I'm pretty sure that everyone expected that one of the biggest games of 2015 would be a shooter, but how many of you were surprised that it was one made by Nintendo, and an original IP as well? Well while you're all marveling at Splatoon's pretty colors and intriguing game mechanics because so few of you own a Wii U, I have had the opportunity to play the game quite avidly since I got it a week after the game's launch date of May 29, and I am going to tell you as many details I can about this fun and highly addictive game.
In the game, you play as a human/squid hybrid called an Inkling which has the ability to transform between humanoid and squid forms at will. While in humanoid form, you can run, jump and shoot ink with your equipped weapon, and while in squid form you can hide in the ink you spray and swim through it at double your running speed and can even use it swim up walls. The ink that I speak of is actually the main focus of this game as the game's mechanics are focused almost entirely around it. Instead of traditional guns and weapons that would be normal in the shooter genre, the equipment in question for this game are all ink-based weaponry that fall into one of five different types of main weapons:
- Shooters: Continually sprays ink as long as the fire button is held down. Comes in several different varieties that have different firing patterns and effects.
- Chargers: Long range weapon that fires further the longer the gun is charged from holding the fire button. Some of these also come with scopes for more accurate aiming.
- Rollers: Paints the ground with ink as you run as long as the fire button is held down. Can also throw ink a short distance in front of you so you can get higher platforms.
- Sloshers: Hurls large quantities of ink in an arcing pattering an average distance in front of you. Can be used like a mortar to aim over barriers that an opponent is hiding behind.
- Splatling: A gatling gun type weapon that rapidly fires ink an incredible distance in front of you after a short wind-up period. Not all that effective at spreading ink, but very useful for crowd control.
...Several different types of sub weapons:
- Splat Bombs: Tetrahedron-shaped ink grenades that explode shortly after landing.
- Burst Bombs: Ink filled water balloons that explode on impact.
- Ink Mines: Explodes when in close proximity to an opponent.
- Disruptors: Hinders the speed and abilities of the affected target.
- Point Sensors: Tags an enemy with a tracking marker for a short time.
- Splash Walls: Acts as a wall and shield that only you and your teammates can pass through unaffected.
- Seekers: Can lock onto a target and chase them down trailing ink of your color behind them.
- Suction Bombs: Works similarly to the Splat Bombs, but can latch onto walls and ceilings with its suction cup.
- Squid Beakons: Gives you up to three one-time-use jump points so you can quickly get back into the fray.
- Sprinklers: Sprays a small area around it with ink until it is destroyed or until a new one is thrown.
- Bomb Rush: Allows you to throw bombs repeatedly without spending ink.
- Bubbler: Activates an impenetrable shield that can be shared with your teammates if they touch you.
- Echolocator: Tags ALL opponents with a tracking marker no matter how far away from each other they are.
- Inkzooka: Powerful rocket-launcher type weapon that fires mini ink tornadoes that plow through multiple targets.
- Killer Wail: Spreads no ink, but obliterates any opponent in a straight line in front of it.
- Kraken: Transforms you into the invincible Kraken which lays ink behind it as it swims and changes its jump into a strong attack.
- Inkstrike: A powerful nuke-like weapon that creates a towering cyclone of ink at wherever you tap on the Gamepad's screen.
These weapons are packaged as sets when purchased from the shop with in-game currency and they cannot be customized, but some main weapons have a secondary set that can be used that have an alternate sub and special weapon attached to them. The in-game currency can also be used to buy shoes, shirts, and headgear to customize your inkling's humanoid appearance. This not only makes your character look more fashionable, but each piece of equipment comes with a stat boost and can be upgraded further depending on how many stars it has. If you can't find a piece of clothing you want in the shops, don't fret, as the shops rotate their stock every 24 hours. If you don't feel like waiting, you can special order them from the other Inklings near the Booyah Base and pick them up from Spyke, a creepy sea urchin that hides in the alley, however he charges a very inflated price for it. Each of these weapons and the clothing that your inkling wears can only be used in the game's main online multiplayer modes:
- Regular Battles (For Fun)
- Turf War: The purpose of this game mode is to cover the ground with as much of your own color of ink as possible in three minutes. Any ink sprayed onto walls and any opponents knocked out do not count toward your final score and your win/lose ratio is not recorded at the end of the match. This game mode is also the primary way to gain money for purchasing clothes and weapons, and experience that levels up your currently equipped clothes and your character allowing you to equip higher-leveled weapons.
- Ranked Battles (For Glory)
- Splat Zones: This game mode is much like a territories match where you and your teammates try to take control of an area (or two) by spraying the enclosed area with ink and keeping control of it until your timer runs out or whoever has the least time left when the match timer runs out. Losing control of a zone to the enemy team adds a penalty timer onto your main one and it must run out before you can start lowering your time again.
