multiplayer is what you’ve probably come for, while the single player provides a relatively fun diversion for when you need a break from the chaos.  The fast pace keeps the game from being boring or tedious.  The atmosphere is cheerful and fun, only leading to the gonzo party to be had within the game itself.  Like the aesthetic, gameplay has its own unique charm with tons of ways to play the game.  With a killer soundtrack, the game rocks from a game point as it does from a musical point.  Not to mention, remixers and musicians on the internet seem to love the tracks too!  That said, the game feels a little bit small in presentation (not too unlike Nintendo’s E3 presentations.)  While there’s promises of more, I’m afraid the game will fall out of popularity by the game it becomes more enjoyable.  However, with a mix of charming presentation and a taste of what delightful things to come.  Splatoon fires 7.5 ink blasts out of 10!

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