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.

Advertisements

Older and Older

“But time makes you bolder; Even children get older; And I’m getting older too.” – Fleetwood Mac

Birthdays are an event that I’ve never had a strong connection to. As a small child, I obviously loved getting new toys and goofing around, but somewhere in my teen years I began to question the practice of celebrating my day of birth.

Why was everything supposed to be dedicated to me? There are other people in the world who were born on the same day, yet I am supposed to throw that thought away and focus on myself? Even with my self-righteous teenage attitude, I felt that I shouldn’t draw attention to an event that wasn’t of my choosing.

I never asked for April 12th to be my birthday. I didn’t even have a say in when I would be born, let alone at all. This isn’t to say that I’m not thankful for life (ask me two years prior and I would say otherwise); I just don’t think a birthday is something one should take pride in.

Yeah; quiet, Jensen!

Everyone in the world has a birthday. Everyone in the world shares their birthday with someone else. For people to make such a commotion over what is a pretty common event just makes no sense to me.

As I grow older, I begin to see how different I’ve become. While I still do not care for any celebrations, I’m not so afraid of revealing when I was born. If someone wants to know for any conceivable reason, then why not tell them? I don’t have anything to hide.

Most importantly, this makes me think of how little gaming has changed for Nintendo. Their games are firmly rooted in tradition and formula. When was the last time we saw a 100% original Mario or Zelda title?

Even with the prospect of a new StarFox on the horizon, I’m wondering if it will end up being so similar to StarFox 64 that people won’t care. Nintendo doesn’t seem to mind. Even Metroid has gone into hibernation, despite being a big deal in the Gamecube era.

While Nintendo has finally branched out into some new IPs, both Codename S.T.E.A.M. and Splatoon are based on ideas that already exist. Nintendo isn’t so much breaking new ground as they are throwing their own flair into established formulas.

At least “artistically” it’s different.

I suppose that could be said of most “new” games, but I’m just curious if Nintendo will ever change. As time slithers by and we all grow into half-way functional adults, will Nintendo manage to provide a better flair and vest for future generations?

I don’t mean to say that Nintendo should only focus their marketing and development on former children. Newer kids are growing up with a lot of conveniences that I never had. The internet is a prevalent entity in the modern era and instantaneous access is almost the norm.

Nintendo doesn’t seem to embrace that. Putting games on the eShop day and date with their retail release is a start, but their lack of connectivity in certain titles (Mario 3D World) just makes me wonder how much longer their fire will burn.

For that matter, why are Sony and Microsoft practically indistinguishable from each other? While both of those companies have managed to change with the times, their game catalogs overlap in so many ways. Even exclusives for each platform are hard to differentiate.

They’ve changed in ways that appeal less to me as an adult. I see fat-cat executives making calculated decisions on how to extract the most profit from a potential idea. Nothing seems to be made with bold artistic vision anymore.

Now, this could mostly be cynicism from years of being depressed, but I just want a change. I want the industry I love and the hobby I can never put aside to do something different. Excite me with a concept that isn’t a gimmick. Thrill me with a totally unique gametype.

As we travel into the future, I just want gaming to travel with us. The past isn’t the only thing that matters. We need to make time for the future.