- Tower Control: This game mode is more like King of the Hill, but with a twist. You need to take control of a tower in the center of the map by standing on top of it, but once you gain control of it, it will start to slowly make its way to a location near the opposing team's spawn point. You win once the tower reaches its destination, or whoever got the tower closest when the time runs out.
- Rainmaker: A Capture the Flag style game mode where you need to free a powerful dragonfish shaped weapon called the Rainmaker from an orb in the center of the map and carry it to a designated platform near the opponent's base. As long as you are carrying the Rainmaker, you cannot super-jump, your running and swimming speed are reduced, and you are visible while swimming. You are also subjected to a sixty second timer in which if you fail to deliver the weapon to the opponent's base before the timer runs out, you will explode in the opponent's ink color. However, you can use the Rainmaker like a stronger, chargeable Inkzooka to help you get to the opponent's base a little more easily. Secondary win conditions are the same as in Tower Control.
Two maps for each mode are only available to play at any one time and are rotated out every four hours according to an online clock that the game pings when connected to the internet. While the Regular Battles are a lot of fun to be had, the Ranked Battles (which can only be played after you reach level 10) are more geared for hardcore players as your rank will go up or down based on your wins and losses. The cash and experience you receive if you win the match is based on your score in the match and much better than in the Regular Battles, but if you happen to lose, you receive absolutely nothing. This game mode would probably best be played after you max out your inkling's level and equipment so you would have less to ultimately lose. Also, once your level reaches 20, you can add more bonus slots to weaker pieces of clothing that you like by talking to Spyke and paying him 30,000 in cash, or with a Super Sea Snail that you can win from Splat Fest.
Outside of the online multiplayer modes is also a local 1-vs-1 game mode called Battle Dojo where you face off against a friend to see who can get to thirty points first by popping balloons before the time runs out. It can be played on one of five different maps and you can use one of eight different weapons chosen specifically for this mode. There is also a small arcade machine in the main hub that you can play to pass the time while you're waiting to be connected to an online game. But while these two modes are a nice distraction from the online battles, the single player campaign called Hero Mode is where you will most likely spend the majority of your time outside of the online matches.
In Hero Mode, you are recruited by an elderly war veteran by the name of Cap'n Cuttlefish who used to be the leader of a band of soldiers known as the Squidbeak Splatoon during the great turf wars 100 years prior. He informs you that the Great Zapfish, a 100-year-old electric catfish and main power supply for the Booyah Base and the entirety of Inkopolis where inklings live, has been abducted by the Octarians, an octopus-like species that dwell in the caverns deep underneath the city. He then equips you with special armor and a unique Shooter weapon and tasks you with finding and rescuing the Great Zapfish and thirty-one smaller zapfish fry by going into the Octarian strongholds and taking the zapfish back by force. Each of the thirty-two kettles that you must find and enter in order to start the missions also contains one sunken scroll for you to find which contain some backstory, info on Octarian and Inkling history and society, and even blueprints for new weapons to use in the online game modes. Completing Hero Mode also gets you two full sets of clothing that you can use in the online game modes. This is all just pretty much an extended and glorified tutorial mode for the game, but it is a ton of fun and the boss fights are very unique and well designed.
If you like the story mode and wished that you could have used a weapon other than the Shooter, well then you're in luck if you managed to get a hold of the three Splatoon amiibo that were released along side the game. When you reappear back in the hub after you start the game up or after you end any game mode, just head behind where you start and off to the right to find a giant amiibo box. Scanning the Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, or Inkling Squid will allow you to rechallenge certain Hero Mode missions with different weapons and abilities. The Inkling Girl gives you challenges with a Charger, the Inkling Boy gives you Roller challenges, and the Inkling Squid gives you a mix of time trials as the Kraken and limited ink runs. Completing these challenges give you extra cash that you can spend in the shops, unique articles of clothing that you can't buy from the shops or order from Spyke, new minigames that you can play in the arcade machine, and replicas of the weapons that you used in the challenges. Most people would consider this Disc Locked Content, but none of the rewards you gain from the amiibo give you any kind of advantage against your opponents. It's just a nice little bonus for those that happen to own the figurines.
Overall, Splatoon was a very nice surprise from Nintendo. They don't make many new big-name IP's any more, but when they do, they never seem to fail. Everything about the game is so perfectly polished and well designed. The gameplay is easy to pick up, the music is unique and fun to listen to, the game modes are varied enough that it rarely gets stale, and in order to improve the pacing and to artificially inflate the length of the game, content locked away on the disc (like new weapons and stages) gets released for free at specific dates along the game's lifespan via an online calendar. While this is a bit unorthodox, it is a smart way to keep the game from getting stale early in its life. SO, now I have one final question to ask you.
ARE YOU A KID, OR A SQUID?
But until then, I'll be seeing you.