Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Matt Gerardi: Well, Derrick, in your review, you told everybody you’d return to update us on how Splatoon and its online multiplayer have shaped up since launch. So here we are.
Derrick Sanskrit: First off, you know what I think of the game in general. Now that you’ve had some time, what are your brief thoughts?
MG: It’s odd. I’m a little bit torn on it. When you’re playing online and you’re on top or it’s a tight match, it’s fun as hell. But anytime my team gets behind, it turns into this Hypercolor meat grinder. I guess it’s kind of a problem with most competitive multiplayer games, but it feels amplified here.
DS: I can see that. I’ve had a few matches where the other team is so aggressive and so in sync with one another, they are just holding a line and there’s no way past them. I was thinking that the lack of voice chat or private sessions would cut down on that, but apparently not. But that’s been not too common for me—only one in six matches or so, I’d guess.
How about the campaign? Any headway there?
MG: I haven’t touched it much. But I totally see what you were talking about in your review, comparing it to Mario Galaxy. It has a similar approach to platforming puzzles, where you have to manage climbing up and jumping between all these free floating vertical structures.
DS: And it does the same thing the recent Mario games do, where it shows you a new idea in a safe area where you can’t really screw it up, and then slowly introduces enemies and obstacles. Then it ramps it up, and afterward, you’re basically done with that new idea mostly forever.
As I was playing it for review, I was bemoaning how the campaign has no replayability, though. In Mario Galaxy, you’d go back to the stage five or six times with new goals and new challenges in the same space. Each stage in this campaign only has the one goal—unless you buy the amiibo. Those other challenges are sold separately now. That’s what the amiibo are for Splatoon. They’re the additional stars from Mario Galaxy.
MG: Uh oh, that seems a little too important to be tied to something that’s nearly impossible to find in stores.
DS: Yeah, especially if you want the squid figure, which is only in the three-pack.
MG: And the squid, just like the boy and girl amiibo, has its own single-player stuff to do?
DS: Sort of. They reappropriate the stages from the campaign with new twists. With the girl amiibo, you play the stages using the long-range charge rifle instead of the handgun. With the boy, you use a roller. In some of the stages, it really changes things up in surprisingly refreshing ways.
The squid, though, that’s the interesting one. Some stages are speed runs, where you have the Kraken ability—you turn into an invincible squid that leaves ink in its wake—and have to complete the stage in a short period of time, like two or three minutes. And some of the stages give you a finite amount of ink and no refills, which is very stressful and you wind up thinking a lot about which fights you can run from and which jumps you can make as a human without the need for the speed boost you get as a squid swimming through ink. Those stages, which are so interesting and force you to change the way you think about the game, are locked away on the hardest-to-find amiibo of the bunch. That just makes me feel terrible for all the people who just want a good game with none of the rabid collecting.
Plus, near as I can tell, no information is ever written to the amiibo. All the figure does is unlock these preexisting challenges. You know me—I like amiibo in general—but this feels like the most blatant cash grab yet. If anything, this could have just been DLC, which Hyrule Warriors did just fine last year.
MG: Yikes, yeah. That’s a scary precedent. This is sort of the ultimate problem with amiibos, right? You want them to provide something meaningful, but in the end, it can’t be too meaningful because 95 percent of them are impossible to just go out and buy in a store.
Amiibo grossness aside, how’s your time been with the game now that it’s available to the general public?
DS: Connection times are exponentially better. I’ve yet to wait more than a minute for a room to fill up, whereas during the review period I would go nearly an hour at times cycling in and out of half-filled lobbies. And I’m really enjoying the variety of play styles I see online. Some people stick to the high ground, some people go looking for fights, some people stick together and watch their teammates’ backs. It’s sort of amazing to watch it all play out. Have you tried out the new stage they released this week?
MG: I don’t think I’ve come across it yet.
DS: It popped up immediately in the first session I played after the update, so the whole crew I played with was just feeling it out. It looks like it would have great verticality with all those crates, but they all repel paint, so it’s actually a series of claustrophobic walkways.
Probably my favorite thing about the multiplayer is how every arena creates a whole different energy in how it encourages you to play. Walleye Warehouse is all about those side ramps and circling the center area, keeping the opposing team at bay. Arowana Mall is all about those half-pipes in the center and the tall viewpoints for long-range weapons. I’ve heard it said about other online multiplayer games, but the stages really do have their own character and you get a feel for each of them. I especially enjoy that all the stages are perfectly symmetrical, so you know you’re on even footing with the other team when you start.
MG: Yeah, that’s all spot on. I think the variety—in maps, weapons, and play styles—is what I find most intriguing about the game so far. There’s a really deep game lurking below the surface here, and had Nintendo really built it toward this end, I could see the competitive side being very intense.
DS: Do you think we’ll see some updates in the future to really drive the hardcore competitive scene, or is that too much work to implement at this point?
MG: I’m not sure, really. I’m getting Super Smash Bros. Melee vibes from it right now, where it could be this game that wasn’t meant to be super-technical and intensely competitive, but the community was so into it and excited to tear it apart that it became something completely different.
How do you think the community that’s playing Splatoon has shaped up since release?
DS: Well, I admit that during the cushy private review period I forgot what Miiverse is actually like. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, it’s nothing but Spongebob references and hastily scribbled notes about Callie and Marie being people’s “Waifus.” And this one kid insisting that “Bush did 9/11.”
Beyond the Miiverse drawings, you know, they’re just people—a bunch of anonymous people all playing the same game as me, mostly with verve and vigor. So I’m all right with that. I’m really glad there’s no voice chat because I’m not sure I could tolerate the combination of frat kids slinging racial slurs and pre-teens asking if I like Naruto. More than anything I’m concerned to see how the community continues to exist. Will I still be able to play in six months or will the fervor have died off?
MG: That’s the important part. It seems like there’s a lot of people playing right now, at least.
DS: Exactly. It’s new, it’s getting great reviews, and there’s a media blitz on TV, so everyone’s on it right now. Where will they be, say, in November? I’m hoping Nintendo can keep people coming back with that slow stream of new content they seem to be teasing. We know there are going to be new arenas, new weapons, and at least a couple new game modes over the next few months, so I’m guessing each of those will see an uptick in activity.
I saw people saying this will be the Mario Kart 8 of 2015, and as much as we all loved Mario Kart 8, everyone fell off after a couple months. The DLC packs for that, though, brought a lot of interest back to them, both because it was new stuff and because they were all well designed. I think that if Nintendo puts the same level of care into substantial new Splatoon content, we could see the game still quite active by this time next year. But I expect lobby wait times will slowly begin to reappear by then.
MG: So what’s the verdict? Has Nintendo pulled it off?
DS: I think they did a phenomenal job with what they’ve got. There’s been an audience clamoring for an all-ages multiplayer shooter, and there have been a few attempts in the past (I downloaded Water Warfare on the Wii years ago and was greatly disappointed), but Splatoon satisfies so many of the urges left unfulfilled in modern gaming.
Most importantly, for me at least, is it’s fast. I can’t get bored in a session because it’s over so soon. If I don’t like how a game went down, there’s another one right around the corner. And it’s just so charming. It’s a pleasure to look at and listen to. I have the battle music stuck in my head for hours during the day and I’ve yet to complain about it. There’s a shallow pool of content right now, so it’s not hard to see interest drying up after a few weeks. It’s really up to Nintendo now to keep players coming back for more by giving us, well, more.
And that’s the closest I’ll get to an aquatic pun today.
MG: I think that about sums it up right there. Thanks for talking some more Splatoon, Derrick. I guess I’ll see you—and any Gameologerinos splatting out there—on the battlefield.