Nintendo is often typecasted as a one-trick pony of sorts in the video game world, relying on a few savoury franchises to keep their ship afloat in a market otherwise full of new intellectual properties. The Big N’s continual use of gaming giants like the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda series is by no means an injustice, however, as these franchises seem to always yield critical and commercial success. Still, the company has made a handful of efforts to introduce new faces to the pantheon of classic Nintendo characters; The Wonderful 101, for instance was one such attempt to ring in a new franchise, but the company hasn’t launched a truly enduring franchise since the GameCube days with games like Pikmin and Animal Crossing. Could it be that with the launch of their colourful, third-person shooter, Splatoon, Nintendo can prove to gamers that their best ideas lie not in the past, but in the future?
I’ll go on record as saying I couldn’t have cared less about Splatoon as of a few months ago. A Nintendo console simply isn’t the platform that I lean towards when craving a good shooting experience, especially one that’s focused on online multiplayer. Still, my interested piqued in the recent weeks when marketing efforts for the game increased greatly, leading me to wonder if Splatoon could become the big new franchise I previously mentioned Nintendo needing. After a little bit of hands on time with the game, I couldn’t be happier to say that Splatoon may very well be that successful franchise.
Getting my eyes on the visuals of Splatoon was an instant and pleasant surprise. The game looked far crisper and smoother than the trailers had presented it, leading me to believe the gameplay videos online must have been heavily compressed before uploading. To call the game colourful and fluid is a massive understatement I admit, but it’s a seriously great looking game on the Wii U.
Speaking of fluidity, Splatoon controls like a breeze. I groaned upon finding out that I’d have to tilt the Wii U GamePad to aim my blaster, but after only a few seconds I came to not only tolerate, but genuinely enjoy the gyroscopic GamePad controls. Nintendo seems to have nailed the sensitivity of the tilt controls here. A subtle tilt was enough to adjust my character’s aim – thankfully I never had to swing my controller in circles around the room like a goofball.
Of course, I can’t talk about Splatoon without mentioning the paint-oriented turf war gameplay, and the players’ ability to transform into a squid that can swim swiftly through its team’s paint. This, to me, is a stroke (pun moderately intended) of genius, and is possibly the freshest and most satisfying gameplay mechanic I can recall Nintendo introducing since the unique use of gravity in 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy. The developers have found something special with this paint swimming mechanic, and I can only imagine the sort of ways players will take advantage of this stealthy tactic for elegantly traversing the battlefield.
Is Splatoon the big new intellectual property to prove that Nintendo’s imagination is as wild as ever? We can’t say for sure until May 29th, but what I can say is that my twenty minute with the game absolutely left me craving more. The paint swimming mechanic is a genuine thrill, and I feel like its inclusion in Splatoon embodies exactly what Nintendo does best: they custom tailor tried and true gaming formulas – in this case the third person shooter – with bizarrely effective new ideas to fit inline with their quirky, inventive take on what gaming is all about.
Splatoon launches alongside the Inkling Boy and Girl amiibo figures on May 29th.