WonderCon 2015 didn’t have the largest video game showcase, but it did have one thing– Splatoon. Obviously we had to make our way over to the Nintendo booth to get our hands on what was an almost final build of the soon to release title. Fair or not, Nintendo gets a lot of flack for producing new games for the same franchises. We’d like to think that they are so hesitant to create new franchises because they want it to be something special. Splatoon is starting to look like just that.
If you don’t know what Splatoon is, here is the quick pitch given to us by Nintendo representatives– a 4 on 4 third-person turf war where the objective is to get as much of the area covered in your colored ink. Vague but straight to the point. It is pretty much a giant paintball match. For the most part, it uses standard third-person shooter controls, except that the vertical aim requires the use of the gamepad gyroscope, a.k.a. motion controls. The hook here is that you can turn into a squid and swim in your teams ink.
As strange as the game sounds it was fairly accessible, even the motion controls were pretty easy to adjust to. Quick note, it wasn’t clear whether the motion controls could be turned off in the final release. What is so interesting is that this is sort of Nintendo’s attempt at doing a competitive shooter. Other than Metroid and a few other titles, there aren’t too many shooters let alone competitive ones other than poor ports of Call of Duty titles on the Big N’s consoles.
This family friendly shooter is colorful, bright, and even a bit cartoonish, but don’t let that fool you- it is competitive. The best way to describe it is as a mix of Plants Vs. Zombies (the shooter) and Titanfall, where the objective is to paint the most surface area. The objective is as simple as it sounds, just shoot everything with your ink, refilling when necessary. The opposing team will be doing the same thing, as both sides will try to outdo each other and take areas away from each other. Even taking spots previously owned by your competitors.
Each team started off on opposite sides of the map and the particular map that was being shown was simple enough with really only one direction to go in. Movement as a human was a bit slow, and felt like the character was waddling around like the Plants Vs. Zombies characters. Both also share the same type of animated cartoony aesthetics. Even shooting your opponents offers the same type of not so violent demise. The Titanfall comparison comes from the versatility in traversing the map. Stay with me here– just like the giant mech first-person shooter, Splatoon is all about using your surroundings to move around with speed and verticality. Using your ink, you can splatter mostly anything with your team color and swim in it, even walls. This turns a once very horizontal flat map into a battle arena ready to be exploited. It also helps that in squid form, you become much faster and can even jump over gaps.
After only a couple of matches, maneuvering through the grounds became second nature and I was taking advantage of walls, steep landscapes, and the speed boost allotted in squid form. Simply put, it was a blast to play, especially when the whole team starts to work together. Put in two competent teams and you have yourself a real competitive battle.
It is important to recognize that the we played in the perfect conditions. 8 people were playing every time, each team was standing right next to each other at the booth, and the Wii U’s may not have been connected to each other through normal means. There is definitely enough reason to be at least a bit hesitant about Splatoon since Nintendo isn’t known for having the best online infrastructure to provide the type of online experience required to create a competitive scene. How parties, party chat, and servers will work when the game hits the wild are all unknown. The full retail release will include a campaign, but it is obvious that the online multiplayer is what’s intended to bring people in. If any of the aforementioned features are lacking, it would incredibly hinder the experience. The Wii U’s slow sales may also already be restricting the amount of players that will be online, which is a shame because in order to be successfu,l there needs to be a large community always playing.
In short, Splatoon’s showing at WonderCon 2015 was impressive. It was slick, fast, and most importantly, fun. At the very least, Nintendo has yet again created something that in it’s very basic form is fun. What types of other maps and game modes will be included in the retail release will decide just how good the game is when it makes it’s way to homes.
Are you planning on picking this title up later on this month, or are you not into the family friendly competitive shooter scene? Be a cool squid and dive into the comments section below to let us know what you think.