Splatoon Video Review (Wii U)

Haedox Splatoon Review

So… Splatoon. This was my number one most hyped game for this year and when I first downloaded the game, it felt… surreal. I had been anticipating this title for what seemed like years, and it was finally on my Wii U. And that’s why when I finished the single player campaign and played the multiplayer for 20 hours, I felt… really, really disappointed. But before we get into evaluating everything Splatoon has to offer, I want to make a few things explicitly clear. For one thing, I am reviewing this game in May of 2015, the same month the game comes out in. That means, that the free DLC has not been released yet and the game has just launched. So I am reviewing this game as it is, straight out of the box, which is how every game should be reviewed in my opinion. Secondly, I have thoroughly gone through everything this game has to offer at this point in time. And I mean, everything… from exploring to multiplayer to talking with others about the game, which is something I normally don’t do. Why I am telling you this? Well, if you remember, I released a review about Story of Seasons where I said I was not into Harvest Moon type games so I didn’t like Story of Seasons and would not recommend it to people like me. And immediately after I published that video, I received comments and messages from people calling me a biased reviewer, people telling me to kill myself, and people insulting me for no reason at all other than the fact that I didn’t like a game they liked. So keep in mind for this review, this is my opinion. I feel like this should go without saying, but this video should not be taken as an objective piece of media. You are free to disagree or agree with what I have to say and I won’t think any less of you for doing so. If anything, I like having people tell me they have differing opinions. Well, with all that out of the way, just how is Splatoon? Does it live up to the hype?

I’m sure you could already tell, but no… no it doesn’t. Now, Splatoon boasts a “variety” of modes, but the gameplay is essentially split into single player and multi-player. So let’s begin with single-player.

First and foremost, you will notice to get around the world of Splatoon, you maneuver through a city called Inkopolis. Here, you can buy various items like hats, shoes, and weapon sets for the multiplayer from numerous shops. What is really cool about these particular shops is the characters inside them. Sure they all are pretty much one-note, static creatures, but they all feel at least a bit memorable and distinct. And even though a lot of their dialogue comes across as corny, the writing is really well done. Not to mention, I love these character designs; they feel truly unique and something you wouldn’t ever think of seeing. Nintendo just has this sea-life style and runs with it throughout the entirety of the game and it works. Plus, the whole layout of Inkopolis is geniously constructed. It’s not too big so navigating it feels tedious, or too small that it feels cramped, it is perfect as the shop locations are not far from where you spawn and nor is anything else. And to top it all off, the place feels like a living, breathing city as inklings from all over the internet just wander around here so you can examine their… bodies? Overall, there is nothing wrong with this hub. I actually love it. Sure it’s not expansive or anything, but it doesn’t have to be.

The same can be said for the actual single player campaign in regards to the story. Basically, you go through a sewer system and end up in Octo Valley where you confront a senile old captain by the name of Captain Cuddlefish. He informs you that the Octarians have kidnapped… oh excuse me, I meant squidnapped… the great zapfish that powers Inkopolis and it is up to you to retrieve them. Does that sound like any other game involving icky, paint-like goop? Yeah, this game obviously takes inspiration from Super Mario Sunshine as the both games use paint as a type of weapon. While I feel like this is a cop out for not including an original story, it’s probably more of an homage to Sunshine because right after this cutscene, the storytelling takes a backseat as you progress through numerous levels and worlds to rescue the zapfish. It’s no surprise that this is a gameplay-centric game, and it is totally fine like that. There’s something about the gameplay of Splatoon where I feel a heavy emphasis on story would just bog the whole experience down. The lack of story is something I am a huge fan of in this game. And when it seldomly does appear, it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. There are sea puns and jokes after sea puns and jokes. It’s goofy and on many occasions, I found myself actually smiling at some of the lines… which is something I never do.

