When Nintendo first announced this at E3 2014, I was skeptical. Nintendo’s take on the shooter genre since Metroid. Many said that this would be Nintendo’s Call of Duty, which was pretty interesting, to say the least. When I first saw the reveal trailer I can see why it had potential. You pretty much play with paint, or in this case, ink. It reminded me of childhood and how we like to play around with paint and water guns in the summer. At first, it seems to be a kid-friendly shooter, but boy was I wrong. Splatoon is a solid shooter from Nintendo. From its colorful presentation, and style, this game definitely makes a splash.
(Note: I’m doing this review post-release and many updates have been added since. I will talk about the change from then till now.)
Going Back to the 90’s
When you first boot up Splatoon, the game gives you a crash course tutorial before you head into the hub world of Inkopolis. The game literally makes fun of you and says that you’re looking “raw” and not “fresh” enough. They are really bringing back the whole 90’s vibe and how I remember growing up.( Yes, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is one of them.) Before the tutorial, you are allowed to customize your inking. You can set whether it be male or female, and set your skin tone and eye color. Don’t worry, you can switch genders and color at any time, which is much appreciated.
Here’s main idea that you need to know from the tutorial: INK EVERYTHING. Well, the floor and horizontal surfaces to be exact. The splatting ink of your color marks your turf, but there’s more to it. When you turn into your inkling form, you submerge in your ink. While you are submerged in your own color ink, you refill you ink tank, become hidden, and more mobile. However, it’s at the cost of not being able to defend yourself. The transition between kid and squid mode is very “free flowing.” By default, you are using the gyro sensor controls to aim, but thankfully you can switch the aim back to the manual right stick – which feels more nature and precise. Controls are as they meant to be and is very responsive, making matches very unpredictable.
The tutorial does a decent enough job of easing you in and gives you the basic skills before you head off into the world, from refilling, using your secondary weapon and traveling up vertically. After your finish, this is where it begins.
Every time you boot up the game, you’ll be shown the Squid News, anchored by the Idol Squid Sisters: Callie and Marie. (See what they did there?) They will brief you on any updates, new weapons, new maps, and the big events of Splatfest. You cannot skip the broadcast, so you have to see it every time. Personally, it’s not annoying, but may be to some. Maybe in the next update, there will an option to skip it.
After your first broadcast, your world opens a bit for you to explore The stores will openly say that you’re not “fresh enough” and that you need to be a level 2 before you can utilize their services. So it’s off to the online mode straight away to grind and level up!
You’re first only limited to playing regular battles, which is the simple turf war. Think of this as the For Fun mode like with Smash Bros. Wins won’t be as important and you will still earn money and experience for your efforts. Very good to ease you in on the online multiplayer. Once you hit level 10, you will unlock Ranked Battle. This is where the big money and glory is at stake. You will start out as rank C- in this mode and the only way to go is up. Or down if you lose, which I might add will be a main source of rage.
Weapon of Choice and Art of War
Naturally, you start off with your first weapon given to you: the Splattershot Jr. Don’t know about the rest of the community, but never underestimate this basic starter weapon. At least in Turf War anyway. There are currently three main categories of weapons: Shooter, Roller, and Charger. Shooters are your standard weapons and the all-around category. They can make a mess in short time and can do just about anything.
Rollers are the shotguns of the game. Paint rollers can throw ink in big burst and roll over your opponents. Excelling in short range and support.
Lastly, the Charger is your Sniper class.
Don’t worry. Within each category of weapons, there are multiple variations on different specs, such as a slow but powerful shooters, quick charge but short range sniper, quick/heavy rollers (a la paintbrush update) and so forth. You can buy these new altercations at the Weapon Shop, ran by Sheldon the Horseshoe Crab.
With you main primary weapons, you also have sub-weapons to help you out. This ranges from ink grenades, suctions bombs, smart bombs that tag your enemies. and much more. Then comes your Special weapon. This is available when you fill up your special gauge by painting the floors. This can really change the “tide” of battle. (Yes there will be sea puns.) One genius name for one of the secret weapon is the “Killer Wail”.
Of Course, you cannot have a Squid game without unleashing the Kraken, which you can plow through enemies while keeping you safe for a time. Then there are the basics. Cannot go wrong with a Bubble shield, which is a quick get out of jail card in hot situations. Also, if you touch your teammate while it is active, it will also give them a shield as well, so it can be quite the playmaker.
There is a catch when choosing your load out. When you choose your weapon, you choose from set load outs. The Splattershot Jr mentioned earlier, is locked with the grenade and the Bubbler Shield. You cannot change the individual parts to have an ink strike or have a suction bomb secondary. So the customization is kinda false in the weapon loadout. Most likely are to help keep balance within the game. Though it would be nice if you had a roller class with the bubble shield to be a tanker.
