When you think of Nintendo games, certain things come to mind. No matter what the genre or franchise certain things stand out. Games tend to be family-friendly, even when they involve serious concepts like bounty hunting and war. Many times, they explore gameplay concepts that aren’t often explored in games. They have a colorful and definitive style, keeping them from looking like other games on the shelf. They’ll also have hidden depths to them. Splatoon is a masterpiece that ticks all of these boxes. It made a splash on the Wii U, and Splatoon 2 is set to be one of the Switch’s launch window games. The series has found a perfect place for itself in an ocean of Nintendo games, improving our gaming ecosystem.
Splatoon is a third-person shooter that offers a single player campaign dealing with an Octoling menace and team-based competitive multiplayer. This is a genre mainly populated by games like Gears of War, Mass Effect, Syphon Filter and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. None of them are exactly games you’d consider family-friendly. Nintendo managed to make this a game everyone, of any age, can play together.
Partially, because of the nature of the characters. These are kids that occasionally turn into squids. They don’t die if they’re hit by too much of an opposing team’s paint. Rather, they respawn at the home base. The battlefield isn’t even really that. While the campaign is a slightly more serious affair, multiplayer matches are for-fun Turf War reenactments. By making the participants youths and the firefights a game, Splatoon immediately becomes more accessible to a wider audience.
While eliminating the competition by splatting them with paint is rewarding, making the focus conquering territory helps in keeping Splatoon an all-ages affair. Temporarily taking an opposing player out of the game will benefit your cause. You’ll even get more points for it. What really matters, though, is painting the town red. Or blue. The color doesn’t really matter. What does is that you’re constantly working together and only by dominating enough of the space can you actually win. This encourages camaraderie and a focus on covering the environment, rather than opponents.
With so much color, Splatoon stands out even among other bright Nintendo games like Super Mario, Animal Crossing and Rhythm Heaven. The world these Inklings inhabit is bright and colorful. Each character can perfectly transition from an incredibly stylish kid to a Blooper-esque squid. While in their human form, they exhibit cephalopod traits like tentacle hair, dark circles around their eyes and pointed ears. Things look both urban and aquatic at the same time.
Even the equipment commits to the bit. We’re all fighting with paint in Splatoon. Equipment ranges from standard, modern clothing to things people would wear in a paintball arena. Leveling them up gives each one skills that will make you stronger in each encounter. While there are the guns you’d expect from a third-person shooter, each one is a squirt gun. There’s a sense of whimsy. Also, there are an array of unconventional weapons like paint rollers, brushes and buckets. Each one is balanced to allow its user to fulfill a certain role in the field. People with a Splat Charger could be a group’s sniper. Someone with a roller would be in charge of claiming territory. Those with Splattershots are all-purpose soldiers who can fight enemies or cover territory.
What makes Splatoon most special is the lore. Like Pikmin, the game’s lore is surprisingly serious. When you collect Sunken Scrolls in the campaign, you learn more about the game’s setting. It’s set in the future, for example; one in which humans are extinct. And, as anyone can tell from the aggressiveness of the octolings in the campaign, the two primary races in the series were once at war. While everything is bright and happy now, that wasn’t always so. There’s a depth to the world that lends more authenticity and character to the title as a whole.
This all leads to Splatoon, both the original game and series as a whole, being a prime example of everything Nintendo stands for. It is something absolutely everyone can enjoy, regardless of age or how many people they have to play with them. It has an undeniably unique aesthetic. Yet, even though everything is incredibly fashionable and pleasant, there’s a backstory that enriches the overall adventure. Splatoon is a standout Wii U game, one that set a foundation for what will hopefully be a rich and rewarding series.