'Splatoon' Brings Inklings And New Ideas To The Wii U

May 29, 2015

Nintendo is one of gaming's hardest nuts to crack. In the 1980s, the company played a major role in bringing video games back from the dead, and established themselves as a household name. Since then, their overall popularity has waxed and waned with each new piece of hardware they release, but, no matter what, they still manage to sustain a base of diehard fans. These long-term Nintendo devotees hang on their every release of new Mario, Zelda, and Metroid games, and because of this, the company has developed a stable of franchises that they go back to over and over again. For all intents and purposes, that strategy has worked for a very long time, as the developers at Nintendo always manage to introduce new concepts into their games to help them feel fresh and new, even if the main characters are over 30 years old. However, due to this nostalgic-facing release strategy, completely new games can be few and far between. This is an idea that Nintendo has struggled with over the years, but the company is looking to change all of that with their latest, major release for the Wii U, Splatoon. It's a team-based, third-person shooter that ventures into a host of new territories for beloved developer.

Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2/TOSE
Publisher: Nintendo

The development group at Nintendo that were the driving force behind Splatoon, EAD Group No. 2, have a reputation for working on some of Nintendo's biggest crossover hits. Wii Sports, Nintendo Land and the recent portable iterations of Animal Crossing have all passed through EAD Group No. 2, helping make them one of the most successful groups at the company. With that assortment of releases under their collective belts, they clearly know how to make adorable games that people enjoy playing. Their work on Splatoon is an example of the group attempting to spread their wings, and craft something that is unique to the platform, a new experience for gamers, and an ambitious new endeavor for Nintendo as a whole.

If you've grown tired of shooting your friends with bullets, but you still want to compete online against them, Splatoon may be just the game for you. Nintendo has employed a bit more family friendly strategy with their first online shooter by removing most of the violence and replacing it with colored ink; making Splatoon more of a giant water gun fight than anything else. You start by picking your customizable Inkling character, and jumping into the game's single-player story, 1v1 local battle, or the online multiplayer Turf War modes. Each offers a unique experience that lets players test their ink squirting skills. Venturing through the story, you find out that Inkopolis is under attack by the Octarians, and you have to help Cap'n Cuttlefish by stopping them, and saving the Zapfish, the city's power supply. The local battle mode option lets you test your skills one-on-one using the TV and the GamePad screens, to combat your closest friends. While both of those are enjoyable experiences unto themselves, the online multiplayer is where this game really shines.

The overall goal in Turf War is for each team of four to cover each board with their teams' ink, and whoever has covered the most when time runs out wins. This twist is that the multiplayer becomes a special blend of fast-paced, stealth action: the Inklings have the ability to turn into squids and quickly travel undetected through their color ink that has already been sprayed on the course. As your team spreads its ink over the surface of the world, it opens up the ability to sneak up on your opponents, and knock them out, as you try and cover up their ink. It's a nice twist on the genre, and something that younger fans can sink their teeth into, without the worries of adult content.

You'll only be able to find Splatoon on Nintendo's Wii U console, where they're hoping the exciting gameplay, and quirky new I.P. will help satiate fans, and introduce the hardware to prospective new players. As an added perk, Splatoon is the third game to get its own line of amiibo characters, and the first game that doesn't feature anyone from the Mushroom Kingdom to get them. At launch there are three different ones that you can pick up: Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, and Inkling Squid. These guys can be brought into the game to unlock additional challenges for already completed missions, giving the game some extra legs.

Splatoon, like so many other Nintendo games before it, manages to land right in that sweet spot between accessible and enjoyable. While the "shooter" does fall outside of Nintendo's standard purview of releases, their lack of a preconception of the genre helps bring a fresh take to an increasingly tired group of games. The Inklings in Splatoon are polar opposites of the soldiers in Call of Duty, or the Gears in Gears of War, but the gameplay execution is fundamentally the same. While there are some small missteps, like not being able to play the single player using the GamePad only, they're forgivable, and most of the game lands right on target. Whether you're painting walls against your friends in Turf War, or trying to save Zapfish from the Octarians in Splatoon's story mode, Nintendo's latest Wii U release really does bring some innovative ideas to the table, which have the potential to move the shooter genre forward. And they did it all without spilling one drop of blood... plenty of ink though, lots and lots of ink.