Today marks the launch of Splatoon, Nintendo's infectious take on the traditional team-based online shooter. While this ink-splattered offering is far more friendly and accessible than your typical web-based blaster, there are still a few key points you might want to keep in mind before dashing - or should that be swimming? - headlong into enemy territory.
Below you'll find some quick-and-easy tips on how to improve your game and become a Splatoon crack-shot. Let us know if any of these hints helped you personally, and be sure to leave your own pearls of wisdom for other players by posting a comment at the end.
Get In Control
Splatoon's control system has been the subject of much debate over the past few weeks. The default setup uses a twin-stick arrangement, but is augmented by motion controls which can be used to fine-tune your aim. Some players have found this configuration to be a little difficult to master, largely because you're looking at the TV when moving the GamePad around, rather than looking at the controller's screen - which would arguably make a lot more sense.
Thankfully, Nintendo has seen fit to include an option which switches off the motion controls and turns the game into a proper twin-stick affair. If you really, really struggle with the motion controls then we'd recommend ditching them entirely, but it has to be said that the game seems to flow much more effectively with them enabled. The single-player campaign provides the ideal place to become accommodated to the controls, so make sure you give them a fair crack of the whip before toggling them off - the additional accuracy is noticeable, and certainly comes in handy when you're using the Charger weapon type.
Know Your Arsenal
There are three main weapon types in Splatoon. The Shooter type is your typical gun, and discharges a series of ink-bullets in quick succession which are great for taking down enemies and covering the landscape. It's the best weapon for beginners as it allows you to learn the ropes before moving onto the more specialised armaments. It should be noted that in terms of diversity, the Shooter category wins out - although the Splattershot and Blaster are both classed as Shooter types, they couldn't really be more different in terms of how they are used; the former offers rapid fire while the latter is more akin to a grenade launcher, depositing massive globules of ink that inflict impressive splash damage, but with a painfully slow rate of fire being the trade-off.
The Charger is like a sniper rifle, and can take out distant targets in a single shot - the drawback being that you have to charge up your shot before doing so. Another problem is that your shots don't cover much ground in ink, which means you'll need to drop into a supportive role, helping to cover your teammates from higher ground while they do their utmost to paint the level.
The Roller weapon is, as the name suggests, like a giant paint roller and is ideal for covering large portions of the map. You have to be aware that you're quite vulnerable when using the Roller - although the weapon boasts a powerful ink-flicking move for taking out nearby foes, its range is painfully limited. You'll need to work as part of team to ensure you don't get gunned down by the enemy.
Each weapon class is made up of different variants, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. In this respect, no weapon is necessarily better or worse than any other; for example, in the Shooter class you'll have guns which fire more rapidly but lack power and range - and vice versa. Picking the right one is often down to personal preference - and the sub-weapon that comes with it. Each weapon has secondary attack - such as a grenade or sticky-bomb - and these can often make some of the seemingly weaker guns much more useful. Just keep in mind that sub-weapons consume a lot of ink, so you'll need to use them at the right time.
Turning into your squid form not only allows you to top-up your ink reserves - provided you're in your own team's ink, of course - but it also means you can move much quicker. If you're making a dash through territory your team has already claimed, don't do it on foot - it takes longer and you're hopelessly exposed to enemy fire. Moving as a squid means you're much harder to spot, and if you remain stationary then you can effectively hide from the opposing team - something which can be used to ambush incoming inklings.
If you want to move quickly, then your choice of weapon has a big impact - the Splat Charger's superb range means you can create an inky pathway right at the start of each round, allowing you to reach vital points of the map faster than usual. You can also use the Seeker sub-weapon - which comes with the Aerospray MG - to get in the enemy's face quickly (watch the start of this video for an example).
Also, if you want to get into the thick of things quickly, but sure to use the Super-Jump move. This allows you to leap to the current location of one of your teammates. When time is short and you need to reinforce your front line, this is the only way to travel - but keep in mind it can also be used to extract yourself from sticky situations, too. You can jump to the position of any teammate, or choose to leap back to your spawn point for the ultimate safety move - just watch the Super-Jump's quite lengthy charge time, as you're vulnerable during it.
Level Up For Success
You can't buy any gear until you reach level 4 - something which might seem a tad unfair but actually means you have to focus on learning the core mechanics of the game before you start customizing your inkling. Once you're at level 4 you can buy new weapons and clothing in one of the game's many stores. Weapons we've sort of covered already - suffice to say, the higher your level, the more choice you have - but clothing is worth a closer look.
Clothing is divided into three categories - headgear, bodywear and footwear. Each item comes with a buff of some kind - for example, some speed up your respawn time or enhance your weapon's power, while others increase your ink reload time or allow you to Super-Jump faster than usual. When selecting your clothing, it's a good idea to look at the various buffs and see if you can put together a winning combination which augments several key areas.
As is the case with weapons, you gain access to better gear the higher your rank goes, and the really good items offer multiple slots for buffs - which essentially means a better chance of success in each battle. Bonus buffs are applied randomly when the gear's level is increased - to do this, you need to fight online while wearing the item for a prolonged period of time.
What this means is that a newly-unlocked and expensive item of clothing might offer the potential for more buff slots, but it will be - for a period of time, at least - less useful than the upgraded gear you already have. Swapping out your gear isn't always a case of upgrading to a "better" item, so pick and choose wisely.
Control Choke-Points On The Battlefield
All of Splatoon's online Turf War maps have points where the action is hottest, and controlling these points is often the difference between dominating your opponent and failing miserably. On the really narrow maps it's a good idea to dash to these points as quickly as possible when the match begins. Losing control of these points often means it's tricky to break out of your side of the map, and that severely limits the amount of territory you can cover with your ink.
Some levels have choke-points that contain high towers that are ideal for sniping from or generally controlling that area of the map, but these are exposed and often become the focal-point for incoming attacks. Use these towers wisely and you can turn the tide of battle, but don't outstay your welcome.
Locking down choke-points is one of the most effective tactics in Splatoon, but beware that there are always alternate passageways which the enemy can utilize to get around the blockade. Learn the maps and memorise every passageway, and you won't get surprised by an outflanking move.
Don't Forget - Kills Only Matter If You Win
While it's tempting to try and take out as many of your opponents as possible, it's vital to remember that when the ink stops flying, the winner is decided by how much ground is covered. Try to make this your focus, even when you're stalking enemy inklings - if you're using a Shooter weapon then keep your finger on the trigger to cover ground even when you're moving.
Try to cover enemy ink rather than bare ground whenever possible - not only does this add to your team's territory percentage, it detracts from that of the opposing team - so it's a double-win situation.
If you're using a Charger, take out enemy threats so that your teammates can cover as much territory as possible unmolested. Also, keep in mind that it's only horizontal surfaces which need to be inked - any surface that can't be seen from the air doesn't count towards your total at the end of the round.
Alex Olney contribued to this guide.