Splatoon is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Wii U, which was released worldwide in May 2015. The game centers around characters known as Inklings—beings that can transform between humanoid and squid forms, and hide or swim through colored ink sprayed on surfaces using gun, bucket, or brush-based weaponry. Splatoon features several game modes, including 4-on-4 online multiplayer, and a single player campaign.
Splatoon was developed by Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis & Development division, and originated from a competitive multiplayer ink-based territory control game, which was later expanded to include squids and the ability to swim through ink. The concept was created by lead programmer Shintaro Sato, who had previously worked on games in the Animal Crossing franchise. The development team for Splatoon was generally composed of younger Nintendo employees compared to other titles by the company.
Splatoon received positive reviews upon its unveiling and release, with critics praising Nintendo's decision to enter the genre with a new franchise, the game's overall style and presentation, gameplay mechanics, and its soundtrack. Criticism was directed at the exclusion of voice chat and private lobbies, the small number of multiplayer maps at launch, and issues with online matchmaking. Nintendo provided extensive post-release support for the game by adding new maps and weapons to the game, adding a feature to allow users to create private lobbies and holding time-limited events called "Splatfests". Splatoon was awarded and nominated for several year-end accolades from several gaming publications. A sequel, Splatoon 2, was released for the Nintendo Switch in 2017.
Splatoon is primarily a team-based third-person shooter which is playable by up to eight players in online four-versus-four matches, although the game also features local one-versus-one multiplayer matches and a single player campaign. Players control characters called Inklings, who have the ability to shapeshift between human and squid forms. In humanoid form, Inklings can shoot ink in their team's color, which can be used to cover the environment or "splat" opposing players or enemies. Transforming into a squid allows players to swim through the ink of their own color, even up walls and through grates, hiding from the enemy and replenishing their ink supply in the process. Conversely, enemy ink is much slower to move across in humanoid form, cannot be swum through in squid form, and gradually deals damage. Players can use their ink to try and "splat" their opponents, which will send them back to their team's starting point whilst also providing a large splat of ink. In all modes, except for the two-player mode, players can use the Wii U GamePad to view a map of the surroundings and instantly launch towards the location of another teammate, as well as use optional gyroscopic controls to assist with aiming.
Players go into matches wielding a primary ink weapon, each with differing statistics and traits, along with a secondary attack (such as ink-filled balloons, sprinklers, and disruptive fields), and a special attack that can be charged up by covering enough ground with ink. Primary paint weapons range from those whose firing patterns resemble various types of firearms, to melee weapons such as Splat Rollers, Inkbrushes, and Sloshers (ink buckets). Ink weapons are sold in sets that can be purchased with money earned from matches, with more sets becoming available to the player as they gain experience. In addition, players can customize their character with headgear, clothes, and shoes from the neighboring shops, with more items becoming available as the player's level increases. Each item carries an ability that improves the player's statistics, such as faster respawn time or longer special duration. Additional abilities can be unlocked by gaining experience in battles. When encountering other players in the plaza, players can choose to order an item another player is wearing and purchase it the next day from a back alley dealer named Spyke for a higher price.
The game also supports Splatoon Amiibo figures, with each figure unlocking a set of missions which unlock extra equipment (weapons and clothing) and a bonus minigame upon completion, the latter of which can be played on the Wii U GamePad while waiting in lobbies. Players can also make posts to the game's Miiverse community, which appear in-game as graffiti on various buildings.
Online multiplayer is split into regular and ranked game types. Each of these match types goes through a rotation of two maps, which change every four hours. In ranked games, players gain or drop ranks based on consecutive wins and losses, ranging from C- to S+. Having a higher rank increases the amount of money and experience earned after wins.
- Turf Wars is the default mode for regular matches, in which each team must try to ink the most turf as possible in their own color of ink within three minutes. The team that covers the most ground in their color when time runs out wins.
- Splat Zones is a king of the hill-style mode where the teams try to control designated areas by keeping them covered in ink for a certain period of time. A team wins if they get their counter down to zero, or if they have the lowest time remaining on their counter when time runs out.
