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Inklings and Octolings face off in a city street in artwork from Splatoon 3 Image: Nintendo

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How Splatoon’s Inklings became fashion icons

And the simple pleasures of a daily server reset

Following the release of Splatoon 3, I have developed a nightly ritual of strolling the game’s Splatsville hub. When the server resets at 8 p.m. EDT, I immerse myself in Inkling fashion.

For longtime fans, the daily reset represents new possibilities for self-expression. In-game boutiques replenish their wares with a fresh selection of Inkling attire, replete with new colorways, abilities, and ratings; and the square bustles with avatars showing off and enjoying the Splatsville vibes.

While the game provides fast travel to zip between boutiques, I cannot help but stroll through the city.

On most days, I make a quick stop at the amiibo box; I briefly chat with the members of Off the Hook, and if I am lucky, Marina might hand me the Marinated Headphones I have been waiting on. Unlocks from Splatoon amiibo provide exclusive new outfits for your avatar. Each amiibo provides only a single item at a time, and with 14 unique Splatoon amiibo, these visits have become part of my daily ritual.

Leaving Marina, I may stop off at a nearby storefront or park bench for a photo op. Once I’ve immortalized my latest outfit with a picture, I continue my sojourn through the square, stopping at each new avatar I come across. With the in-game shops’ commitment to rotating outfits, other players in the square are likely to be sporting gear I have not yet seen.

I love seeing how each player chooses to express their personality. While some may favor a sporty look heavy on Tentatek, others might prefer the boutique stylings of Toni Kensa, or the skate-punk fashion of Zekko. Should I spot an avatar repping the Rockenberg Punk Whites I have been looking for, I will place a quick order with Murch before heading off to visit Jel La Fleur over at Man-o’-Wardrobe clothing. If I am lucky, he will be stocking the Toni Kensa-brand Orca Bolero that I have been trying to pair with my Barazushi Ink-Black Flap Cap.

A screenshot shows the author’s Splatoon 3 character up-close, with a black flap cap and a black cape Image: Nintendo via Matthew Pilkington

With Splatoon 3, the number of in-universe brands has climbed to 22. No two brands stock the same gear, with selections ranging from Annaki’s post-punk counterculture aesthetic to Zink’s athletic attire, Splash Mob’s university fashion, and beyond. With so many brands cycling through Man-o’-Wardrobe, Mr. Coco’s Crush Station, and Gnarly Eddy and Nails’ Naut Couture, there are always new possibilities for me to expand my wardrobe and express myself.

In a game like Fortnite, I may shell out $20 for the chance to dress my avatar as Goku, but the benefits extend no further than cosmetic bragging rights. Fashion in Splatoon, however, serves a more practical purpose. In addition to cosmetic customization, every item of clothing comes equipped with abilities that modify my play style.

Unfortunately, coming across a coveted piece of gear carries no guarantee it will gain the abilities I most value. Sub abilities are randomly assigned each time an item levels up, with some brands favoring specific abilities. With the time I dedicate to leveling up gear, it can be a major frustration not unlocking the abilities I was hoping for.

Thankfully, each iteration of Splatoon has improved player control over their loadouts. With Splatoon 3, it is easier than ever to flaunt my unique style without compromising combat effectiveness.

Introduced in the original Splatoon, the urchin NPC Spyke allowed players to view other avatars in the game’s square, select up to three clothing options, and order them to be delivered over subsequent days.

In addition to this fashion-on-demand service, players could pay to add slots and reroll sub abilities. However, being unable to select the new abilities made it more efficient to level up a variety of outfits and choose the ones that contained more valuable abilities.

A screenshot of Murch in Splatoon 3 shows him talking to the player about their gear. Image: Nintendo via Matthew Pilkington

With Spyke’s retirement in Splatoon 2, the series added Murch to help players more effectively merge fashion and function.

Murch allowed players to completely scrub their sub abilities in exchange for ability chunks used to slot in a sub ability of their choice on their favorite piece of clothing. Splatoon 3 expanded this system to allow for the replacement of main abilities and strengthening gear ratings.

Players no longer need to compromise the way they dress to stay competitive.

In 2017, Nintendo introduced a Nintendo Switch Online app tie-in: SplatNet 2. Here, players could order from a rotating lineup of clothing items and pick them up in-game. The 2022 edition, SplatNet 3, further evolved the system. Players can now track their “Freshest Fits” (saved loadouts, which were previously only available via amiibo support), and order parts of a daily curated outfit from one of the game’s many in-universe designers.

SplatNet 3 is also the only place where players can browse Splatoon 3’s full seasonal catalogs.

Adopting the now ubiquitous battle pass embraced by most free-to-play shooters, Nintendo’s version is a Seasonal Catalog which models the series’ fashion-forward design philosophy. Thankfully, there is no real-money option for fast tracking this system like you might find in other shooters, so players can access the complete catalog for free with unlocks arriving at a static rate.

These catalogs provide players with new clothing items, accessories, and victory poses. With the catalogs changing every three months, players can amass an impressive collection of fashionable attire. This leads to problems choosing just what clothing to show off, as avatars can only equip three items at a time.

The author’s Splatoon 3 character stands alongside two others while striking a silly pose Image: Nintendo via Matthew Pilkington

To reduce the stress of having to choose, Nintendo has added customizable lockers to the multiplayer lobby. While largely a vessel for Moai-focused memes, these lockers can be decorated with trinkets and stickers, and include customizable shelves and racks for displaying your favorite gear.

As players rise in level, the size and design options for lockers also evolve. At levels 15 and 30, the lockers grow in size, and Hotlantis adds locker colors to their usual stock. These incremental unlocks encourage users to engage with the core Splatoon experience in order to further differentiate themselves from their fellow Splatsville residents.

As someone who has been around the series since the beginning, I have loved watching Nintendo embrace its fashion-forward design philosophies and give me more ways than ever to express myself to other players. The core gameplay has remained largely unchanged since 2015, but I have found many of the minor gameplay additions to be mere diversions from the real experience: designing an avatar that best represents me.

With expanded options for gear customization, more ways to display my favorite outfits, and a larger catalog of in-universe brands and styles than ever before, it has never been a better time to embrace Inkling fashion.

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