My fondest memories of multiplayer games are gathering friends and/or family around the couch to play Super Smash Bros., NHL, or Rock Band. We would lose hours passing around the controller, heckling each other, and laughing at the ridiculous one-of-a-kind scenarios that would occur.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is online multiplayer, a feature defined by instant worldwide connection, anonymity, and isolation. For many, online multiplayer offers the opportunity to show off or hone their skills on a world stage. For others, myself included, online multiplayer is an alienating experience that does more to sever connections than foster healthy relationships and competition.
Falling under the latter, Splatoon is a surprising exception considering that I have put over 30 hours into the online multiplayer portion alone.
Splatoon is Nintendo's first true stab at building an online multiplayer shooter. Instead of racking up the most kills, players are tasked with covering their surroundings in ink. The team that covers the majority of the battlefield in their ink wins.
The main mode of Splatoon's multiplayer is Turf War, a two-minute four versus four match. Turf War invites players to get accustomed to the mechanics at their own pace. You can either sprint head-first into enemy territory or hang back to cover your territory in ink. Everything you do in this mode earns points, which charge super moves during matches and serve as experience points outside of them. From learning new level-specific tactics to mastering the default analog and motion control combination, I always felt my skills improving no matter if I was winning or losing.
Splatoon's lack of voice chat has been a polarizing part of the game. Co-ordinating with teammates can be quite difficult without the ability to talk one another, but I’d rather have no voice chat than be cussed out by a kid half my age. While the Gamepad map serves as a fine substitue, it would be nice to have the option to tag opponents or specific alerts, such as “Enemy over here” or “I'm under attack” to help foster deeper engagement with teammates.
The other multiplayer mode available to play is Splat Zones, a ranked battle where teams fight to control a certain area of the map in order to earn points. Fighting over one or two areas of the map results in one of two situations: intense back-and-forth confrontations or crushing blowouts. The former is the most fun you can have playing Splatoon, while enjoyment of the latter comes from which side you land on. If you have the unfortunate fate of being on the losing end of a knockout, you receive nothing. No experience, weapon upgrades, or cash; just the image of a weeping inkling and a drop in rank. This unforgiving risk-reward system can discourage even the most hardened gamers, especially when you are in a slump.
Although it is not perfect, Splatoon's online multiplayer is an excellent first step for Nintendo. With the constant stream of new content releasing weekly and the promise of special Splat Fest events, Splatoon will the keep craving for one more match for months to come. Speaking of one more match, I should get going.