Wii U9.10
Overall 9.10
Cries over nintendo's lack of new original titles have filled the Internet for years, and with some merit. They have created many new franchises throughout the years but those were mostly mini-game collections or smaller portable games. What they have been lacking is a new major tentpole franchise; enter Splatoon. This is the most original idea Nintendo has had in years in a genre you'd never think to find Nintendo, the online multiplayer shooter. As with everything they do Nintendo approached the online multiplayer shooter with the mindset of creating new gameplay ideas that is pure fun for players of all ages. The result is the best multiplayer shooter I have played in a long time and one of the best new games this gen.

The genius of splatoon is in its mechanics, you shoot paint which leaves your color paint around the map which then allows the player to move quickly by turning into a squid and swimming through it. This makes shooting not just your offense, it is the key to movement and defense as well. It's brilliant; it's a gameplay feedback loop that other shooters don't have, shooting basically feeds all elements of the match. Dying sends you right back to the start of the map but you have the ability to launch your squid to any player's position on the map which you monitor and choose on your wii pad. This mechanic keeps the match at intense levels all the time as jumping right back into the action is very easy. Having the map on the gamepad is a fantastic feature as with a quick glance you can easily see which side is winning and which areas need paint the most.

The main mode of the game, turf wars, revolves around simply painting the most area of the map; not the usual goal of killing others. This means that everything you do aids in the winning of a match. Shoot a wall, you are helping. shoot the floor, you are helping. create swimming lanes, you are helping. Every second counts toward the match and there is zero downtime. It allows players with different skills to all have a role that doesn't have to involve shooting people in the face. Players with rollers can simply focus on covering the most ground while running around, enemies can be attacked with a simple splash attack which hits anything in front of the player or by simply rolling over them with no need to aim. These matches are so much fun from start to finish, all turf war matches are three minutes long and have wild swings of momentum. I have seen teams dominate for two minutes and watch it all fall apart in the final minute. I have seen matches come down to a hundredth of a percent of paint, the equivalent of someone firing one splat at a random spot on the floor. Those final seconds of a match can be the difference between winning and losing, covering that small patch of opponents paint could determine a match which makes every match thrilling.

The variety of weapons to choose from is simply staggering. Now, I am playing this after many many patches that have added in loads of weapons and maps from launch, so this is a far better game now than it was then. Every level up has given me at least four new weapons to mess around with, granted most of these weapons fit into one of about seven or eight weapon types but have different specials assigned to them. A weapon loadout has your gun, a grenade type weapon and a special. The weapon types include rollers, rifles, snipers, blasters, sloshers, paint brushes, magnum like guns, mini guns and more. The different variations of any one gun can come with different firing distances and damage output and fire rates. All these types lead to so many styles of play. For instance i like the spray machine gun, it sprays ink in a wide arc so I cover lots of ground plus it allows me to attack enemies at a distance. I have seen expert players use sniper rifle guns in ways I cannot, these players sit at a distance and survey the battlefield picking off rollers or any enemies that get in sight then melt into the paint before a teammate can retaliate.

There are so many weapon combinations that you will find something that suits your play style and gives you many fun ways to play. I find the  weapon collection in splatoon to offer far more drastic changes in the way one plays a match than guns in any normal military shooter where all the guns do is change how you kill a guy. A new type of weapon changes your entire role in painting the map and how you attack enemies.

The grenade types and specials add even more layers to the strategy as some “grenades” can be mines used to attack pursuers that try to chase you as you swim away. One grenade type throws out a shower wall of paint to protect you. Other throwables include explosives, homing missiles and more; these grenades suck up a large chunk of paint so they are best used in smart moments. The specials charge as you cover the map with paint and when ready can unleash a devastating attack or a defensive item like a shield bubble. Used at the right time these specials can drastically change the momentum of a match. Experimenting with loadouts keeps things fresh and makes progression feel important.

The way the game is structured is controversial as Nintendo withholds maps. Basically you begin the game in a hub where you can upgrade weapons and clothes (which give small perks) and can choose to play the online or the campaign. When you start you see a video showing what maps are in rotation, every four hours there are two maps for free play and two for ranked mode. This is by far the worst aspect of the game, being stuck with two maps per mode, as it will repeat the same map tons and tons of time. if you don't like the maps too bad, quit and hope for later. Party formation and load outs are a pain as well. Parties are random unless you go into a different friend party mode. Loadouts have to be chosen before you even enter the search for a game option. So once a match begins you will see other teammate loadouts, if they all have snipers you are screwed. Or say all rollers, instant fail. There is no way to coordinate. Switching loadouts require you to exit the lobby, switch loadouts and renter at which time it will be a new group of people. There is no voice chat which is fine by me but this is a team oriented game and there is very little to let you work as a team. This isn't much an issue on free play but frustrating as hell on ranked matches where teamwork is key. That said most of the time it somehow works out, I have been on both sides with teams that work amazing together and teams that are incredibly dysfunctional.

Ranked mode is where you can play the other game modes other than turf war. You can only access it after you reach level 10 (takes like 6 hours) and it gives you a separate rank on top of your level. Everyone starts a C- and works their way up to A+. Each win gives you some points and losses take away points, reach 100 points and you move up a rank, drop below 0 and go down a rank. This is the best progression I have ever seen in an online multiplayer shooter, it feels like advancing difficulty in a single player game. As those ranks go up so does the level of competition, it gets noticeably harder with each level. Best part is you are eased into it, you won't be matched against a Japanese death squad at the start, you always play players at your rank.

