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‘Splatoon 2’: Things That Aren’t So Fresh

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Few will oppose Splatoon 2’s status as yet another top notch title from Nintendo. Featuring all of the addictive ink splattering action of its predecessor, along with improvements and additional features, Splatoon 2 offers a wealth of joy in both offline and online formats. However, despite its plethora of positive points, the colorful shoot ’em up is far from perfect, and sadly hides some frustrating tidbits of irritation under its vibrant exterior. As tempting as it may be to hurl well-deserved praise at Splatoon 2, let’s instead take a look at the various flaws that prevent it from being the showstopper it could have been.

. Not everyone is a team player.

The most frustrating issue of Splatoon 2 is one inflicted upon you by other players. Nothing is more angering than scoring one thousand or more points in an online battle, only to find that your team has lost due to one (or more) players scoring zero. As anybody who has partaken in one of Splatoon 2’s online showdowns of splattery (um, also known as an online battle) knows, to score even a singular point is an effortless matter, as it requires that you simply cover a millimeter of ground in your team’s ink color. Accomplishing this is nothing more than a matter of firing your weapon once, meaning that via the singular press of a button, anybody can begin scoring points, including a first-time player.

Whilst certain players meet this almost impossibly low bar for failure due to internet disconnection (which Splatoon 2 rightfully enforces a mild level of punishment on via a temporary ban), certain players intentionally refuse to co-operate with their team, and score zero points despite baring a functioning internet connection. For these players, I would personally not be opposed to their Nintendo Switch console melting in front of their eyes, as a voice blares out of it declaring menacingly “You are the worst kind of person, how do you sleep at night?”. Whilst this may be an overreaction, in seriousness, Splatoon 2 should impose harsh penalties to those who deliberately offer little to no assistance to their team during online matches, as a singular player’s participation will often be the deciding factor between your team’s victory or defeat.

. Splatoon 2’s record keeping is sloppy and cluttered.

Splatoon 2 offers a bundle of shopping and record keeping orientated mechanics, so strap in tight for a overly long run down of just a few of them: Clothes can be purchased, and will level up and unlock randomly assigned abilities as you wear them. These abilities can be reset (if you have enough money), granting you ability chunks. Said ability chunks can then be applied to other clothing items, allowing you to gradually (and expensively) customize each and every ability on each and every item of clothing. Weapons, on the other hand, do not earn abilities, but instead, earn a freshness rating. This increases as you win online battles, and decreases as you lose online battles. A higher freshness rating for your weapon can equal higher earnings in character experience points. What are character experience points? Put simply, your character will level up via a system of experience points as you win battles. Upon reaching level ten, you can partake in ranked battles. As you win and lose ranked battles, you will either progress up or down, in class (ranging from C- to S+). Should you reach rank B- in ranked battles, league battles shall be opened up to you, which allow you to partake in ranked battles on a team with your friends.

Does that sound confusing? That’s because, at times, it is. However, Splatoon 2’s error isn’t that it’s overly stuffed with all manner of mechanics that repeatedly take records of each and every gameplay decision you make. Rather, the issue in question is that Splatoon 2 grants you no control in managing your inventory or gameplay statistics. You cannot sell your clothing, you cannot reset your weapon freshness rating, and you cannot erase your completion time of single player missions. In short, Splatoon 2’s handling on the subject of record keeping is messy and offers little to no control to the player.

. Have I done this before?

Whilst Splatoon 2 provides some new content, it is simply not enough, and a feeling of déjà vu for players of its predecessor, Splatoon, will persist. With only minute alterations to Splatoon’s visual interface, weapons, and even single player campaign, Splatoon 2 is more of the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given that the original Wii U game was so excellent, but the desire for more bold alterations will potentially remain for veterans of Splatoon. The fear that Splatoon as a franchise will continue in this style (making only minor alterations and additions between each and every entry, much like the Call Of Duty and Fifa franchises, without ever implementing significant and exciting changes), is a real one. As much fun as Splatoon 2 may have to offer, Splatoon 3 (however far away it may be) must be more daring in its additions and alterations to Splatoon 2’s formula in order to remain relevant and continue to meet the franchise’s high bar for quality.

