What JRPGs should learn from Final Fantasy IV

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For anyone who has read my recently posted review of Dragon Ball Fusions, you’ll note that I closed out my piece with a little tangent about how I disliked modern JRPGs. I’m not sorry I wrote that, as I feel it helps one understand my frustrations with Fusions. The game does literally nothing to break the typical mold of JRPGs and it suffers for that.

One thing that seems to be misunderstood is my attitude towards the genre, as a whole. I don’t dislike every JRPG ever made, just most of them after Chrono Trigger. As a matter of fact, I’m going to now explain why Final Fantasy IV’s remake is one of the best examples of the genre and how Fusions and Bandai Namco could (and should) learn a thing or two from Square Enix’s past.

The opening of Final Fantasy IV immediately breaks the stereotypes of the genre. You aren’t playing some prophesized hero on a quest to save the world from an ancient evil; you’re a man who begins to question the morality of the orders he is being given. That insecurity leads to you being stripped of your position and sent on a tedious (and ultimately terrible) mission.

After falling from grace and hitting rock bottom, Cecil (the main character) vows to travel the world and help others in need. This goal thrusts him into an adventure that has a few twists and turns and introduces an incredible cast of characters along with some innovative and thrilling combat mechanics.

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With age, I’ve grown to understand why people enjoy turn based RPGs. Having that layer of strategy and tactics play out in a manner with which you are given limited control is an extra challenge on top of any difficulty selection (with which the remake of Final Fantasy IV offers two options). You can’t predict the future with 100% accuracy and any mistakes lead to emergent gameplay in the style of damage control. Failure to come back from the brink of death leads to a game over, but succeeding brings an incredible sense of accomplishment.

The thing is, most modern JRPGs do very little to distinguish each of their battles. Dragon Ball Fusions, as a matter of fact, is basically the same exact game for 90% of its playtime. You can approach every single battle with the same team of people and never even come close to losing. Some side quests offer up variety, but holding victory to different stipulations shouldn’t be relegated to optional content. A game should be challenging the player every step of the way.

Final Fantasy IV does exactly this. The default difficulty definitely makes things easy, but you are constantly faced with enemies that have weaknesses to different magic attacks or require you to play defense with certain characters. A lot of the bosses are resistant to magic or physical attacks and the rotation of your party members help switch up tactics without lecturing the player with dialog boxes.

Even the animations of the enemies can clue you in as to what needs to be done. One of the main bosses, Rubicante, will move his cape and that lets the player know physical attacks are now diminished in effectiveness. Of course, the only way to discover this is by trying things out, but the game gives players the freedom to learn these nuances on their own instead of throwing an utterly baffling amount of information at the player and then hiding important details in a “tips” menu.

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Then there is the active time battle system, which forces you to think on your feet. Sure, the characters won’t be moving on their own and everyone goes in a turn, but failing to select an option within a reasonable time limit will grant the enemy a chance to retaliate. You can’t just sit around and think forever, something that modern JRPGs have regressed back to.

One of the coolest additions to the remake (and even the PSP port) is the auto battle option. Grinding was worked into the design of older JRPGs because of the lack of technology powering them. Making a long and meaningful game on the NES was an arduous task without raising the difficulty. While removing grinding would have been preferable, having the auto battle for easier encounters removes a tremendous amount of tedium.

Let’s say you don’t gel with the combat or find it tedious; that can be understandable with the length of a lot of JRPGs. Final Fantasy IV’s story moves at such a brisk pace that I was able to complete in 20 hours while undertaking numerous side quests. I was never bored, I constantly felt the severity of the situation at hand and I had concern for the characters in my party. When certain events would strip me of some of my party members, I got legitimately sad.

Newer JRPGs don’t do this often. Most of the time, you have a group of people who never face any consequences. They don’t die, never get called away or come under ailment; they are basically terminators. Everything that happens in battle doesn’t matter, because they will always be there for you. I usually get pissed off because the party size is arbitrarily limited and I can’t use them all at once.