- Tower Control, in which teams must capture and escort a floating tower located at the center of the map towards a target at the end of the opponents' of the map. The winner is whichever team brings the tower all the way to opponent's end, or gets the closest to it before time runs out.
- Rainmaker is a capture the flag-style mode, in which players must capture the titular totem and bring it towards a target somewhere in the opponents' side of the map. The holder of the Rainmaker cannot Super Jump, but has access to a chargeable attack similar to the Inkzooka. The Rainmaker does not need to use any ink.
In Battle Dojo, the local multiplayer mode, two players compete to pop the most balloons, with one player using the Wii U GamePad and the other using the TV with a Wii U Pro Controller or Wii Classic Controller or either controller in conjunction with a MotionPlus-enabled Wii Remote to recreate the GamePad's gyroscopic controls.
Time-limited "Splatfest" events, held between June 2015 and July 2016, were also held in multiplayer play. During these events, players could choose between one of two teams, and earn points towards a player rank and their team based on their performance. Members of the winning team, decided by popularity and overall performance, earned Super Sea Snails, which could be used to re-spec and add additional perks to equipment, with the losing team earning fewer snails. Following the final Splatfest event, which ended on 24 July 2016, Super Sea Snails can be earned by winning a certain number of matches.
Octo Valley is the game's single player campaign in which players are recruited by war veteran Captain Cuttlefish to rescue The Great Zapfish, Inkopolis' source of power, from the Octarians. Players use a default ink weapon for this mode, which can be enhanced with upgrades or power-ups by collecting Power Eggs littered across each stage. The goal of each level is to navigate through enemies and obstacles to reach the Zapfish at the end. Each level also contains a hidden "sunken scroll", which reveal backstories and lore surrounding the setting of Splatoon. After clearing all levels in an area, players fight a boss to proceed to the next. Clearing each boss unlocks blueprints that can be exchanged at an armoury for more weapon options.
Splatoon was developed by Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development. In mid-2013, one member of the Animal Crossing development team, Shintaro Sato, created a four-versus-four ink-based territory control game set in a featureless arena. After management approved making the prototype into a full game, the team started expanding its concepts, creating the ability to hide in ink, and wanted to somehow incorporate squids. After coming up with these ideas, the developers had trouble "filter[ing] it down" to a "simple, fun game." Shigeru Miyamoto told the team that there was "no appeal" to the game in that state. Afterwards, the developers added the ability to hide in ink and verticality to the maps, but it still felt unfocused. The art director sketched different ideas for the player character, including animals, "macho men," robots, and Mario,  but the co-directors wanted to include a playable squid. They also needed the character to be human in order to hold weaponry, but thought that a squid-human hybrid "wouldn't sell". In January 2014, they realized they could make the player character switch between human and squid forms, which allowed them to come up with other ideas, such as swimming through ink or sustaining damage while maneuvering in enemy ink. From the beginning, the GamePad could display a real-time overview of the map so the player could see which team was ahead, and at some point, the team considered using urinals and sinks as warp points. The development team was determined to make interesting sound effects, so they repeatedly pounded slime to create the sound of a squid diving into ink.
The team working on the game is composed of much younger members compared to other teams that work on Nintendo franchises. Game director Tsubasa Sakaguchi and producer Hisashi Nogami admitted that they, along with the rest of the team, play first person shooters and games on other companies' hardware (such as Call of Duty and Battlefield) as part of their job, and also because they love video games in general. Monolith Soft also assisted Nintendo on the development of the game. Splatoon was revealed in a trailer during Nintendo's E3 2014 Digital Event video presentation, and a demo of its multiplayer mode was playable on the show floor. The game's single-player campaign, was further detailed in a later Nintendo Direct.
Prior to the game's release, a time-limited multiplayer demo known as the "Global Testfire" was held on 8 and 9 May 2015 and one two-hour block on 23 May 2015. On 15 May, on the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, Nintendo held a special event called the Splatoon Mess Fest, featuring celebrities and an obstacle course inspired by the game. Fans could also play a demo of the game at the event. A collaboration with Masahiro Anbe's Squid Girl manga series was announced, which included free in-game costumes released on 6 August 2015. Splatoon outfits are also featured in the Nintendo 3DS title, Girls Mode 3: Kirakira ☆ Code. In Canada, Splatoon-themed frozen yogurt was produced at various Yogurty's locations from June to September. Nintendo UK partnered with Adrenaline Alley skatepark to decorate it with decals and props based on the game and install several Wii U demo stations for the summer. Nintendo also held fan-art competitions on Miiverse and Twitter.