As previously mentioned, Splatoon 2 offers a wealth of joy in both offline and online formats. As tremendous as it may be, however, it is far from a perfect game and suffers from various flaws ranging from minor to moderate. As enjoyable as it may be to heap praise upon Splatoon 2, we must step back and be more harshly critical to fully develop an unbiased view of its true quality.

When all is said and done, however, despite its missteps, it’s a blast.

I have spent my life in England finding entertainment in both video games and music. Whilst not indulging in the latter, I invest my time in playing all manner of video games, and as of 2017, writing about all manner of video games. Email: harrymorrisharrymorris@yahoo.com

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Brent Middleton

    August 10, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Cool piece Harry! Very interesting take on the game.

    I don’t think there’s much the devs can do about a teammate being idle–in any online game, if a player just decides to suddenly leave and run to the bathroom for the round, for instance, that’s kinda on them. But trust me, I feel that frustration (especially in the higher rankings of Salmon Run, ugh).

    You made a good point about Splatoon 2 being more of an iterative sequel in the vein of CoD. I’d say more has changed than in the yearly sports “sequels,” but they could definitely stand to be a bit more daring for S3. I think part of the reason they didn’t was that they knew how few people had played the first game, so an iterative sequel made more sense. With a bigger eventual player base, though, I think the next game will stray further from the core formula (but they can’t Switch the gameplay up too much, of course, just the contents around it). Again, awesome read man

    • Harry Morris

      August 12, 2017 at 6:15 am

      Thank you so much, I’m glad you like it.

      In regards to teammates scoring zero points but whilst still being active within the game (walking around etc.), I feel that it is intentionally selfish of them, and as a result I would personally like to see harsher penalties. For example, should you score zero points despite being fully connected to and active within the game, then you should be banned for a whole day, or even a week.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Fortnite’

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Join us all month as our staff looks back at the most influential games of the past decade. This is not a list of our favourite games but rather a look back at the games that left the biggest impact in the last ten years on an artistic and cultural level. After careful consideration, we narrowed it down to ten games that have most defined, influenced and shaped the industry as we know it.

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You know, I never thought I’d be writing this article.

I thought Fortnite was going to be another one of those fads that came around quickly and left just as quickly, a fading blip of relevance like every other AAA game that releases and is buried under something better. Whether that be better looking, better playing, or just plain…better.

That never happened. Instead, what we got was a phenomenon.

There are only three other times in history where I feel like the world “phenomenon” really translates well: the original NES, PokéMania in the West, and the launch of World of Warcraft. However, Fortnite really captures the meaning of that word. It absorbed, and to a slightly lesser extent, continues to absorb large amounts of popular culture, integrating itself into the American ethos in a way that sent ripples throughout the larger, non-gamer market.

It’s hard to quantify the impact of a peak claim of nearly 250 million players. Most games don’t reach a fraction of that player base and those that do don’t often carry the clout that Fortnite accumulated for itself. Oftentimes, when a game is as mentioned and cited in the industry as Fortnite, it’s for unmitigated disasters or fads that quickly fade due to their failure to adapt.

Fortnite, on the other hand, has done nothing but adapt to changing player tastes, pumping out content on a hitherto unimaginable scale on an ever-expanding number of platforms. What started out confined to the typical trio of PC, PS4, and Xbox One soon expanded onto Android, iOS, MacOS, and Nintendo Switch quickly. Well-optimized ports and eventual cross-play enabled players to play with each other despite their own hardware choices. That two friends with an iPhone SE and a GTX 2080ti-equipped PC can play together is proof that Fortnite has done well to integrate players together from varying socioeconomic backgrounds.

If anything, Fortnite has proven right a premise that Nintendo has preached for years: that the more accessible a game is, the greater the success that it can be. Fortnite’s accessibility didn’t stop at its incredibly easy-to-run game engine or its easy-to-learn gameplay loop, but also continued in its actual presentation. For a game ostensibly about hunting down other players Hunger Games-style until only one player remains, it has strikingly bright and appealing visuals. Characters and skins are not only instantly recognizable, but easily marketable, ensuring that all fans–yes, even the middle-schoolers you overhear at your local games store–can purchase physical, in addition to digital, representations of their favorite characters.

