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Nobody Does Mascot Characters Quite Like Splatoon

Splatoon 3 looks amazing. It is definitely more of the same, choosing to iterate upon past games instead of drastically changing things up, but when the base experience is so much fun, Nintendo is wise to ensure that remains intact. New weapons, modes, and quality of life improvements are more than enough for seasoned fans, and I’m right there along with them as I admire the edgier aesthetic and gorgeous character designs.

I’ve always been into Splatoon for the vibe. It is beautifully modern, taking clear inspiration from Japanese street fashion and global popular culture to create universes that are equal parts bizarre and relatable. This post-apocalyptic landscape filled with humanoid squids doesn’t really make much sense, but it looks and feels so damn cool that who are we to question the logic that underpins it all? Splatoon 3 is no different it seems, and that rules.

But above all the music, stages, and overall aesthetic sits the idols. These characters define Splatoon, providing the fans with central personalities to latch onto that guide them through the game’s many twists and turns. Drawing from contemporary idol culture, the likes of Calli and Mari, Pearl and Marina, and now Frye and Shiver are some core reasons so many players gravitate towards these brilliant games. Not only are they relatable, but their personal relationships are filled with playful inside jokes and distinct observations on the game’s world that make us instantly fall in love with them. Just look at how cool they are!

Each time you load up Splatoon, the game opens with a small news update from a duo of idols. These segments are designed to provide information on the current map rotation, alongside any upcoming SplatFests or updates players will need to be aware of. Nintendo could have chosen to make these moments rather boilerplate, but each one is awash with curated dialogue and unexpected jokes that feel perfect for each character. Marina is a rather timid yet talented DJ, often afraid to speak her mind or be too loud in fear of being judged for those around her, while Pearl is a loudmouthed little gremlin with a massive forehead unafraid to tell it how it is. They’re polar opposites, and thus as a double act work together flawlessly.

The same goes for Callie and Mari, otherwise known as the Squid Sisters. I remember when Pearl and Marina were shown off for the first time and fans became immediately scornful of them, outraged that their precious siblings had been written out of the game and were nowhere to be seen. Turns out they would both play a rather pivotal role in the game’s campaign, and are set to surface again in Splatoon 3 alongside other familiar characters, if the recent presentation is any indication. Nobody is being left behind, and that’s so important for a franchise that has built its legacy on a personality you can’t find anywhere else. Name another game where one moment I’m a squid, and the next I’m a kid. See – you can’t.

Frye and Shiver were met with a rather lukewarm reception this week, but we’ll soon come to fall in love with them as we learn more about their personalities and exactly how they fit into the universe. Shiver appears rather regal and traditional, choosing to stand back during performances as her partner draws the crowd’s attention before going absolutely wild. Frye has an even bigger forehead than Pearl, which is definitely a deliberate dig, and dances across the hub area with unrivalled exuberance. Watching them perform is a joy, and will no doubt become a major component of each SplatFest during the game’s two-year lifespan.

You could easily dismiss these idols as glorified headpieces, but Splatoon builds them up to be so much more than that. Daily snippets of dialogue help grow them into substantial characters with flaws and motivations, allowing the fandom to take that development and make it into something greater. It is unfair to judge Frye and Shiver until we’ve gotten to know them, and the fact they have two generations of mascotsto draw inspiration from and communicate with only makes it all the more exciting.

We always remember the likes of Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Mario, Link, and so many other mascots, because we step into their shoes ourselves, controlling them and building up a mythos through our own actions instead of watching things unfold passively. Splatoon is different, and infinitely more ambitious in how it approaches world building. Callie, Mari, Pearl, Marina, Frye, and Shiver are functionally present to provide us with information, but their place in each game is so awash with purpose and style that they can’t help but stand out as the series’ brightest sparks.

The squids we play as essentially being kids who are swept up in their respective fandoms only makes it even better, knowing we are fortunate enough to be in their presence and communicate with them as human beings. Or whatever these creatures are, I’m not sure anyone has quite figured that part out yet. As Splatoon 3 approaches, part of me is more hyped for the characters and world than the gameplay, and there aren’t many modern blockbusters I can say that about with confidence.

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