WE TAKE AN EARLY LOOK AT NINTENDO’S SPLATOON
If there was a single criticism that I would lay at Nintendo’s feet based on the last decade or so, it would be that it’s a company that has become far too happy to rely on the fame of its long- established franchises.
That Nintendo is willing to put the bulk of its chips on the success of new installments in franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Mario Kart 3D, Donkey Kong or even the more recent Pikmin is wholly understandable, but it’s nice to see some new blood every now and then, and with Splatoon the company is making its first major effort to address that shortcoming. Announced at last year’s E3, Splatoon is a team- oriented third person shooter with a couple of twists. Firstly, your characters have the ability to turn into squid at will, jumping into the liquidy goodness that drenches every level in order to take enemies by surprise and spring traps, both offensive and defensive. The second, and arguably the most important given Nintendo’s familyfriendly tag, is the fact that it’s not semi- automatic weapons and explosives you’ll be toting here but rather ink, and plenty of it! Although there’s nothing all that new about the concept of a cutesy team shooter ( Electronic Arts recently delivered a pretty sterling effort with PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare), it’s the fact that this is a Nintendo- born project that really gets me excited. More specifically, this is a title that comes from Nintendo’s EAD 2 group, which is responsible for some of the company’s most innovative and interesting efforts over the past ten years. With a back catalogue that includes Animal Crossing: Wild World, City Folk and New Leaf, Wii Sports, Sports Resort and Sports Club, Wii Play and Nintendo Land, EAD 2 is a team that’s not afraid to think outside the box - however the group’s output definitely hasn’t been to everyone’s liking to date, even if the sales figures might suggest otherwise. If cute and quirky are major gaming turn- offs for you, then it’s highly likely that Splatoon will tick all the wrong boxes, but for everyone else, particularly those looking for the perfect tonic to the slew of alltooserious shooters we’ve seen in recent times, it’s shaping up to be
quite a promising effort. Despite the fact that Splatoon’s cute and colourful look and feel coupled with its non- lethal arsenal of weapons does a fine job of setting the overall tone here, they manage to partly obscure what could well turn out to be a far more intelligent shooter than many will give the game credit for. As two teams of four “inklings” ( essentially human kids with the ability to turn into squids) go up against each other, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t a game focused on kill/ death ratios or streaks. In fact, damaging your opponents isn’t even the real objective in Splatoon - which probably isn’t all that great a surprise given the fact that it’s Nintendo through and through.
Instead, the aim here
is to cover as much of the map as possible in your team’s colour ink. The more coverage you’ve got on the ground, walls, ceilings and wherever else you can reach, the easier it is to get around in squid form, which is a far more efficient way to travel than running. Diving into the ink serves not only to get you from A to B in a hurry, but also to refill your own ink gun, but clever opponents will impede your progress by cutting off your ink with theirs, causing you damage and slowing you down to a crawl, even when you’re not a squid. Those core mechanics may sound limiting, but when the game is in full swing it’s genuinely astonishing how many different ways there are to approach any given battle, and as players get to grips with the tactics necessary to succeed here, I’m willing to wager we’re in for some incredibly tense online battles. As we’ve come to expect from Nintendo’s own Wii U titles, Splatoon is a seriously good looking game, and its focus on contrasting inks makes for some beautiful eye candy during each round. The character models themselves are nothing to write home about, and it’s unlikely we’ll see any future Nintendo heroes emerge from the title, but they’re perfectly serviceable and do everything they need to with minimal fuss. At the time of writing, however, there is a pretty major issue with Splatoon that I’m hoping will be rectified ahead of its May launch, and that’s the core control system. As you’d expect, you’ll move your character around using the GamePad controller’s right thumbstick, with the right hand trigger doing its now- standard thing when it comes to unleashing a volley upon any enemies unlucky enough to fall under your cross- hairs, but
the aiming is a whole other story. Instead of the tried and tested method of using the left analog stick exclusively for your aiming, Nintendo has decided it would be better to use the stick for just the horizontal plane, and the GamePad’s gyro sensor for all vertical motion, making aiming a lot more fiddly than it has any need to be, and requiring far too much of the silly waggling that I had hoped we’d seen the last of several years ago. It could well be that it’s simply a system that takes a little getting used to before reaping the rewards, but for me it just feels far too sloppy, so hopefully Nintendo will add in the option for more traditional controls before the game launches. That aside, Splatoon is shaping up to be a great title. The thoughts of Nintendo releasing a third person online shooter would’ve been ridiculed a year ago, never mind one that was actually decent, but Splatoon hitting Wii U next month, we’ll find out for sure sooner rather than later.