In many ways, Fortnite, and its publisher, Epic Games, remind me of NES-era Nintendo.

Did they operate calculating business with a keen eye for profit through manipulating kids’ access to the First Bank of Mom and Dad? Yes. Did they create playground, and message board, conversation starters that create narratives that continue exist long after irrelevance? Yes.

But, in the end, did they create games whose importance changed gaming forever?

Yes.

Ultimately, I think that is the biggest aspect of Fortnite‘s legacy: it is one of the few games that did not shackle its free-to-play players with unfair restrictions or give paying players unfair, buy-to-win advantages. For all that it offered: hours of fun with friends, inclusion in massive social events, and the ability to continue your play across nearly every console, it gave it all for free.

And that, I think, will endure long after all the V-bucks and Battle Buses have faded away.

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‘KartRider: Drift’ is Gorgeous But in Need of Fine-Tuning

KartRider: Drift is Microsoft’s new exclusive racer coming in 2020. Here are hands-on beta impressions from behind the wheel.

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kartrider drift

KartRider: Drift had the odds stacked against it from the outset. Though the KartRider series has been immensely popular in China and Korea for more than a decade, its brand recognition in the West has been largely nonexistent. Thus, when it was showcased at Microsoft’s XO19 event in November, many dismissed the game as a generic Mario Kart clone. In reality, not only is KartRider is one of the longest-running competitive racing games in the world, but its closed beta weekend proved that Nexon is taking the impending Western release very seriously.

Push to Start

Beta players were given access to three modes: online matchmaking, solo time trials, and the garage for character and kart customization. The online interface is simple and intuitive; with a press of the “X” button players can toggle between Solo, Duo, and Squad (four-player) races across Item Mode (featuring traditional kart racer items) and Speed Mode (no items). Switching between different configurations is a snap and, thanks to KartRacer already being such a massive game in the East, I rarely had to wait more than 20 seconds to get thrown into a match. Creating private parties and inviting friends to race is also an option.

Although maps took a while to load, performance was consistently smooth once races actually began. It’s here where Nexon’s investment in Unreal Engine 4 really shines; the tracks are simply a joy to look at. Each manage to pop with personality despite not being based on recognizable IP like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. Of the nine tracks available during the beta only two stuck out as being a bit samey. Each of the drivers also benefit from colorful, distinct designs and fully customizable win/loss animations. The only portion of the presentation that didn’t impress was the music, which was quite catchy at first, but looped endlessly irrespective of the track.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the actual course design, which is largely serviceable but also initially frustrating. For instance, a forest-themed track features logs that stick up from the ground and stop racers in their tracks. This wouldn’t be too egregious, but the logs are so large that only tiny spaces on either side remain. Nearly half of my races on this map were marred by traffic jams caused by a couple of these choke points. Another map features a jump that must be hit at just the right time to not collide with a building and cost players the entire race.

Even maps that don’t demand unreasonable precision from new players suffer from jarringly sharp edges that make it easy to get stuck on corners. This is only exacerbated by a finicky drift mechanic that takes hours of experimentation and countless losses to nail down. While growing more competent at cornering eventually felt rewarding and worthwhile, the high skill threshold here feels like it’s at odds with KartRider: Drift’s framing as an accessible, beginner-friendly experience. These aren’t necessarily design flaws, but they seem like missteps in a game that’s trying to appeal to as many newcomers as possible.

kartrider drift

Tantalizing Customization

While KartRider: Drift’s core mechanics might aggravate the casual players it’s trying to reach, its customization options are some of the most appealing I’ve seen in any kart racer. Players can choose from a range of skins, emotes, kart types, and wheels to fully deck out their characters. Be it the aggressively adorable Bunny Buggy or skins that turn characters into little baseball and football players, it’s tough not to fall in love with the clean, cutesy charm on display here.

One potential worry is that since the game will be completely free-to-play, it’ll follow the route of relying on premium skins and emotes to generate revenue. There was no store or lootbox-esque system implemented in the beta build, but it’s clear from the “Epic” and “Rare” tags on items that premium customization will surely be a major focus. Considering players gain experience and level up the more races they compete in, there’s hope that at least some items might be unlockables to encourage higher attachment rates.

