Nintendo has a rich history of characters, including everybody’s favourite Mario, but are they about to lose their place to The Inklings?
The Inkling has surged through the Nintendo fan base, and with an unique design backed by a new and interesting game, it makes sense that those who love Nintendo would be smitten, and I am no different. However the casual market hasn’t exactly had mass exposure to these new characters, so what chance do they have in the long run?
Let’s look at the competition first. In just his two major 3DS titles of 2012, Mario sold 11 million units. Almost everyone can recognise the moustachioed Italian. His design is bright, eye-catching and fairly simple. His design is also quite static. In every game he has been a title character, wearing the same red shirt and blue overalls. Even in guest appearances, his comically large nose and iconic moustache makes him easy to spot. Even those not well-versed in video game culture can identify him or his similarly hairy brother Luigi. Even the villains of the series have the same bright colours to engage the player. Bowser, Kamek, and the Koopalings are all easily identifiable throughout the series.
Mario has other identifying factors too, including his many catchphrases such as “It’s-a me, Mario” and “yahoo”. What about Nintendo’s silent protagonist, Link?
Legend of Zelda is a new love of my life. With Wind Waker HD (2013) engrossing me for nights on end, he is nonetheless a major figure for Nintendo. Although his sales look paltry in comparison to Mario (let’s be honest, everyone does), the myrtle mute has only sold two million copies of his popular 3DS remake of the 1998 title Ocarina of Time.With only 17 unique titles, it can be forgiven.
Link is much more human than Mario though, at least in his two most popular titles, Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask (2000) gave a different tone. Coupled with the character naming and open world qualities of the series, Link is memorable for the experiences shared with him. He still has many of the same qualities as Mario: a bright green palette for his tunic (which changes throughout the game as new tunics are unlocked to equally striking colours), blonde hair poking out from his cap, and the Hylian shield held before him, bright blues, reds, and yellows that sit well with the bright settings of his games. Again with villains of the series, these qualities can be attributed. Ganondorf, with his sickly green complexion and dusty red armour, a distinct contrast to the player character.
It’s not surprising these characters have been pushed by Nintendo. Unlike Captain Falcon and Fox McCloud who pilot their speeders and space ships respectively, they have a memorable colour palette, are easy to identify and remain in the foreground of their games. These are features of many characters to endure past the eight-bit era and the advent of 3D graphics.
Sonic, Kirby, Mega Man and even Master Chief follows these rules, albeit with a muddier palette. It’s these qualities, along with the simplicity of the games, that make them so easy to pick up while showing a real increase in difficulty and consistency that allows players to enjoy a coherent and rewarding experience.
So where are the Inklings going to sit with this? Will they push through and become enduring characters in a Nintendo franchise, or will they fade away to leave fans pining for a real sequel such as with Star Fox, Metroid, and F-Zero?
From a simple Straw poll placed on the Reddit forum, Nintendo gathered a small sample of over 100 fans rating their favourite character from a list of 17. The response left Mario wallowing with only two votes, trailing behind Marth from Fire Emblem which was initially a Japan only release. Coming in third is the strong female lead Samus of “Metroid”, known for a no-nonsense attitude and a penchant for killing space pirates in her golden power suit (that’s another colour that makes her stand out, especially in a game full of darker reds and browns). Second saw our aforementioned hero of time, Link. However, all were beaten out by the newcomer Inkling. With a fifth of all votes, the cephalopods (male and female variants) are by far the new favourite, whether it’s the lure of something shiny and new is yet to be seen.
Looking at the game itself though, it represents everything that Nintendo excels with character and game design.
The premise of the game in its main online mode is to cover the map in as much of your team’s colour as possible by using an assortment of paint-filled water guns, paint brushes and paint sprinklers. The game looks dull only for a moment, right at the beginning, when the stage is untouched, and is just a white and grey canvas, ready for you to vandalise. The characters themselves have different coloured hair, depending on the colour the team is assigned, but promotional art and official merchandise has given the female bright orange hair, and the male a deep blue. The game features an easy-to-grasp style. Simply point and shoot paint; you don’t have to hit other people. Everything is fair game. It has customisable clothing-based shop availability, but you can always order something you like if you see someone else wearing it – all using in-game currency. These give Splatoon all the markings of an enduring game from Nintendo.
Whether it’s their ‘new’ status or a genuine appeal, the Splatoon cast of characters have all the earmarks to be just as, if not more so, iconic than their predecessors. I for sure am excited to see how the characters are being used in the future. — Christopher Pirina
Images courtesy of Nintendo Facebook