I gave into the hype, and ended up getting Splatoon pretty soon after it launched in May. In retrospect I forget what exactly pushed me over the edge, but I think the allure of a brand new IP from the big N was probably a big part of it. I started off with the single player mode, and although I appreciated its bite-size Mario Galaxy approach to the stages, I got bored pretty quickly. I ended up playing it off and on, but that mode isn't overly long and I beat the final boss last night (is it just me or was there a big difficulty spike there?). The mode isn't "bad", and I'm not quite sure why I found it to be so tedious. Maybe it was too much mindless "get from point A to point B" without any real variety in locales or objectives.
Clearly the single player mode wasn't the focus of development, as the multiplayer modes are pretty amazing. Nintendo makes it look easy, but I agree with the comparison that other people have made that it does for shooters what Mario Kart did for racing games: made them fun for everyone. It's amazing how elegant the game's core mechanics are. The game's squid and painting mechanics solve so many of the problems that make shooting games difficult and/or less accessible, e.g. slowness when turning around, too much violence, too many confusing objectives. The lack of voice chat is understandable given the family-friendly audience, and is fine in the main "turf" war (where the goal is just to paint as much of the map as possible in your team's color). However, it's barely tolerable in the other multiplayer modes, which affect your ranking. Although it's true that the multiplayer is still fun regardless of whether you win or lose, I find it hard to imagine that you'd be able to make much progress with improving your ranking without playing with the game's squad mode (where you play with friends that you can voice chat with using out-of-game means).
The game had a deliberate rollout, where new game modes, stages, and weapons were released (for free) after the game's original release date. All three multiplayer modes are enjoyable, but the two newer game modes ("Rainmaker" and "Tower Control") are much more interesting than the first one. There's a good amount of variety with stages and weapons now, and it's easy to imagine the ways the game can be expanded upon, with more modes, and the addition of stage elements and hazards that appear in the single player mode but don't appear (yet?) in the multiplayer. Not to mention the game's great aesthetic, fun new characters, and great art style and music.
There has been a lot of doom and gloom accompanying Wii U, Nintendo's current gen console, but Splatoon definitely demonstrates that the company still has "it", the ability to come up with amazing, new, one-of-a-kind game experiences. I was worried the game was overhyped, but although it took me a while to get into the multiplayer (since you're required to play Turf Wars until you get a high enough rank to play the ranked battle modes), it's a relief that the game has far exceeded my somewhat dour expectations. Aside from catapulting to the top of my list of best games I've played this year, perhaps the most telling sign that I enjoyed the game is that I'm already looking forward to a sequel!
Elegant Splatoon links:
- Tons of info on the wikia
- Official site
- Some official wallpapers here and here
- Translation of promotional manga that served as an intro to the game
- Miiverse community
- Review at NintendoLife
- Entry at Metacritic