KartRacer: Drift is an unusual Microsoft exclusive, and yet it’s clear that Nexon has poured a tremendous amount of care and resources into it over the years. Having crossplay with PC this early on was crucial and ensures a built-in online community of millions from the get-go. It remains to be seen if the team makes any track design tweaks or alters the hyper-touchy drift, but what’s already here is at least worth giving a whirl when it releases for free sometime in 2020.

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The Best Reveals of Indie World December 2019

From long-awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in the latest Indie World showcase.

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Indie World

It’s been a banner year for independent games, and Nintendo has closed it out with a new Indie World presentation. From long awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in this showcase. We’ve rounded up a few of the very best reveals below.

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The show started off strong with the reveal of Sports Story, a sequel to 2017’s much loved, golf-obsessed RPG Golf Story. Whereas the first game focused solely on the noble sport of golf, the sequel has a much broader scope, integrating a variety of new sports like tennis, baseball, and soccer, to name only a few. On top of that, the gameplay is expanding with plenty of new elements, including dungeons to explore, espionage missions to sneak through, and numerous memorable characters to interact with. Just like its predecessor, Sports Story will be a Switch exclusive when it launches in mid-2020.

Some of the best indies can be immensely stylish experiences, and such games were well represented throughout this showcase. The first one shown was Gleamlight, a 2D action game created by developers who worked on the recent Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It puts players in control of a sentient sword, tasked with exploring a mysterious world made of stained glass. It leaves players to their own devices, with no UI or dialogue to tell its somber story. Like so many other games in this presentation, it will release in early 2020.

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Another eye-catching title was Liberated, which describes itself as “a playable graphic novel.” Literally taking place across the panels and pages of a cyberpunk comic book, Liberated features a mixture of stealth-based gunplay and action platforming, along with a dystopian story told from numerous perspectives. It will be a timed Switch console exclusive when it launches next year.

Indie World

Not all games were so serious or artistic – some were decidedly sillier. One such game was SkateBIRD, which, as the title implies, is all about controlling cute little birds on skateboards. This intrepid athletes will spend their time “grinding on bendy straws, kickflipping over staplers or carving lines through a park held together by sticky tape,” and if that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what does. These little birdies won’t take flight until late 2020.

Indie World

To get even sillier, imagine the bizarre bird-based dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend set to an Ace Attorney soundtrack. As bizarre as that sounds, that’s exactly what Murder by the Numbers is. This murder mystery visual novel blends detective work with pixelated puzzling, featuring characters designed by Hatoful Boyfriend creator Hato Moa and music by Ace Attorney composer Masakazu Sugimori. Releasing early next year, this unusual mashup will be a timed Switch exclusive at launch.

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Procedural generation can feel like a tired trope in indie games. However, SuperMash, which describes itself as “the game that makes games,” looks like it should be a unique take on that style with its inventive genre-mashing style. Players will be able to mash distinct genres together – such as JRPG and platformer – to randomly created entirely new gameplay styles. It has plenty of unique mashing potential, releasing in May next year on Switch.

Animated GIF

It’s seemingly impossible for Nintendo to hold a presentation without a shadow drop or two, and that holds true with this Indie World showcase. The free-to-play multiplayer hit Dauntless was revealed to include exclusive weapons and armor in the Switch version, which also features full cross-play support. Likewise, the deluxe version of the philosophical puzzler The Talos Principle was announced for Nintendo’s hybrid wonder, featuring all the immersive mind teasers and world design that made the game such a hit when it launched years ago. Unlike most other titles in this showcase, you won’t need to wait until next year to play these – instead, they’re both available for download now.

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The presentation opened with a sequel to a fan-favorite indie, and fittingly enough, that’s also how it closed, with the announcement of Axiom Verge 2. Details are currently scarce, but this new title will return to the sci-fi universe of the original 2015 Metroidvania hit, including “completely new characters, abilities, and gameplay.” We’re sure to learn more about this mysterious new sequel ahead of its release in Fall 2020.

These are only a few of the most exciting reveals from Indie World. For everything announced, you can see the full presentation below.

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