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Make It A (Virtual) Reality: Splatoon

They’ve invaded your territory again, you looked away for just a moment and then two of your friends were whacked. Now one of them is in the base looking to take a large chunk of land away from right under your nose. You dive under cover, sliding through your own personal painted pathways up over walls and round corners until you find the interloper. Rising up from the floor you pepper the area with your colour but your slippery foe twists out of the way, sending an arc of lime green over your shoulder. Throwing caution to the wind you rush forward, diving behind your opponent and coating them in a bright cyan. Inked, they crumple to the ground and disappear. You quickly undo the damage they did and launch yourself back into the fray.  This is one turf war where you can’t hang around.

Splatoon Character GroupDoes everybody remember when Nintendo was in severe financial trouble and ‘oh my goodness, this is the end’? It seems like a long time ago now, yet the company is back in the black and finds itself with a somewhat enviable problem in that it is not able to produce product fast enough to meet demands. To the point, lorries full of the little plastic figures are now a viable target to thieves. Added to the amazing success of the Amiibo line, one of the things that has generated a huge swing in confidence in the Nintendo brand is a videogame which only came out yesterday but that already has had a massive impact on fans: Splatoon.

Splatoon, the Wii U’s multiplayer shooter made an impact from its announcement and even before its launch has had a lot of videogame pundits describing it not just as a new IP for Nintendo, but a brand new top-tier franchise that brings a breath of fresh air to the company.  Could this fresh new franchise be extended to virtual reality (VR) and fresh new technology coming on to the gaming scene? In the case of Splatoon there would certainly be control advantages for bringing the game to VR but as to if it ever would or not that’s a slightly more complicated matter.

Any worries about whether or not a cartoon-styled multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) – if that is even truly the best descriptor for Splatoon – can immediately be put to rest; after all it will not be the first to tread the VR path. World War Toons is already well underway in terms of development and a lot of people, including ourselves here at VRFocus are excited to see where it will go. In our preview we described it as follows:

“In a small map that allowed for tense close-range combat, World War Toons was a thrill-based experience. Get in there, shoot, die, respawn. Life is cheap, and it’s all about being quickest on the trigger. Get the kill, grab a new weapon and change class on the fly. Hit a ramp and propel yourself into the air, grab the power-up and do a great deal of damage.”

A lot of that description can easily be transferred over to Splatoon.

From a gameplay standpoint there are also potential advantages, having projectiles that do not fire straight but dramatically fall away as well as that your target isn’t just your enemies but the world around you as a whole mean you will need to adjust your aim more than ever. Having a more fluid ability to do this when you are shooting will give you a great advantage. Splatoon is constant movement and adjustment and Nintendo understands this; implementing the gyroscopic controls of the Wii U gamepad into the videogame to allow you to adjust the tilt axis. This is a process that could easily be replicated within a VR space, your headset changing your viewpoint and where you are aiming.

Movement and especially vision, in a videogame where you need to be sure of what is going on in your environment at all times certainly means VR could be a beneficial control scheme. But as for implementing the world of the Inklings itself, that’s perhaps a little more questionable.

Whilst it is small it is very bright and full of lurid colours, it changes rapidly and you’re also moving very fast yourself. Traditionally this is about as bad a mix for VR as you can get and is a recipe for headaches and motion sickness. It’s certainly not impossible to pull off though, one of the things that again impressed us with World War Toons even at such an early stage was the fact the design of the videogame meant we never came across this issue. Everything had been taken in to consideration. Would Splatoon need some design changes to accommodate the physical impact of VR? Quite possibly. Would it detract from the experience of Splatoon? Probably not. This is one instance where I’d have faith Nintendo could pull a Splatoon VR out of the development bag with little to no issues. As to whether they would actually choose to, that is another story.

Splatoon

We’ll no doubt go into this in greater detail another day in a VR vs. article, but the biggest obstacle to a VR release of Splatoon would its own creators Nintendo. Splatoon is an all-ages affair, whilst at this time VR is not and that flies in the face of Nintendo’s company culture, its history and its philosophy as a developer. Splatoon in VR would a manic crazy and highly enjoyable affair but one for Nintendo with an inherent restriction going against the spirit the videogame was designed in.

We may well see Splatoon VR one day but for it to happen something has to change and unfortunately for those waiting it may well be that thing is VR itself.