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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: Splatoon

Meddling squids and their stupid cat.
Well, Nintendo's latest IP has been out for about a month now, and I'm sure everyone is dying to know how it's being received by people who aren't journalists and aren't playing on empty servers. Right? RIGHT? No? You already own the game? Well, that's not surprising. It did just pass one million units.

Actually, as someone who doesn't normally play competitive shooters or, well, shooters in general, I suppose, I think my opinion might vary quite a bit. For example, I think that Splatoon is a great game in terms of aesthetics, but does it have the solid game design of a Nintendo title? Does that mesh well with the nature of competitive shooters? Is this game a sign of bad things to come for future Nintendo titles? Let's have a closer look at this bizarre foray into the online space and wipe away all that clouding ink.

PROS:

-Inventive gameplay concept focusing on stealth and cover

-Several well-realized and addicting game modes and mechanics

-This game is fresh as hell.

CONS:

-Too little of a good thing, in almost every aspect

-Amiibo? How about Amii-NO.

-Difficulty curve in single player is non-existent

THOUGHTS:

Not too long ago (it was one of the last posts I made, actually), I mentioned that I was in love with Splatoon. And I am. Very much so. Even now, having reached the multiplayer level limit and fully finished the single player campaign, I enjoy Splatoon very much. But what I fear is how long I will be able to enjoy the game, and if ultimately it will stand the test of time.

Let me get the good out of the way first. Splatoon is fun. It is tense, role-based, and yet somehow completely different from anything you've ever played when it comes to shooters. The single player is wacky and features a bizarre story that has quite a bit of modern awareness in it. And yes, despite its corny advertizements and sometimes painful neon colors, it's stylish. The clothing your Inkling wears is all very well-designed and features very unique flavors. The music is groovy, the characters are wacky and endearing, and it all somehow seems to come together in a way I didn't believe would actually work. But, it does.

I think back about my favorite games- all of them eventually have to end. But we can continue to return and enjoy them, to some extent. The problem with Splatoon is that what is present does not feel like a substantial package. The single player, though charming, inventive, and certainly quite different from anything seen in many arena shooters nowadays, is extremely short, and also very easy. Also, many of the ideas present are very familiar to another game, called Super Mario Sunshine- to the extent that I find it laughable that the developers didn't realize the similarities until the last moment. Obviously the central mechanic is a major part of it, but the additional concepts they layer on top are already quite recognizable. In any case, that does not make said ideas bad- but it doesn't make them all that impressive, either. To top that off, Splatoon's single player bosses are all subject to the standard Nintendo fare save the final one- which is quite impressive, but comes too late to redeem the earlier battles.

Then there's the nature of Battle Dojo, which is a novel idea and works well enough in execution, but lacks the amount of players to make it truly hectic and something that would make Splatoon the life of the party, or even a game able to sway others' opinions on purchasing a Wii U. It varies very heavily from the "standard" gameplay of Splatoon and doesn't focus all that much on spreading ink, so it's a bit unnecessary.

And then there is the central portion of Splatoon, the online battles. I must hand it to Nintendo- it's ballsy. They tackled the complexities of a shooter and the elements necessary to make a solid online mode, and they did it in a manner that is accessible, addicting, and unique. But the level cap is 20! Not only that, but the ranked portion of the game awards experience faster, and though it's locked behind level 10, a number of successful matches can cause a torrent of levels in one evening.

What else is left to do in Splatoon, then? Well, you can join your friends' matches, if they're online. You can play Turf War to your heart's content, and if you're really looking for punishment, go ahead and try Ranked Battle. You can build up cash reserves to purchase more weapons and gear, which have randomized unlocks that can be re-rolled if you fork over more cash gained by playing more multiplayer. But the money system feels a bit imbalanced and pushes players to go for Ranked Battles rather than Turf Wars, though really the continuous stream of cash from Turf Wars rewards more greatly than ranked battles. Another issue is that the ranked and normal versions of maps have significant differences in layout and mechanics that some players may not enjoy (I love both, but that's just me). This creates a divisive experience.

I know that it seems like I'm down on Splatoon, but to be fair, I did tear through the game. The single player was a mere obstacle standing in my way before I could access more weapons. I developed a strategy and used it to great success in a number of matches (note: I am not saying I'm good at Splatoon. In fact, I'm rather poor at it outside of my standard equipment set). For those who are looking for a casual timesink, this could be the proper experience for you. Starting out is an uphill struggle, but once you uncover the mid-range of the weapons featured in the game things start to feel smooth and enjoyable. After a week of playing, and eagerly awaiting the experience of the dogs and cats Splatfest, I can't help but wonder what is next for Splatoon. Clearly, this review is not a comprehensive look at the game because several key features are still not present. But I did want to leave anyone considering buying Splatoon with one thought- when its servers go offline, will Splatoon still be a game you wish to own? Because for me, the little bit of the game that would remain is not substantial enough.  Maybe I'm late to this realization, as many shooters with similar amounts of content to Splatoon that have been releasing for years, but I do worry.

Splatoon is not a full-fledged game. It was not upon release, especially at a sixty dollar price point. The constant and steady stream of maps and (hopefully) modes eases this pain somewhat, but Nintendo has already had to consider, execute, and feel the reverberations of a network culling, and though the Nintendo Network seems to be their current, all-encompassing method of online gaming, I wonder how much they are going to actually support older releases once iterations are on the market. A business savvy mindset would say "not at all", meaning the majority of Splatoon's content will not exist after a certain point. This is maybe a non-issue to some, but to me, the timeless nature of video games is a crucial aspect, enabling us to return to the time when we first knew that entertainment, or perhaps becoming reintroduced to the nuances of said game's mechanics. With online being such a major aspect of Splatoon's enjoyment, and the committal of servers bogging down the Nintendo Network, I fear that this addictive game may become irrelevant upon a sequel. Of course, that may be how some gamers feel, but that's not what I personally agree with, and so you see my moral quandary.

Games are temporary experiences. They consume one part of our time and then we move onto the next experience. If we're lucky, a game defines a certain point of our lives, and we continue to return to it and enjoy it because of our initial experience. With Splatoon, I have enjoyed my initial experience very much, but now I am feeling the wight of reality, and of modern game design, crash down upon me. Will this experience be the only chance I get to play this wonderful game? Will I have the chance to return? Those are the questions you should be asking yourself as you consider purchasing this title, not whether or not it is a memorable and enjoyable experience. Those are definite questions, but Splatoon's future is very, very uncertain.

I also should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER have to buy Amiibo that feature content that would add a substantial amount to my single-player playtime. That's messed up, Nintendo.

Final Verdict: What Splatoon succeeds in is its existence in general- a Nintendo-made online shooter with deep, innovative mechanics that feel right at home on their console. It's also ridiculously stylish and savvy. But it's content is lacking in a number of areas and though that seems like it is being slowly remedied, it makes this title hard to recommend until August. Still, there's lots to do in Splatoon and plenty of fun to be had- the future looks bright for this new Nintendo IP.

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