Leave it to Nintendo. I’m mostly a fighting/action game guy, never really touched an online shooter, or any shooters really for that matter, and we’re talking modern, mostly first person shooters here, not the 2D Contra/Metal Slug variety. True I dug the first Gears of War, and there’s a special place in my heart for Bioshock, but that has more to do with the weird Art Deco/Steampunk atmosphere, but a Call of Duty? Battlefield? No thanks. Especially online where foul mouthed twelve year olds reign supreme. But here I am, addicted to an online third person arena shooter, nearly unable to put it down for the last few days since I brought it home. Like I said, leave it to Nintendo.
Splatoon’s colorful brand of online crack casts players as a Inkling, a child able to transform into a squid and traverse across their own ink, shot from a variety of weapons resembling everything from 90’s Super Soakers to 80’s Nintendo Zappers to giant paint rollers and brushes. You join a four person squid squad against another to try and paint the majority of the arena floor with your team’s color, but you can also shoot your opponents dead to keep them off the map for the 3 seconds it takes to respawn. The team with the most painted real estate at the end of the round wins. And as simple as it sounds, it’s absolutely addictive. Winning matches earns you currency that can be spent in Inkopolis, the game’s hub world. There you can choose from various shirts, footwear and headwear that not only customizes your player’s look but offers various stat boosts as well. Getting the best weapons and bonuses will take a lot of rewarding work but it’s all worthwhile when you begin to travel farther and quicker, and empty ink slower and fill up faster than your online opposition.
The whole thing runs super smooth too, and the menus get you in and out of matches lightning quick. There’s nary a hiccup or frame rate drop even as the action gets super intense with all the colors, bodies and squids flying everywhere. I haven’t been this impressed with the technical side of a game in quite a while. And it’s a Nintendo game! A Nintendo online shooter! And it performs amazingly well! Unheard of! The Nintendo hater’s favorite whipping boy, the WiiU Gamepad is even utilized intelligently, showing a map of the arena and the positions of your allies during gameplay. Tap a team member’s name to turn squid and jump to their position. There’s also an 8 bit styled minigame that can be played while you wait for lobbies to fill up, though they rarely take enough time to be annoying. The game, Squid Jump, can also be accessed from an Arcade machine in Inkopolis, and it’s a lot of fun in its own right.
Surprisingly, the single player mode isn’t just the arena battles with bots but its own separate entity, and an innovative and highly entertaining one at that. Here the mechanics remain the same, but you’ll be battling villainous octopi and traversing puzzle/platforming stages like a cross between Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. Challenging fights against giant bosses are included here as well. The only bummer really is that the clothing, bonuses and weapons earned in online mode don’t carry over to single player. Hopefully Nintendo rectifies this soon in one of the many free (yes, free) DLC update patches they’ve promised to release throughout the summer.
You can always expect a certain amount of polish from Nintendo, even when the tackle previously foreign genre like this one. I always intended to buy Splatoon when it was announced, I knew I’d enjoy it’s single player mode but doubted the online component would be anything special, given my own misgivings about the genre and Nintendo’s previous blunders in the field. I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong about something. Believe the hype, Splatoon is an online shooter from Nintendo and it’s a gloriously perfect new franchise starter straight out of the gate. Don’t miss out.