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Final Fantasy IV may be a bit too happy about shifting around the dynamic of your group, but at least you never feel like anyone is being wasted. This is also putting aside how some events in the plot permanently remove members from the game, even if they still exist in the story. I’d really hate falling in love with Tellah, for example.

Still, the constant drive to keep the plot moving and have you seeing new things is refreshing. A lot of big budget games, let alone JRPGs, pad the length of their runtimes with meaningless content to justify a higher price point. Reaching the finish line feels like busy work instead of having the game motivate you to complete it.

Now are there any examples of modern JRPGs I enjoy? Sure, quite a few. I’ve always been into Kingdom Hearts, but that is possibly the best example of mixing wonder and joy together with two gigantic corporations collaborating. Having Disney’s dream filled worlds collide with the battle systems of Final Fantasy is so crazy and extreme that it balances out into fun. The combat also reminds me a lot of Diablo, in some bizarre manner.

Xenoblade Chronicles is also one of my favorite Wii titles, even if that deviates incredibly from the typical JRPG mold. It borrows heavily from World of Warcraft or even Final Fantasy XII, but it has an ever expanding world that is densely populated with believable characters. Maybe the sidequests are totally pointless, but the game doesn’t offer harsh punishments for failure to save or prepare; you’re allowed to make some mistakes and keep going.

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Tales of Vesperia was a game I bought on a whim after conversing with an old friend. He was a huge fan of the series and I loved the presentation aspect, but it left me feeling indifferent. The combat is pretty awesome, almost mimicking Street Fighter with combos and special moves, but the characters and elongated plot don’t do the game favors. Instead of being concise and giving the player forward momentum, the game has a tremendous amount of detours for characters to doubt themselves, almost once an hour. It really drags at the end.

Lost Odyssey is also great, but it suffers from the limitations of the Xbox 360. Being one of the first “next-gen” RPGs, the game utilizes the Unreal engine to push HD graphics. That requires a lot of disc spinning, so the load times are absolutely horrendous. Random battles take about 20-25 seconds to load and most of the game is waiting around for things to start. The combat is great and the story is incredibly deep, but even it falters with Disc three being worthless. Why are children so hard to write?

For the rest of my experiences with games, I just see the same kind of crap. Infinite Undiscovery was a borderline embarrassing waste of potential and Final Fantasy XIII is the worst example of that particular series. The newer Star Ocean titles also play things incredibly save and do nothing to push their settings; they just expect space to be awe-inspiring by itself.

That loss of wonder and excitement is what makes something like Dragon Ball Fusions feel so disappointing. It may not be a bad game and has some pretty complex battle mechanics, but it doesn’t really respect the players time and input. The game tasks you with suffering through the same encounters and plot points until it ends and gives you nothing in return.

Maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges here, but I just want my playtime to feel like it mattered. I know that is getting caught up in an arbitrary definition, but older games usually put more of an emphasis on world building and player involvement. I just want to see that return to JRPGs, instead of the influx of bloated games with little originality.

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Sigy Says – Heretic Review

I was a big fan of Doom growing up in the 90’s, but I somehow missed out on all of the “Doom Clones.” I had a demo CD for the Mactintosh version of Star Wars: Dark Forces and I played a lot of Goldenye 007 on N64, but I never really played anything else like Doom.

One of the friends I made in middle school introduced me to Heretic and HeXen, but I couldn’t find copies for a reasonable price. Instead of borrowing or bootlegging the game, I decided to just wait until I had enough money in the future (which never seemed realistic at the time).

Flash forward to today and I’ve somehow managed to have Heretic on my Steam account for 5 years without playing it. I had forgotten about the QuakeCon pack from 2011 that included every iD title from that moment. Much to my surprise after having a Doom craze, I had some more Doom to explore.