Wii U Deluxe Set bundles with Splatoon included were released in North America at Best Buy stores (as a coupon for a digital copy) Australia, Europe, and New Zealand (on a physical disc). Splatoon series Amiibo were released alongside the game, with Boy and Girl Inklings sold separately and a Squid figure sold exclusively as a bundle with either the game or the two other Amiibo. Amiibo figures of in-game pop idols Callie and Marie —collectively known as the "Squid Sisters"— were released in Japan on 7 July 2016 and internationally on 8 July 2016, along with limited edition recolors of the Inkling Boy, Girl and Squid Amiibo; the Callie and Marie Amiibo unlock in-game music players featuring their songs. Players who pre-ordered the game at GameStop received a download voucher for Splatoon-themed Mii costumes for use in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. A bundle containing Splatoon and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U was announced in a November 2015 Nintendo Direct and was released during the holiday season. Nintendo released a Splatoon Wii U Deluxe Set containing the amiibo figures in Japan on 7 July 2016. In addition, Nintendo launched two new diorama sets based solely on Splatoon and its characters around the same time in Japan.
Additional modes, along with new maps and weapons, have been introduced to the game through timed updates. An August 2015 update raised the level cap from 20 to 50, added S and S+ ranks to ranked battles, introduced new Splatling and Slosher weapons, private lobbies and party play, and added over 40 new pieces of gear items. In July 2016, Nintendo announced that the United Kingdom would host a splat-off between 16 July through 7 August 2016.
In December 2015, it was announced that free downloadable content would conclude in January 2016, although Nintendo later announced that downloadable content will continue to be released. Additionally, Nintendo announced that Splatoon's online services will continue to be active, despite the game's final Splatfest having occurred on 22 July 2016.
Splatoon was well-received when it was revealed. Many in the gaming press were surprised that Nintendo was creating a shooter intellectual property and praised the new gameplay ideas that distinguished it from other titles in the genre.
On release, Splatoon received positive reviews, receiving an aggregated score of 81/100 on Metacritic based on 88 reviews. GamesRadar gave the game 3.5/5 stars, praising the game's refreshing take on the shooter genre, while criticising some elements such as lobbies and amiibo-locked content. GameTrailers gave the game a score of 8.4/10, praising the game's mechanics and presentation, while lamenting that the game felt sparse at launch. IGN initially scored the game 7.9, praising the gameplay but criticizing the low number of maps and modes at launch and absence of voice chat. After several major updates were released, IGN released a re-review, increasing the game's score to 8.6/10 because of the new maps and online modes. Some critics expressed displeasure over the fact that communication errors cause a loss of points in Ranked Battles. Destructoid gave the game a score of 8.5, arguing that its shortcomings "can be forgiven in [his] mind because of how damn fun it is." Nintendo Life scored the game nine stars out of ten, considering Splatoon one of the "most fun" online games available because of the unique way each online match played out due to the ink mechanic, which also helped counteract potential boredom from the low number of maps playable at launch.
Writing for The Guardian, Kate Gray praised the visual style of Splatoon for contrasting realistic shooter games such as the Call of Duty franchise with a "90s cartoon aesthetic", citing influence by games such as Jet Set Radio, Super Mario Sunshine, and de Blob, along with a catchy soundtrack. However, Gray noted shortcomings in the game, such as a lack of multiplayer maps and modes on-launch making the game feel repetitive, matchmaking issues (such as inconsistent wait times between matches and team composition issues), as well as the lack of features such as voice chat and private lobbies, but defending the criticism by arguing that it was "[Nintendo's] first game in a long time that's really attempted to revitalize and reinvent a genre that often seems stagnant. This sort of daring creative venture will have its flaws, and if anything, we should be glad that it’s Nintendo taking the first step into new territory." Gray concluded by declaring Splatoon to be "a breath of fresh air—or more accurately 'splodge of fresh ink'—for those who like to shoot stuff, but have grown tired of the endless bloody churn of gritty, realistic shooters."