Splatoon Octopus Army Corps

An inside look at the Splatoon Octopus Army Corps

Anyways, like I said before, it’s the gameplay that really shines here. As you may know, you play as both a squid and a kid, at the same time, which makes for some interesting level design. When you are a kid… now, you can shoot a (certain) amount of ink all about an area using a variety of weapons and gadgets. At any point, you can press ZL and transform into a squid which allows you to travel through ink with ease, go up walls, recover some ink, and remain hidden from your enemies. These two vastly different gameplay styles mesh remarkably and flawlessly. Changing from a squid is seamless and feels really natural. Everything about movement is good and fluent. The controls are nearly perfect, and that includes the gyro controls that I never recall once having an issue with. It allows for a level of accuracy I don’t think you could ever hope to achieve without a mouse and keyboard. And if you for some reason don’t like the gyro controls, you can turn them off at any time. What’s so wonderful about this method of aiming is that it gives you a huge range for shooting. You can twirl around and instantly see what is behind you. It’s unbelievably simple and responsive. However, while I had no issues with the gamepad, I can see where others may have some issues with sensitivity. If I know online shooters like I know Counter Strike, it’s that the defaults don’t always work for everyone. Unfortunately for those people, changing the aiming sensitivity is kind of convoluted. See, you can’t change this option during actual gameplay so that means you have to first exit the stage, adjust the sensitivity, re-enter the stage, test it out, and if it doesn’t work, you have to repeat this process over and over. I can see this getting really annoying for people who don’t like the default sensitivity, and there is no reason, as far as I can see, as to why you can’t adjust this during the gameplay. It would allow an easier and more streamline experience for everyone. But other than this one flaw with the controls, Splatoon is the tightest, control-wise, game I think I have played on the Wii U… you know aside from maybe Bayonetta 2.

And it’s these controls that really help a lot of the gameplay excel in every department. In the single-player campaign, you play through a bunch of short stages where you make your way through some obstacles to get a ZapFish. Now, these stages are about as linear as level design can get. There are no branching paths, with a few exceptions, which makes the stages kind of feel bland. For example, one level just has you walking a couple feet, taking a couple enemies out, climbing up some level geometry and getting to the end goal. That’s it, and while those enemies might be fun to take out, no stage stands out from the rest. There isn’t one stage where I can say, “Oh man! That one was really fun! Like there was some awesome music and the level was really unique!”. Every stage blends together after a while. The music doesn’t really change, nor is it dynamic, further adding to the drab atmosphere. Sure there are a lot of distinct elements like invisible blocks you need to shoot ink on to make appear and sponges you enlarge with ink, but these great elements never get used to their full potential. Now this is just me suggesting crazy ideas here, but how about a level devoted to these sponge objects where you have to use the (sniper) to make your way across the level. Or maybe a level entirely made of those invisible blocks where you have to use the roller to traverse your way to the ZapFish, and sometimes since you have the roller, you just assume the level will be a straight path and it tricks you by adding gaps. This way you have to take your time. These style of levels would have been a lot more memorable and enjoyable, but oh wait, we can’t have a variety of weapons in our campaign! We need those as DLC. And by DLC I mean amiibo. We are all quick to harp on Call of Duty, BattleField or any other FPS when they employ DLC, but when Nintendo adds DLC in their games, as amiibo, nah, it’s fine.

Splatoon Screenshot

Now, let me be clear. I am not hating on Nintendo or anything, it’s just this usage of amiibo actually bothers me. It prevents the campaign from being actually interesting, which is a huge problem. This is just me assuming and speculating again, but I don’t think the majority of people who will buy Splatoon will also pick up all three amiibo that accompany it. Heck, I don’t think the majority will even buy one of those three. This is of course due to many reasons including the amiibo shortages, scalpers and just lack of money. This means the majority of people will be missing out on some of the content in the game and at this point in time, there is no way to buy or receive that content. But exactly what content am I referring to? Different weapons for the single-player campaign, which may not sound like much at first, but you have to understand, you can only use one weapon throughout the entire campaign, the Splattershot. First of all, this restriction of only using one weapon during the campaign really bogs down the experience. It makes the campaign even more bland. And not only this, but you feel really restricted in those levels because the stage is designed around that one weapon. It doesn’t give much room for creativity. But when you tap an amiibo into the game… well, you can use a whole bunch, *cough 3 cough*, of weapons like the roller and Kraken, which honestly should have just been there from the start. They could have added a lot of replayability to the single-player without having the need to shoehorn amiibo functionality in for the sake of having it.

And all these things, the linear level design, the amiibo functionalities and the lack of any replay value make the single player feel like it’s just there for the sake of having it, much like the amiibo. It seems like the campaign was sort of an after-thought during the development period of Splatoon. Sure if you aren’t a cynical, over-analyzing arse like me, you will probably have fun with it. It’s the sort of mindless fun that I know kids will enjoy. But if you are someone who plays games only for their single-player components, then prepare to be disappointed.

