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  1. Splatoon has been out for a couple months now and I'm finally taking the time to discuss it at length. A large part of the reason why is that a substantial amount of time needs to be invested in this game to truly understand its strengths and weaknesses. Having put in the time to unlock anything worthwhile and get a feel for the community, I can finally judge this game appropriately (not to mention venting for the sake of mental health). Shooters of any kind aren't exactly something Nintendo has ever been known for. Had it not been for Rare in the mid to late 1990s, the company would have been completely blindsided by changing game culture rather than revered as an industry leader at the time. The Killer Instinct series was Rare's answer to the fighting game craze. Goldeneye was a genre-defining masterpiece when the age of the console shooter dawned. Even Banjo Kazooie was a more advanced and detailed entry into the 3D platformer genre, something that Nintendo had already addressed with Super Mario 64. When the company was sold off in the early 00s, questions arose about who would carry on developing such a variety of original (and badly needed) content for Nintendo systems. The answer, of course, was nobody. Retro Studios, cutting edge as it is, has never developed something outside of established franchises such as Donkey Kong Country and, of course, Metroid. If we're truly honest with ourselves, the only major properties to be birthed since the retirement of the Nintendo 64 are Animal Crossing and Pikmin. The rest of the time, the company seemed content with making the same Zelda game since 1998 ad nauseam. Time marches on and a new series was badly needed for the Wii U to even suggest that the venerable company still knew how to mix things up and challenge itself as well as its loyal player base. Overview Splatoon differs from other shooting games largely due to a completely different design philosophy. Whereas the skill of the individual will usually win the day in a standard FPS team deathmatch environment, Splatoon doesn't focus on combat. There is some debate about whether or not this is an effort to make the game as family friendly as possible. Regardless, while staying in one piece is still integral to any plan that involves winning, mowing down opponents is only a means to an end. KOs are only useful for self preservation while achieving goals, which are determined by the game type, all of which are 4 vs 4. Game Types Turf War - Have more terrain painted your color than the enemy's when the clock runs out. Splat Zones - A king of the hill game type. One or two capture zones must be painted your team's color to be activated. Once captured, a timer will start counting down. Running it down to zero or having made more progress than the enemy in the time alotted results in victory. Tower Control - A center flag, 'push' style of mode. Rather than each team racing one another to the opposing team's base with the objective, the mode operates like a reverse tug of war. Each team tries to push the single moving capture point into the enemy's base to win. Pros Splatoon features original gameplay elements not found in other shooters. It has a variety of weaponry that, once unlocked, will drastically change strategy in combat, offering a variety of ways to build a character. The gyro controls of the Wii U gamepad offer the closest alternative that any console has yet offered to the accuracy and elegance of the mouse and keyboard combination. Gameplay is heavily team oriented and encourages cooperation. Game modes and maps continue adding to the replay value of the game and make first impressions from launch somewhat outmoded. The game demands another look from both critics and owners alike. Cons -deep breath- This is where Splatoon gets bent over and spanked hard. Once you join a lobby to play a game, there is no reasonable escape from it. You either wait for all eight players to queue up or shut off your console and restart it. You cannot simply back out once you've ever started looking for a game. You also can't quit the game while it's underway, so you'd better hope that you get a good team of all four players. Players either fail to show up or drop out at a high enough frequency to be irritating. This will almost certainly result in a loss. I have yet to ever win a 3 on 4 after losing a player. As games only last three minutes in most game types (tower control being the exception with five), really great games and the teams in them are short lived. This is especially frustrating after a long string of losses due to the incompetence of previous team members. The approach to the game is also amateurish. Every time you boot the game up, rather than going to join a lobby to get a game in, you must first watch two animated characters squawk back and forth about the maps currently in rotation like some sort of Anime TMZ. This isn't skippable. Whereas most companies make an effort to make the interface or accessability of a game's key features as friendly as possible, Nintendo opted to cram their brand of cuteness down your throat at the expense of convenience. That map rotation thing that I mentioned above? Only four maps are available at any given time, two for normal games and two for ranked, and they're always selected at random. I've never encountered a multiplayer game that makes access to my