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The Mary Sue

Splatoon Exemplifies Everything Nintendo Does Best

We love you, Nintendo.

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Nintendo is my gaming platform of choice. First it was Intellivision, then a Spectrum 48k, then Sega. I imported a Megadrive from Japan way before they were available in England; I vividly remember getting mocked for owning a console that no one had heard of, and yet the next year everyone was buying them. FML. Though Sega was my first console love, Nintendo owns my gaming heart. When you look at the car industry, the big innovator that others copy is Mercedes Benz. In the console world, it’s Nintendo.

Nintendo has been around since 1887 when it started selling the early predecessor to the NES, a steam-powered device that moved wooden blocks around. Kidding; it sold trading cards. Since switching to electronics, Nintendo has been the dominant player in the console industry twice, first with the NES and then with the Wii. Let’s not even get into handheld gaming, as Nintendo dominates that industry like a 300lb gorilla throwing flaming oil drums. To be blunt, Nintendo is huge. How big? Depending on the stats in use, Nintendo could run a deficit of minus $250 million annually and still carry on until 2052 – that’s with just liquid assets. Including non-liquid it can go until 2075. They have over 9 billion USD in assets and they own Pachinko parlors, hotels, taxis, TV company, a food company, and more.

You can argue that Nintendo Kabushiki gaisha plays it safe, and it does a lot of the time, but every now and again it throws a curveball game that should make everyone sit up and notice. StarFox, Donkey Kong Country, Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye – I could go on. Splatoon is another such curveball. Will it be held up as one of the greats? Well, time will tell; right now all I know is it’s a fun family-friendly shooter, and it’s adorable. Yes, the words “shooter” and “adorable” in the same sentence. Don’t worry, this isn’t a drug induced flashback; Nintendo have really made a cute third person shooter.

In Splatoon you play as an Inkling, a character that can shift between biped and squid forms. Using a variety of implements as a humanoid you can spray or roll ink onto floors and walls, then dive into that ink as a fast-moving but non-firing squid. In online multiplayer you’re on a four-person team against another team, and the goal is to cover as much of the arena as possible in your colour of ink before the three minute timer runs out. It has similarities to Team Fortress 2 (the rounds are short, the areas are small and it’s all very fast), only with Splatoon there is no death, blood, or gore. Just inky wetness.

A single player game is also supplied, where you can collect plans to otherwise unavailable weapons, as well as the 1-on-1 battle option to ink one of your friends sat next to you on the couch. It’s a decent package, but you’ll spend most of your time trying to get other people online wet with your… ink. That’s where the meat of the game is, and it’s fun. You can very quickly slide into the warm wet action of Splatoon regardless of if you have ever played a shooting game before. Can you shoot at the floor? Then you can play Splatoon.

That’s not to say it’s not deep, though; glance at the controller, see which areas need inking, or where a battle is taking place, super jump to that area or swim as a squid and recharge your ink supply before you arrive. Create a bottleneck by laying traps or jump-points, and ink more out of the way areas. Grab an ink roller and stick near someone who has the ink equivalent of an uzi for long term cover or run deep into enemy territory and create havoc that they have to repair before you get splatted. Respawning is quick, so you have a lot of play options. Splatoon does have an Amiibo, but they add very little to the experience, so consider them optional. They are nice figurines, though, and the first Amiibo I’ve purchased.

Thankfully, Splatoon doesn’t have voice chat; I’m so happy about this as I don’t have to sit through racism, sexism, and generally idiotic comments that get made constantly during any game that has voice chat. Those may not bother you, but they upset me. You can communicate through Nintendo’s pictorial word balloon system on the streets outside the lobby, and it can be pretty fun.

Splatoon has issues – you have to sit through a forced intro, and if I hear another “Stay Fresh!” I will throw a lemur at the TV. On the single player campaign there is no button to exit the level, and you have to go back to the start. At first the game seemed unbalanced as the roller was so powerful, but as the other weapons upgrade that issue goes away.

The game really opens up when you reach level 4, as then you can access the shops. You can buy headgear, tops, shoes and new weapons. You can even walk up to other players in the street and scan what they are wearing and order their clothing through a black market dealer. Splatoon is filled with players right now and waiting times for games rarely last 30 seconds. Many people are already level 20, the current maximum level, with custom weapons. Yes, they have a tiny advantage over the lower levels, but it doesn’t stop the game from being fun; the rewards are slight but just enough to make you want them too.

Next for Splatoon is free DLC, add-ons including new weapons, clothing and arenas, plus tournaments; Nintendo has committed to supporting Splatoon for the long haul. As for what’s next for Nintendo, we know they’ve bought a face and voice recognition company called PUX and entered an agreement with Universal Parks to create Nintendo themed park rides in 2016/17. We also know the code name for the next Nintendo console – NX. Expect a peek at this in 2016, a game and hardware preview at E3, and other shows in 2017 and a launch in 2018.

If you don’t like traditional shooting games I’d still give Splatoon a try. It’s very different and a lot of fun. It’s has an innocence, speed and charm that so many games are lacking. Waiting for the rounds judge to deliver the verdict of the match, Judd the cat, can be tense, winning at the last second is a great feeling and most of the time I feel really good about my contribution to the team. How many games leave you feeling good?

Splatoon, Wii U, Nintendo, $59, out now. Fanart by Marcy Cook.

Marcy (@marcyjcook) is an immigrant trans woman and writer. This includes Transcanuck.com, a website dedicated to informing and helping trans Canadians. She also has a nerd job, too many cats, is a part time volunteer sex educator and has an ongoing sordid love affair with Lego. Those last two are not related… probably.

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