Splatoon Wii U E3 2014

Where Splatoon really shines in replayability and enjoyment is in the multiplayer. It only makes sense this is the case since this is the portion of the game Nintendo has been pushing since E3 2014. As of now, May 27th, there are a couple modes you can play in multiplayer, with more being added in the future. Yeah, they plan to patch the game tremendously throughout the summer and add free DLC for everyone to enjoy. However, I kind of see this as a problem. Free DLC is very kind and generous, but the fact of the matter is, Splatoon appears to not be a finished game. It’s not finished in the sense that it is lacking essential elements that probably would have been implemented if the game had been given extra development time. And Nintendo is trying to rectify this by adding new DLC and patching the game, but this makes buying the game in May ultimately not worth it. See, people often scrutinize other FPSs for employing this strategy of patching, but for Splatoon, people seem to giving it a free pass since this is the first massively online game Nintendo has produced. What kind of double standard is that? Don’t say this is just Nintendo being incompetent in online situations like they always are because there are many other models for online play they should have looked to imitate. Adding private lobbies and perhaps some new modes right from the start would have been very beneficial for Splatoon. This is one of the biggest reasons why I am ultimately disappointed by the game. This lack of content is a huge problem for the game and spoiler alert, is one of the reasons why I cannot recommend this title to you. The way I look at it is that the real game doesn’t begin until August, so why couldn’t Nintendo give Splatoon a bit more development time and add in these features right from the get-go… oh right, they needed to meet the E3 deadline.

Anyways, the multiplayer is still pretty enjoyable, and from the times I have played online with my review copy, the servers are stable and work flawlessly. Whether or not that will be the case when it gets released on Friday has yet to be determined. I mean, I can’t predict the future. What I will do is probably post in the comments about the server situation when more people get the game for those who care how the servers are. So, like I said before there are two different modes in multiplayer, ranked battles and turf wars. Let me just say right now, Turf Wars is easily the best mode of them all. In this mode, you are put on a team of four versus another team of four and your objective is to cover the ground with as much as your team’s ink as possible. And whoever has the most ink on the ground after 3 minutes is the victor. Adding to the replayability of this mode are the playable maps that are chosen at random. I don’t think I have any complaints with this system or with the maps themselves. As far as I am concerned, they are designed and work really well. Plus, most maps are different enough where you actually have to think about the way you go about spreading your team’s ink. Like in Saltspray Rig where there are rectangular areas that can make the difference between failure and success if your team dominates them. More often than not, players will crowd those areas and try to capture them for their team. These small additions make every map engaging and feel different. Unfortunately, while this mode can be really fun, that amount of fun is completely situational. Since the teams are assigned at random, sometimes I found myself on teams that had no clue what the objective of Turf Wars was. They wouldn’t try to cover the ground at all, and would go after other players which would lead them to their deaths. This can be very frustrating if you are like me and you actually want to win. There is no voice chat or really any form of communication, so you can’t tell your teammates to cover a certain area or make any sort of strategy. And if you want to have a friend on your team to help you because you could have better communication, well… good luck. The window of opportunity for friends joining you in this game is very very slim. They have to try to join almost immediately after you join a room because those rooms fill up fairly fast. But if you are teamed up with a group of Inklings that are skilled, your time with this mode will be a lot more enjoyable.