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Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders (PC [Reviewed], Mac OS)
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: id Software
Released: December 23, 1994 (March 31, 1996 for Shadow of the Serpent Riders expansion)
MSRP: $4.99

Calling Heretic a “Doom clone” is doing the game an injustice, but it certainly has a lot of game feel similar to Doom. Almost every weapon is a reskin from Doom 2 and most of the monsters share similar properties to enemies seen in Doom. The designs are incredibly different (and really diverse), but it’s hard to initially get out of your mind that Heretic is just Doom with a different coat of paint.

Eventually, you start to pick up on some of the changes that developer Raven Software has crammed into Heretic. For starters, this is the first FPS I can think of with an inventory system. It allows for the level of challenge to be ramped up since the player can constantly hold a source of health on them.

Not only that, but you can carry around various power-ups to use in sticky situations. Other shooters at the same time forced you to utilize anything you picked up then and there; Heretic puts more control into the players hand with the inventory system.

It is a bit annoying how you need to scroll through and additionally select an item before using it, but I’ll let that slide due to the release date (1994). That something so genre bending was even pulled off on the Doom engine is just awesome, let alone how chaotic it makes combat feel.

Each weapon has a different ammo type. It solves the mini issue Doom suffered with having the pistol and chaingun share ammo; getting the chain gun made the pistol redundant. In Heretic, every weapon feels valuable at any given time. Even the dinky starter mage staff can become awesome with the correct power-up.

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What isn’t so hot is how predictable the game becomes. At first, you’re not quite sure where to expect enemies to spawn from. Walking down corridors has walls dropping and enemies flying at you from all sides. By the time you reach the third episode, you’ve seen basically all of the tricks Heretic is ever going to throw at you.

That may have more to do with the original game only being 3 episodes, but episodes 4 and 5 really suffer from a lack of creativity. They are definitely difficult and well built (better than the rest of the game, even), but it feels dull after having played through 24 maps with similar layouts.

This is coupled with how the level design tends to have a lot of dead ends that require you to return to a centralized location. I’m guessing this was a precursor to the level design in the sequel, HeXen, where every map has a hub world. It does lend to some insanely confusing layouts, though.

The sound design is also pretty lackluster compared to Doom. On its own, the music is okay and the monsters sound like monsters, but nothing is distinct and most of the enemy sounds play at the same volume. It doesn’t feel as immersive as Doom, nor does it help the player distinguish which enemy is in an area with them.

The overuse of the first boss is also pretty lame. Maybe that is down to me playing on the second hardest difficulty, but I do wish there was more diversity in the boss encounters. Facing three of those floating giant skulls level after level becomes grating.

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With all of that said, I still found Heretic to be really enjoyable. It contains enough originality that any comparison to Doom sounds nitpicky. Sure, Doom may be an overall more polished and enjoyable game, but that doesn’t make anything done in Heretic not worth seeing. Heretic is also considerably harder, so Doom veterans will be in for a treat.

Getting the game running on modern operating systems is also a breeze. Since id Software released the Doom source code a long time ago, any modern Doom source port works with Heretic. You can boot up zDoom and get Heretic going in any manner of resolution you want. Full mouse look is enabled and keys can be rebinded to whatever your fancy is. There is even support for internet play, which is pretty damn awesome.

It also doesn’t hurt that the current price is exceptional. $5 for a game that will take around 6-8 hours to finish is just solid value. If you want to spring a bit more, you can get the rest of the series on Steam for $5 more. That includes Heretic, HeXen and HeXen II. That’s a lot of classic first-person shooter action for a small chunk of change.

However you slice it, Heretic is pretty good. There are definitely things that Raven Software could have done to distinguish it from the crowd, but for a first attempt from an unknown developer, you could do worse. For the price, you’d be hard pressed to find much worse, though.

7

Good

A solid game that definitely has an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.

Does Doom Still Matter?