favorite map completely impossible before. It simply doesn't make sense. Worse yet, entire modes are made unavailable for long stretches of time. Splat Zones and Tower Control modes are mutually exclusive. You won't always be able to play the one you want. As a matter of fact, you have no choice in the matter at any given time. What is supposed to be Splatoon's greatest strength instead serves as its greatest weakness, and the inspiration for my most scathing criticism. Since, unlike other shooters, killing and fighting skills of the individual are not the focus of the gameplay in favor of more team-oriented, objective-based gameplay, satisfaction with the game will be elusive. Whereas other games will give the player rewards for kills in combat (experience toward levels or unlockables), giving meaning to a round even if it ends in defeat, Splatoon will often give no rewards of any kind to a player after defeat. You either succeed as a team, or fail as a team. If you're missing a player, if the rest of the team is made up of cowards, or if it simply puts forth no effort to attack objectives, you will waste three minutes of your life trying desperately to win on your own, which is impossible. Rather than reward you for your efforts, you get punished according to the lack of skill of your brothers in arms. So many times, I've had a good start on a round, with our team winning pretty handily thanks to my fighting, only to finally get taken out by the enemy and watch the rest of my teammates collapse and throw away whatever I'd given them simply because I wasn't there to carry their dead weight anymore. After rounds where I'll literally have more kills than the rest of them combined, I still get nothing. Ayn Rand would hate this game with a passion. While the family friendly tone of the game seems like an attractive choice idea first, it's yet another problem disguised as an innovation. I'll put it bluntly - kids suck at games. The game seems to be filled with nine year olds who only play the game to keep you from winning. You can spot them because they neither have the skill to win fights, nor have the sense to know how to contribute to an objective. Imagine a sniper class from any other squad based shooter. Now imagine a sniper player who never hits anyone or approaches an objective. Say hello to a sizeable part fo the Splatoon community. Speaking of classes, that reminds me of one of the worst flaws of this game - inability to switch weapons during a round. I like the long range, rilfe-like weapons. They're good at suppressive fire and can paint pretty effectively. They're not intended for charging the enemy, though. If my team consists of quivering pansies hiding under the bed for fear that they might get shot at, it'll be up to me to push the point with the most inefficient tools possible - the proverbial knife brought to a gunfight. You cannot switch to something more suitable for aggressive play. You simply have to accept that the next three minutes are an enraging waste of time. Just a reminder - you also can't even ragequit, there is no option for it. Online play is a three minute nightmare of idiocy at a time. Not since Left 4 Dead 2 have I found a community that sucks the joy out of a game this badly. The last ditch option to rally your team/vent your rage - angry comments via typing or voice chat - also is unavailble for this game. There's no way to communcate whatsoever. All you can do is hope that you have a team that isn't stupid and have players that understand their roles to play. Good freaking luck with that. One final thing that ruins the online experience more and more is exploitation of poor gameplay design. Bunny Hopping is now ubiquitous in Splatoon. A tactic easily abused and therefore addressed with disincentives for use in all but the worst of shooters, bunny hopping has been left completely ignored by developers and it makes the game a living hell. Some weapons don't even fire properly mid-air, but there are many more that suffer no drawbacks at all. This leaves combat woefully unbalanced for the unfortunate souls who happen to like weapons that got the shaft with regards to these kind of exploits. After several updates, the fact that garbage like this is still left unchanged in the game is a testament to what amateurs Nintendo's development team is when it comes to shooters. The rest of us have seen things like this dealt with since the late 90s. Nintendo has a reputation for being very insular. Splatoon is the proof that they don't do nearly enough research before they attempt a genre that dozens of other companies have been contributing to for nearly two decades. Final Verdict The game that Splatoon reminds me of most is Aliens: Colonial Marines because of the great amount of potential that was dulled by incompetence, ignorance, and short-sightedness. If Nintendo can foolishly make a shooter that completely omits many of the most important features of a typical shooter by any other A-list company, then it speaks volumes about its inability to catch up with the rest of the industry. I've defended them since the Wii U launched, but they're trying their hardest to throw the fight and I'm sick of it. Nintendo needs to pull its head out of its rectum before the next Mario game is on the Playstation 5. Splatoon is a C+ game that is incredibly fun when you're winning, but only then.
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