Splatoon debuted at No. 2 in the UK software sales chart in the week it launched, only behind The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It is the fifth fastest-selling Wii U game and the fastest-selling new intellectual property on the console in that country, beating the previous record set by Ubisoft's 2012 launch title ZombiU. Splatoon debuted at the top of the Japanese software sales chart, with over 144,000 retail copies sold in its launch week and a total of 1.53 million sold by December 2016. In the U.S., 165,000 combined physical and downloaded copies were sold in May 2015, with another 290,000 sold in June and 85,000 in July. By the end of August 2015, over 600,000 copies had been sold in the region. In March 2016, Nintendo announced that one million copies had been shipped in Europe. By the end of June 2015, 1.62 million copies of the game had been sold worldwide, and by the end of March 2018, worldwide sales reached 4.93 million. In May 2016, Splatoon was announced to be the most successful new home console intellectual property (IP) in Japan since Wii Sports.
|2014||Destructoid's Best of E3||Best Nintendo Exclusive||Nominated|||
|Game Critics Awards Best of E3 2014||Best Online Multiplayer|||
|Best Original Game|
|Gamescom Award||Best Console Game Wii U|||
|2015||National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards||Game Design, New IP||Won|||
|Control Design, 3D|
|Game, Original Family|
|Game of the Year||Nominated|
|British Academy Children's Awards||Best Game||Won|||
|33rd Golden Joystick Awards||Best Family Game|||
|Best Multiplayer Game||Nominated|
|Best Nintendo Game||Won|
|Best Original Game||Nominated|
|Best Visual Design|
|The Game Awards 2015||Best Family Game|||
|Giant Bomb's 2015 Game of the Year Awards||Best Music|||
|Game Developers Choice Awards||Best Audio||Honorable Mention|||
|Best Technology||Honorable Mention|
|Best Visual Art||Nominated|
|Game of the Year||Honorable Mention|
|GameTrailers' Best of 2015 Awards||Best Third-Person Shooter||Won|||
|Best Wii U Exclusive||Nominated|||
|IGN's Best of 2015||Best Competitive Multiplayer||Won|||
|Wii U Game of the Year||Runner-up|||
|Drago d’Oro 2016||Best Videogame Shooter||Won|||
|Deutscher Computerspielpreis 2016 (German Videogame Awards 2016)||Best International Multiplayer Game|||
|2016 SXSW Gaming Awards||Most Promising New Intellectual Property|||
|2016 Famitsu Awards||Creative Award|||
|Game of the Year|
|2016 Japan Game Awards|||
Two manga series based on the game launched in Enterbrain's Weekly Famitsu magazine in 2016. Kino Takahashi illustrated Honobono Ika 4koma while various other authors illustrated "Play Manga". Another manga illustrated by Sankichi Hinodeya began serialization in Shogakukan's Bessatsu CoroCoro Comic Special magazine in February 2016 following a one-shot published in CoroCoro Comic in May 2015. Viz Media will begin publishing this series in English in late 2017. An artbook, known as the Art of Splatoon, was released in Japan in September 2015, and in North America and Europe in June 2017. The manga had over 800,000 copies in print as of February 2018.
A series of real-life concerts featuring the Squid Sisters, who appear as holographs, have been held at various locations. Known as "Squid Sisters Live", the concerts have taken place at Tokaigi 2016 at Makuhari Messe in January 2016, at Choukagi 2016 in April 2016, at Japan Expo in Paris in July 2016, and at Niconico Cho Party in November 2016. At the Toy Fair 2017, toy water guns modeled after the ones in the game were revealed by Jakks Pacific and were released in 2017. CoroCoro Comic published a motion comic series on its YouTube channel soon after the sequel came out.
The Inklings themselves have appeared in many other Nintendo games, including Super Mario Maker on the Wii U and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. Most recently, during a Nintendo Direct presentation, the Inklings were revealed to be the first newcomers in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, set to be released in 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. In addition, the Squid Sisters appear as an Assist Trophy in SSBU, pulling the camera towards the center of the stage.
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