No name speaks more of a quintessential first-person shooter than Doom. Doom was the catalyst for a cacophony of violent games in the 90’s that eventually led to the ESRB being founded to regulate game content. Not only that, it popularized a genre of gaming that had yet to break out into the mainstream.

While the initial sequel, Doom II, was actually better than the first game, developer iD Software has yet to make a game that follows up on the legacy set forth by Doom. Maybe it’s a mixture of nostalgia and genre evolution that keeps holding them back, but for some reason, Doom cannot be topped.

In a few months, the confusingly titled Doom reboot will be launching. Taking inspiration from a mod for the original game, Doom looks to up the violence and make the game as fast paced as it’s forefather. The big question on my mind is; Does Doom still matter?

Obviously one cannot debate the importance of the original title. It was one of the first 3D games with an arsenal of weapons and motley crue of enemies that was unparalleled for the time. It had revolutionary online play and extensive modding tools that allowed fans to make their own creations.

I have no idea what I’m looking at.

It also had some incredible graphics, a rocking soundtrack and some genuinely outstanding level design (that still holds up). Make no mistake; Doom was the real deal. My first encounter with it was in 4th grade. An old friend introduced me to it on the playground with the instruction manual.

I didn’t have a Windows PC, so I actually had my parents run out and buy a Mac compatible Windows 95 launcher just so I could try this game. While I did eventually get it running, it was missing some features and would often crash.

My fascination with the game didn’t stop until we eventually did get a true Windows computer. That was my very first computer, actually; a Packard Bell with a 3 gb hard drive. Those were much simpler times.

Regardless, Doom was almost a taboo for how it “corrupted” the innocence of gaming. Parents were sickened at the depiction of “violence” the game had and it’s demonic villains. I guess killing hellspawn is evil, even if it saves the Earth.

News outlets were shocked at how you could mangle police officers (I still, to this day, want to know what game they played). Activist groups wanted the game removed from store shelves. The world was coming to an end and it was all because of this little game.

This is just the second level of the game.

Needless to say, the controversy was overblown and gaming continued to evolve. We now have more grotesque displays of violence in games and sexuality is even becoming a common occurrence. Gaming is a pop-culture staple that is slowly becoming less niche by the day.

So what can a new Doom game in 2016 bring to the table? Does Doom need to be more than a simple throwback? Are fans ever going to be impressed with what gets released? I’m not sure I can answer all of those questions.

The easiest to tackle would be the intention of a new Doom. Not every piece of media needs to have a deeper message or mean something more to it’s medium. On occasion, a good, mindless, violent trip through excess and escapism is precisely what a person needs.

A rough day at work can be capped off with a good, meaty rocket launcher explosion of your best friend (in game form, of course…). The cathartic quality that Doom always exhibits can’t be understated; to this day, I still fire explosives in games and expect splash damage.

The original Doom wasn’t made with the purpose of reinventing the wheel. The developers saw a thing they liked, a new way to do it and set off to make it the best product possible. The main reason Doom succeeded so much was because of it’s business model; a freeware version of the first episode was available for free through mail order and the internet (if one was lucky enough to own a modem in 1994).

That gaming had not seen anything like Doom was merely a coincidence. Most game makers, artists and musicians don’t set out to specifically enhance their art form; they tend to fall on an idea they all love and furnish it into something unique.

How could you not be in love with this?

Will fans accept a new Doom? Well, initial reaction says yes. Fans reportedly cheered at the unveiling during Quakecon 2014. No one but those attendees got to see the footage of the game and everyone was claiming it was going “back to basics”. I guess they were on board.

Then a year went by without much information leaking. No one was talking about the game and people hadn’t seen what the gameplay was going to be like. Eventually at E3, a trailer was released that showcased footage to the general public. Now fans were skeptical.

The “official” box art actually typifies everything wrong with the industry in 2016. The colors are muted, limited and saturated. The main character is faceless, staring at the ground and “gruff”. The font takes up more space than anything else and shows nothing of what the game is.

