Splatoon: Nintendo Seeks Bloodless Coup in Online Shooter Genre

With its bloodless battles of attrition between squads of human-squid chimeras, twitch-shooter Splatoon oozes classic Nintendo charm that has enamored many early reviewers. Soon, however, their summary judgment will be all but moot. The new Wii U game will be tried in the court of public opinion starting Friday, when it will be released to waiting fans.

Splatoon is the first new intellectual property Nintendo has released in years. It takes a crack at the competitive shooter genre, opting to go the route of a third-person, rather than first-person perspective. Instead of the visceral shock of bullet wounds, blood, and the wails of the wounded, Splatoon supplies brightly colored ink to wield in chaotic matches.

In Splatoon, squads of four are tasked with covering maps or capture points with their team’s color. The players — kids who can morph into cephalopods — are armed with paint guns that looked to be ripped out of a Nerf or Super Soaker R&D lab.

The squid kids can spread their squads’ colors across the map and splatter bad guys and gals — that is, anyone not on their side — sending opponents back to their spawn points. Players can switch to their character’s squid form on the fly, which enables them to swim through rivers of their team’s paint — it’s a faster mode of level traversal, though squids aren’t as hardy as kids.

Hip Fire: What Reviewers Are Saying

Early reviews of Splatoon have been warm in general and have rated the game above average, in many cases. Its scoring has taken a hit in several instances, due to it’s map count (five for now), the brevity of its single-player campaign, the lack of weapons customization, and the absence of offline bots for multiplayer practice.

With more multiplayer maps and modes promised to arrive in a few months, the prudent route for many gamers will be to wait for a more robust experience, wrote Metro’s David Jenkins.

The game is excellent overall all, but hampered by Nintendo’s questionable decision making with regard to the release of content, he said.

“If you’ve ever wondered what an online shooter by Nintendo would be like, the answer is amazing,” Jenkins wrote. “If you’ve ever wondered why Nintendo are always so desperate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, all we can say is that madness and genius are very often the same thing.”

Splatoon’s flaws were easy to overlook — and its high points hard to discredit for Destructoid’s Chris Carter.

The drawbacks: Players are stuck with their loadouts between matches, quitting isn’t allowed while queuing up for a round, and the game lacks a mechanic to address AFK (away from keyboard/controller) players.

On the plus side, “as a shooter it’s refreshing, and as a 3D platformer, it’s up there with some of Nintendo’s greatest creations,” Carter wrote. “You’ll quickly forget about the fact that you’re playing Turf War over and over as you squid down an alley, leap across a gap, and shoot enemies in the air as you fall.”

Here’s a roundup of Splatoon’s early review scores:Time – 5/5BGR – 4.5/5Destructoid – 8.5/10IGN – In ProgressMetro – 7/10Metacritic – 81/100Polygon – 8.5/10US Gamer – 4/5

Aiming Down Sights: What Analysts Think

Nintendo undoubtedly has internal sales goals for Splatoon and almost certainly will hold them close to its chest. While the game may hit Nintendo’s targets, the Wii U’s relatively low adoption rate could hurt sales, according to Sartori Bernbeck, manager of insights and analytics at EEDAR.

“We do not expect the game to sell high numbers like Nintendo’s major first-party IP, but the title has gained a strong core following since its announcement,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Given the consumer craze over Nintendo’s Amiibo product line, involving Splatoon with the Amiibo product line will provide further monetary benefits from these core fans.”

Had more mainstream Wii players migrated to the Wii U, Splatoon likely would have had a strong appeal for that broader audience — and that’s unfortunate, Bernbeck said.

Because Splatoon is a brand-new IP, it follows that Nintendo would set conservative targets for the game. Its failure wouldn’t hit Nintendo as hard as a poorly received Zelda or Mario title, observed Lewis Ward, games research director at IDC Group and an early Splatoon player.

“I think they have more leash, because its a brand new IP,” he told TechNewsWorld. “So I really view this as a very positive step for Nintendo, because I’ve been saying this for many years: They need to ramp up their online multiplayer offerings. This is the type of game that does that.”

Quinten Plummer is a longtime technology reporter and an avid PC gamer who explored local news for a few years, covering law enforcement and government beats, before returning to writing about things run by ones and zeros and the people who make them. If it pushes pixels or improves lives, he wants to learn all he can about it.

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