The Testfires have ceased and the doors have opened. It’s time to see if Nintendo’s first attempt at a competitive online shooter has been a kraken success or an inkredible failure.
From the very first time you boot up Splatoon, the game wants you to know that this is an online shooter. Every session of Splatoon starts with a news report, detailing what the current map rotation is before giving you control of your character. This little news report happens every single time you boot up the game, even if the maps haven’t changed since you last logged on. I understand that Nintendo want to drive home that Splatoon is an ever-changing, fluid game, much like the ink you shoot but after the 4th time you have sat through the same unskippable cutscene, it just becomes an irritant. This unfortunately marks a trend running through Splatoon’s design, of Nintendo trying to add little touches which should make the experience more unique, but just come off as short-sighted and annoying.
Splatoon is built around this central plaza where your Inkling can shop, talk with other Inklings and order new gear before jumping into either the online mode or the single player Octo Valley area. The plaza is constantly filling with new Inklings, often from games you have just played or from your friends’ list. This does make the area feel bustling, as that really good Roller user starts hanging out by the weapons shop while your friend is hanging out near a back alley. By interacting with the Inklings in the lobby, you can see their Miiverse posts (which I will talk more about later) as well as inspect the gear that they are wearing. This is a great little idea, allowing players to deck out their character with a sweet looking hat they saw in a previous match, or in a new pair of shoes which have some decent upgrades attached to them. However, this idea is handicapped by the fact you can only order up to 3 pieces of equipment and it takes at least one real time day for one equipment piece to be able to purchase from the local street sea urchin, Spyke. Also, these ordered gear pieces go for extortionate amounts of cash, making the effort seem fruitless when you see that same T shirt in the shop for half the price later on.
The shops themselves are filled with interesting characters, be it the tempura prawn Crusty Sean who runs the shoe shop or the nerdy cuttlefish Sheldon who owns the armoury. While they offer some witty banter now and then, you can’t really interact with these characters besides buying items off them. It would have been cool if they could have given you little challenges to complete to gain extra equipment or coupons to get a free gear piece but they are just shopkeepers. The aforementioned Spyke who can source black market gear can also reroll your equipment upgrades for the low price of a sea snail but due to the fact no online battle events have gone live yet, no-one has been able to try out this service.