Splatoon Wii U

The next mode on our list is something called Ranked Battles where, much like many other FPSs, you are ranked on your performance. You can play two modes here, which include the aforementioned Turf Wars, which is completely unchanged, and Splat Zone. Splat Zone is a unique game mode where you and your team of four must splatter enough of your ink in a certain area to gain control of a zone. And once a team takes control of all the zones in a map, a timer will tick down from 100 seconds and the team that gets their timer to zero or the lowest number first wins. But here’s the catch, once you gain control of the zones, you have to work really hard to defend it. This can be quite challenging especially if you are paired up with nincompoops who don’t know how to even play the game. That aside, this mode is pretty fun, but I didn’t find myself coming back to it as much as I came back to Turf Wars. Maybe it was just the simplicity of Turf Wars that appealed to me, but nonetheless, this mode offers you some variety in your multiplayer endeavors. Speaking of variety, there are an abundance of weapon sets, clothing and shoes to buy for multiplayer. These serve as a way to spice up the gameplay every now and again and help prevent it from becoming too boring or repetitive. I usually just stuck with the Roller and Splattershot Jr. during my playtime as I like to be the one covering the ground with ink and playing semi-defensively. But that’s the thing, you are free to play in any style you want. You can strive to rack up kills with the Sniper, or you can be a team player and use the roller to cover as much area as possible or use the Splattershot and have a balance of both. I have to commend the developers for making a game mode where the tiniest weapon change can mean the difference between victory and defeat. However, even though these different maps, modes and weapons exist to increase replayability, after about 30 hours, I found myself getting a bit bored by the game. Despite it being incredibly fun, I eventually found the gameplay to be repetitive. I think this stems from the limitation of not being able to play with friends because I know for games like CS:GO, the replay value always came from playing with friends. This is something that really ruins the gameplay and replay value for me. I have said it once and I will say it again, this is Splatoon’s biggest problem. I don’t know if any of you knew this, but ever since August of 2014 when I first began streaming, I said to my viewers that we would create an MLG Splatoon team and dominate everyone around us. It was the number one thing that got me excited for Splatoon. And now that that feature has been delayed to August of 2015, it’s like telling a kid he can have ice cream but with no cone, dish or sprinkles. He has to eat it from like a napkin or a bag or something.

But on a more positive note, the best part of Splatoon has to be its presentation. First of all, this is the best looking game on the Wii U, next to Mario Kart 8. The ink textures are so colorful and actually feel, sound and look like ink. Not to mention when you swim in the ink, you leave a subtle trail in it, which is a great detail. These small details just show how much care and time was put into the graphics. Plus, the art style is really unique and stands out as my favorite Nintendo art style of this generation. Enemy designs are varied and the looks of the stages and arenas are all spectacular. Then, there is the soundtrack which is kind of hit or miss with me. You either will love this music or find it annoying. There are a lot of vocaloid tracks that use the Inkling language that I imagine would get on some people’s nerves. But the emphasis on high-energy, rock tracks is something I can really get down with. I’ve had the main theme song for Splatoon stuck in my head for weeks… you know, along with YOU’RE A SQUID NOW. YOU’RE A KID NOW.

Splatoon Firefly Suit

But overall, Splatoon is a good game. It’s certainly fun and entertaining. The graphics and music are great. Plus, the gameplay is varied and enjoyable. Although it got repetitive after a while, Turf Wars remains today to be the best multiplayer experience I’ve had in a long time. And while the single-player is uninspired and feels shoehorned in, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some fun in it. But why did I mention I was disappointed by the game in the beginning of this review if I am calling it good now? Well, it’s like I said before, Splatoon lacks a lot of content for a 60 dollar game. The fact is, it gets repetitive and feels unpolished and rushed. Sure there is going to be free DLC, but the game right now feels unfinished. And the functionality with amiibo is a really terrible use for them that holds back the potential of the single-player. Splatoon is a flawed experience, in my eyes. I’m sure people who don’t care about whether or not they got their money’s worth out of a purchase or other reviewers with review copies will not care about these issues, but I sure do. Being someone who has to be really conscientious with their money these days, I would personally not recommend Splatoon at retail price. 60 dollars is way too expensive for this game. I would wait until a sale happens of about 45 or even 30 dollars to pick this one up. Plus, the game isn’t even going to be really done until August so I would hold out until then or until the holiday season. And for those who want a meaningful single-player experience, you will not get one here in this game. So for those people, *cough EPG cough*, I would advise you not to buy this title. Even though it looks fun, it has the same problem Dragon Ball Xenoverse has, it’s too expensive. Oh and please don’t waste your money on amiibo for this game. They, like the rest of title, are not worth the money you will spend on them. So if I had to give Splatoon a score, I would award it a 7.5 out of 10. While the gameplay is fun and the presentation is great, the truth is, it’s not worth the asking price and it does get repetitive. I’ve played the game for 30+ hours and even now I don’t feel compelled to go back and play it again. Oh and I’m almost forgetting the shoehorned Battle Dojo mode that includes couch co-op. I mean, it’s there and if the idea of fighting to spray a bunch of balloons sounds like your kind of thing, then you’ll probably like it. But remember, this review is entirely opinional so you are free to disagree or agree with me. If that’s the case, let me know in the comment section below.

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Lives and breathes competitive Smash. Show me ya moves!