The ranked game modes are a blast; they include a tower mode where your team needs to be on a tower that travels across the level on a rail, reach the enemy base and you win. There is rainmaker where there is this super gun in the middle of the map and each team fights to get the gun and take it toward the enemy base. And there is splash zones which is basically territories mode where teams fight for one or two spots of a map. The strategies change drastically when playing these modes as painting everything is no longer the goal. The goals funnel everyone toward the same locations so you end up with epic splat battles.

Team tactics are key and a match can swing widely. I have seen some incredible mind blowing finishes. Once on the tower mode, my team got the tower within 5 feet of the goal with 20 seconds left. We had the longest distance traveled  so once the timer ended we win, or so we thought, but because the opposing team got on the tower and stayed there it went to overtime. They rode that thing from their base all the way to our base and won, they were perfectly coordinated while my team was scattered, I think we all thought the match was going to end. I have changed the dynamics of a match with one well timed special that wiped out a whole team and allowed my team control, drastically changing the flow of that match. Different weapons for different modes is a must, this allows one to become experts in multiple weapon types and keeps the gameplay fresh.  I've yelled, I've screamed, I've cheered and I have cursed a storm at stupid teammates while playing. It is so intense and yet so much fun.

Unlike most multiplayer focused games splatoon has a full,and more importantly, good single player campaign. It's like 6-7 hours long and has about 30 levels with 5 boss battles. It's basically a TPS platformer but the mechanics make it play like nothing I have tried before. Most of the early levels are designed around introducing all sorts of new mechanics like sponges that expand when you paint them, fences that only allow the squid form to go through, and all kinds of enemy types. Later stages start to mix all kinds of skills together and you can begin to see the workings of an excellent platformer. They really held back though as most of the game is simple but you can see flashes of brilliance. There could have been levels where platforms are moving through wire fences that require constant switching in and out of squid while battling hordes of enemies. I would have liked to see squid races, time attack modes, survival modes and all kinds of mini games. Instead all levels are more focused like simplistic mario Galaxy levels. Hopefully the sequel goes all out because these gameplay mechanics can rival Mario.

I have to mention the final boss which is one of the greatest final bosses in years. It does exactly what a final boss should do which is take every skill you learned throughout the game and put them all to use. It's epic, it's everything I wanted out of the entire game but only for one level. If the whole game had that level of creativity this would be one of the best single player games as well. Instead it's a very good campaign that left me wanting more.

Splatoon is well made game in every aspect from the visuals to the sound and how well the online matches flow. The graphics use the paint to create striking bright contrasting colors on screen. All the ink moves like ink would with incredible detail. It runs at 60fps which makes it a joy to play as well as look at. The soundtrack is an eclectic sound, a crazy collection of beats and weird sounds set to catchy tunes that works perfectly. Thematically everything works in tandem and the music is maybe the biggest part of it. The game runs damn near perfect; online matches are usually super smooth with no lag though sometimes you get an all Japan team so some lag will happen. Getting into a match is quick and easy normally only taking a few seconds. Even if you have to wait you can play a small mini game that acts like an old school 8-bit game on the wiipad.

I have a feeling Nintendo found their next big franchise. It has all the Nintendo fun and depth you’d expect from their games and fits the new era of gaming and culture perfectly. Kids will be hooked the second they play it and anyone who appreciates fun fast paced gameplay should have a blast as well. It is the first attempt so it has some major issues which has to be addressed, mostly around how they handle the distribution of content which was flat out terrible, stop restricting players. It also could use some more diverse content. I can see a well made sequel become legendary in the way many of the best sequels do. If Nintendo nails it with splatoon 2 I believe this will mark the start of a franchise that will be at the same level as smash bros and Mario kart. Splatoon is one of the most original, fresh, addictive games of this gen and is a perfect example of what the Wii U should have been offering from the start.
Posted by Dvader Wed, 13 Jan 2016 21:30:05
Thu, 14 Jan 2016 08:43:10
Apology for not getting it day 1 accepted.
Thu, 14 Jan 2016 09:54:21
Awesome, will read later
Thu, 14 Jan 2016 17:39:01
Reads like a 9.4
Thu, 14 Jan 2016 21:37:54
You can go up to S rank.
LOL at tower extra time, I love that. Riding it through to the finish is a rush. Losing is abysmal. Grinning

I read it all, great work. I would love Splatoon 2.0 to launch with NX which would have the entire Wii U Splatoon at 1080p with AA and with the promise of like 12-16 more maps being added over the next year.
Mon, 05 Sep 2016 14:47:02
Man, I'm having Splatoon withdrawl just contemplating going this week without it. So much so I just re-read this review in full. This game is so awesome. I'm a level 50, MAX rank so I get teamed against level 50 Japanese assholes. It can make life hell at times, I don't know if it's the server advantage or not, they seem almost omniscient at times. At other times, I can be the lone non-Jap in the whole match and regularly score the most. So I'm not quite sure what is going on. I wonder if my net connection speed has anything to do with how I'm doing. At home I can get 12mbps but it says my upload speed is 0.80 mbps so is my data being so slowly uploaded it affects how the other players see me?
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