It just reeks of a cash grab. That is completely disregarding the actual quality of the game, but it seems that Bethesda only commissioned a reboot of Doom because reboots are the new, hot thing. Movie franchises are increasingly doing reboots and even Tomb Raider, another gaming institution, had a successful reimagining.

Look how many shits she gives.

Fans never seem to be pleased with anything. Gunning for that crowd will usually end in disaster. Still, whom else are you going to market a reboot of Doom to in 2016? Falling back on the legacy of your series will do nothing for newer gamers.

Which brings us to the final question; What can a new Doom bring to the table in 2016? As I mentioned above, the main source of inspiration seems to be a mod for the original Doom called Brutal Doom.

One of the creators of the original game, John Romero, was quoted as saying, “The only thing I think about now is.. what if… when we released Doom, we actually released Brutal Doom?” (laughs). We would have destroyed the gaming industry, I think. Brutal Doom is hilarious.”

I’m guessing that was all Bethesda needed to hear to fast track progress on a Doom reboot. A lot of the animations for weapons look like they were taken from the mod. The gore factor seems to have been clearly inspired by the mod. Sadly, the mod seems to be faster paced.

Without taking that into account, though, what else could Doom do? Shooters have become a stagnant genre in recent years. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare seemed to be the last big shakeup to the genre in terms of evolution. It’s online, RPG-lite system of unlocks caused a plethora of copycats that still haven’t gone away in nearly 10 years.

Level design has also remained the same…

Call of Duty is also responsible for popularizing the down sight aiming that basically every shooter uses today. Along with Resident Evil 4 redefining third person combat, action gaming hasn’t truly changed since 2005. The industry is falling back on old ideas and past successes to keep their inflated budgets and massive paychecks going.

While Doom may not have started out with the intent of reinventing gaming, it’s launch was special. It was a fundamental shift from being marketed as a toy for children into becoming a hobby that anyone could enjoy. It expanded the horizons of what software could do.

Doom in 2016 just looks like the same boring stuff we’ve seen for decades. I’ve never taken Doom as a serious, scary, horrific trek through a nightmare. Doom has always been a goofy, colorful, fun filled time for me. How can you look at the original graphics and not feel happy?

Even the defining features of this reboot, it’s gore filled executions, was done in Gears of War. You would be forgiven for mistaking Doom as a first-person sequel to that series; the art style is practically the same.

So, does Doom still matter? For cultural reverence, I’d say yes. As far as being an exciting, landmark event; hell no. There is nothing that Doom can do to become interesting again, apart from a complete shift in tone and setting (which would then defeat the purpose).

What film producers, game developers and artists need to realize is that certain things take off because of their time frame. Doom was a massive hit because nothing else was like it in 1994. In 2016, we’ve seen so many things emulate Doom that gamers just don’t care.

And no one cares about this.

Naming your game Doom and expecting it to sell is just naive. You would be better set creating a new IP and shifting focus away from the nostalgia laden masses. It’s fine to claim the game is a spiritual successor to Doom, but to drag the actual legacy into the dirt is shameful.

Then again, come May, I may be eating these words. The game could be good. Whose to say?

A So Called Legacy

With Capcom’s announcement of the Mega Man: Legacy Collection for next-gen consoles, I feel a bit torn. On the one hand, we have at least some kind of confirmation that Capcom actually cares about the blue bomber. On the other hand, they don’t care enough to make an entire compendium.

In an effort to not rant like a maniac for the next few paragraphs, I’ve decided to break this into a Top 5 list. I will go over 5 different ways that Capcom could improve the Legacy Collection that won’t ruin the idea they are shooting for.

5. Bonus Features

While not everything is known about the downloadable collection, one thing that should be included are bonus, DVD style features. When going back to the past, it’s nice to get a viewpoint from developers on what their creative process was.

More importantly, adding bonus features gives old fans a reason to actually pay attention to what is possibly the 5th time these games have been re-released. Nothing is cooler than beating a game and immediately re-starting it with director’s commentary.