One you pick your gear, it time to show up. Simply put, gameplay is a fast three minutes along with strategic. In the turf war mode, the one thing I like about this mode is that you feel that you always feel that you are contributing. Even when things seem lost, there is always chances to turn things around. I’ve seen matches become upset comebacks due to a single player and making that .1% difference. So if you know what you’re doing (like painting your base!), you will always be top of your team. Whether it be defensive support or offensive strikes, your contributions will always be valued.
Keeping it Stylish
Just because you’re shooting and splatting everywhere, doesn’t mean you do it in poor fashion. While weapon customization is a mirage, avatar customization is not.
While your clothing, shoes, and headgear are nice to dress up, that is not the main reason. The reason you want to buy them is because of the abilities they unlock. This ranges from basic ones like strength/defense up, speed up charge rate of special weapons, increase the duration of time specials and so forth. There are also some equipment that has a unique skill that is unique to that one gear, like the Gas Mask that has the Tenacity skills, which charges you special meter if you’re outnumbered. In the end, you will be wearing gear that suits your play style, like tanking, all-out offense and so forth. Each gear is based on stars, maxing at three. The more stars, the more slot the gear has for extra abilities but takes longer to obtain them when going through multiplayer.
Online matchmaking for Splatoon is improved ever since its first major update. However, I think everyone notices that whenever you get on matches, there is an overwhelming amount of Japanese player’s that flood the matchmaking. It’s at a point in which some players are getting pissed off/aggravated by the Japan players. While it does match you at skill and rank, I personally wish that there would be a regional or worldwide filter option in order to play with regional players, and not always a worldwide setting.
The Stream of Fresh Ink
When this game first came out, it was bare bones of a product. There was only one mode, the turf war mode, and only 4 maps at first. If you asked if you should get this game back then, I would have said WAIT. While it was fun, it didn’t have much to help sustain it. But during these past months since the game’s release, it has become great package due to the constant updates and free DLC.
At release, there were no ranked competitive modes. Now, there are three solid modes. The first new mode is splat zones. This is basically holding onto one or two zones until the score runs out. Another is Tower Control. Similar to Capture the Flag, which you control a tower and ride it to victory. And recently and personally my favorite mode: Rainmaker, which captures the flag but you are a threat with a bazooka. These new mode has helped put Splatoon back on the radar. So this is one of the main reasons to comeback. Another nice add-on from the update is that now you can make squads and play with who you want to play with, which was not available at launch.
Another periodic event that is also a great time is the Splatfest. This is a weekend event and it brings two ideas to a vote. The last splatterfest was with Art vs. Science. By god, it was a close match and color be salty because the results were so dead even but were the win of Artist. While furious I was, it was fun regardless. The main reason to attend splatterfest is to earn Super Snails, which adds a slot to your equipment or reroll your skills. While minor, it is good to fight for your side and get something out of it.
Squid Vs. Octopus
Just because Splatoon is generally focused on Multiplayer, don’t disregard to play the single player. This helps you get a bit more lore and mythology of Splatoon. Plus, it also helps you unlock weapons that add on to multiplayer mode. The Splatoon single player mode has call backs to Super Mario Galaxy. Levels are reminiscent to the single galaxy and that each stage are based on certain gimmick. Some in which is quite creative that it does remind you of Super Mario Galaxy. Overall, it is short but enjoyable.
You learn that your Squid kind is against the Octarians and that they have stole Inkopolis source of power, the Zapfish and Zap Eel. Yes, the same way as the stars of any Mario games. The boss fights themselves are relatively easy and doesn’t pose too much a challenge. However, the final boss will definitely challenge you. Not spoiling anything, but that boss is probably one of the best an most challenging boss fights in recent memory. Plus the music for the fight is just memorable.
There’s also amiibo support that extends play, but that’s for you how much you want the figurines. So is Splatoon worth a dive in?
A Real Splash!
Graphics - 9/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Audio - 8.5/10
Value - 8/10
Keeping it Fresh
As I said earlier, in the beginning when it first got released, it was a bare bones product with nothing really holding it up. Now with periodic free DLC, maps, weapons, gear, and Splatfests, the game keeps bringing reasons for you to come back. Play a bit for the Single player, and stay for the multiplayer. Climb up and become top squid and remember: Stay Fresh!
+ Fast and Strategic Online Multiplayer modes
+ Splatfests and constant updates
+ Any play style is welcome and anyone can be a play maker
+ The Last Boss Fight
- Short Single Player Story
- Ranked Battles can be source of rage
- The Local Multiplayer mode