The interactive museum feature is a start and I won’t dismiss photo galleries, but I will state that I don’t believe they are enough. Concept art always looks better on paper, so just throwing a bunch of images into the collection won’t really matter.

4. Extra Modes

Capcom has at least confirmed there will be a challenge mode for each game in the collection, but I’d like to see them take this further. Mega Man 9 and 10 had bonus characters as DLC that would be perfect to include in the older games.

Along with that, why not go ahead and make a Master Quest style version of each game? Fans have beaten these games an innumerable amount of times over the years, so giving them what might be the closest thing to a new Mega Man as possible wouldn’t be bad.

3. Updated Graphics

Graphics may not be the most important part of a game, but charging an umpteenth time for a 28 year old game is a little crazy. Instead of just wholesale porting a ROM over, why not go the distance and re-create the sprites in HD?

Capcom hired Udon to do such a thing for Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, so why not Mega Man? Many people consider the blue bomber to be a defining character of their childhoods, so they would appreciate updated art assets that pay homage to the original style.

For the sake of purists, though, do not make updated graphics the only option. I cannot stand when HD remakes update the past, but fail to respect it. LucasArts did great with their re-releases of the Monkey Island games, so give us something along the lines of that.

2. Release on “Legacy” Consoles

While the new generation of consoles is underway, there are people who have no interest in leaving their past consoles. For some, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are all they will ever need. Then there are the Nintendo faithful who have a Wii U and no possible way to experience this collection.

Instead of snuffing those customers, why not port the game to last-generation consoles? You can’t tell me that the collection wouldn’t run on previous gen hardware. Both PS3 and 360 have Mega Man 9 and 10, not to mention the Wii has a majority of the older Mega Man games on the eShop.

Wii U also has that, but when you’re charging $5 a pop, why are you going to leave Wii U owners out in the cold on this “Legacy” collection? Just having the games isn’t the only point of this re-release.

Sony has the perfect feature of “cross-buy” that would be great for their console family. Having Mega Man on PS3, PS4 and Vita would be enough to convince prospective players into dipping their toes.

1. Include Every Mega Man Game

This is probably the biggest concern of mine when it comes to the so called “Legacy” collection. You can’t claim something is a legacy if it doesn’t have every available game. Even though Konami has their heads firmly up their asses, their legacy collection of Metal Gear included every title (and the VR Missions!).

Capcom should take this chance to provide Mega Man 7, 8, 9 and 10 on next-gen hardware. Forget that some of those titles aren’t the best of Capcom’s classics (I actually think 9 is the best Mega Man game), but they are a crucial part of the blue bomber’s history.

The biggest disaster is that Mega Man 8 isn’t readily available on most consoles. While Sony recently released it as a PS1 classic, there isn’t a reason why this collection should be missing such a game.

Couple that with the fact that the previous Mega Man collection actually included 7 and 8, and I really don’t understand the reasoning to leave out the last four games in the Mega Man series. Hell, that same collection even had both arcade fighting games, so why not throw those in?

Even if it would move the relatively low price up a bit, I’d be willing to pay more for a collection that is complete. The NES era might be the best of our old friend, but he did have other ventures that most likely created some die-hard fans.

With this list, I really hope Capcom takes the time to notice some of my concerns. I do love Mega Man, but access to the back catalog of games isn’t the easiest thing to come by. You either have to own more than one console or be lucky and find the old Anniversary collection.

Capcom could even go out of their way and make a physical release that includes a Mega Man statue. That may be asking too much, but fans truly want some kind of acknowledgement that the blue bomber is worth a damn.

Either way, I probably will still end up with the Legacy collection. I love the little blue guy too much to withhold myself.

Splash Damage – Splatoon Demo Impressions

As a self proclaimed Nintendo fanboy, I was optimistic about Splatoon. I saw people playing it at PAX East, but didn’t get a chance to wait in line. While everyone looked elated, I wasn’t sold on the idea quite yet.

When I heard about a demo coming to the eShop, I figured that it would be a great way to experience the game in my own home. Why settle for a calculated and specified demo when I can just have at the game myself?

Nintendo, in their own esoteric way, decided to make the demo active for a few short hours. Instead of a typical weeks long “beta” that would give people a taste of the final build, Nintendo went ahead and included a server stress test in their demo.

Other than that being a clever idea, the limited window of opportunity made me excited beyond reason. Not only did I want to play this, I felt as if I needed to. I was itching all morning to give it a shot (had I realized there was a 7 am time, I would have tried it sooner!).

So I went about my usual Saturday routine of cleaning and volunteering; when I came home, I patiently waited downstairs fiddling around on my 3DS. The 10 minutes before the servers launched were an excruciating wait.

It’s amazing how I’ve written so much without even talking about the game. Nintendo somehow made the prospect of a demo special. I remember a time when having a sample of a game meant you either had to subscribe to a magazine or keep the preview disc that came with your console.

Ah the good ol’ days…

With the advent of the internet becoming integrated into a console, those special times were over. Microsoft allowed you to try out practically every game on the Xbox Live Marketplace via a demo. Sometimes the demos ended up being far better than the final product.

Splatoon‘s Global Testfire made me feel that way. I wasn’t going out and picking up a magazine, but I had to discover the existence of the demo and do some research into the timeframes the servers would be active.

Maybe this is just how Nintendo rolls, but I feel this was a great way to build even more hype over this brand new IP. Nintendo hasn’t really created an original idea in a long time (excluding Codename STEAM), so many people were playing the waiting game.

Without any kind of hands-on, I probably would have dismissed Splatoon entirely. It looked neat, but I’ve fallen out of online shooters as I’ve grown older. I occasionally play Counter-Strike or Team Fortress 2, but I don’t frequent them.

Nintendo’s approach to an online shooter is pretty novel. It may not be exactly original, but by removing the emphasis on fragging opponents and giving players a concrete goal in each map, Splatoon feels far more engaging than the usual shooter fare.

Color? IN A SHOOTER?!

The demo (which only ran for an hour) included two levels. They were a bit small, possibly to compensate for the 4 on 4 action, but they felt dense. I haven’t really taken the time to analyze the details of a game’s level design in quite some time, but Splatoon makes it almost essential to success.

With the objective being to cover the whole map in paint, you suddenly become obsessed with figuring out which areas can be covered and how fast you can get to the next point. The best way for success is not only cooperating with your team mates, but in finding areas that are less traveled.

You also can stake out vantage points and camp away. Thankfully spawn camping isn’t a possibility, but players are encouraged to discover safe spots and stick to them. With the central mechanic being squid mode and swimming through paint, even a relatively safe area isn’t 100% guaranteed.

The short time limit on each match made every second count. It was a chaotic scramble to cover your half of the map before the opposing team could even react. It made for exhilarating openers to each battle, even if I played the same map 4 times in a row.

There is also a mini-game during the load screens. While you’re waiting for players to join and the game to cache every file, you get treated to a retro style, Ice Climber-esque game about jumping to the top of a map. It may not be very deep, but it certainly beats staring at a blank screen and wishing for death.

Feels like 1983.

That small little change kept me actively engaged during the downtime between matches. I never had to worry about whether the game would continue or not. I was constantly trying to break a high-score that no one would ever see.

Really, I think Nintendo are on to something with Splatoon. The recent announcement that a lot of the upcoming DLC will be free is just icing on the cake. I may end up picking this game up on day one, a practice I haven’t done in some time.

This demo played out well for Nintendo, in my eyes. It’s also quite unique in it’s execution; a style so decidedly Nintendo that I wouldn’t want it any other way. Hopefully others got a chance to play, but know that Splatoon is shaping up to be quite the game changer.