In Commonwealth countries, the soap opera everyone chats about is Coronation Street. In the gaming community, however, people are gasping behind their hands about another soap opera: Splatoon's Squid Sisters Stories.
Nintendo's ongoing saga about a deep falling-out between the eponymous Squid Sisters has been generating quite a bit of buzz (and a lot of sad fanart). The story is unfinished as of this writing, but there's little indication it'll end happily.
The Squid Sisters Stories may not have as much scandal, murder, and illicit sex as Coronation Street, but it still successfully relays the ongoing story of Callie and Marie drifting away from each other as their individual careers become bigger. What gives the Stories a little more bite than the usual "growing apart" narrative, however, is that there's an indication the beginnings of the rift were chiseled when Marie was picked over Callie as the "Best Squid Sister" in Splatoon's final Splatfest.
In other words, we sparked the dissolution of a decades-long friendship. Sure, we were asked to participate, and Callie seemingly took her loss well, but we pit two bosom buddies against one another. Now the double-woven thread between them is frayed. I'm a person who likes to put banana stickers on my cats' heads and take pictures, but I feel kind of bad about this.
It's not as if the Squid Sisters Stories is taking a straight path to Feels-town, either. Its up-and-down narrative is a real heart-punch for anyone who's been part of a dissolving friendship or relationship. The signs of sickness are all there, but you easily brush them aside and smile when the clouds clear for a second and you get a blessed respite from the dimming atmosphere.
To start, the Stories are presented as part of a "Top secret report" from the Inkling world, meaning whatever happens to the Sisters at the end of this tale, it was significant – or dire – enough to make a careful recording of. The author of the Stories speaks of how the bond between Callie and Marie stood the Splatfest Test … "Or so it seemed at the time."
Ah, the ol' "Nobody will be a winner when this is over" opening hook. Japan is a master with this narrative device; just look at Grave of the Fireflies (not that Nintendo will end the Squid Sisters Stories with one of the girls dying alone in a filthy train station. Cripes, I hope not). You already know things will end on a down note, but like a schmuck, you keep reading with hope in your heart.
The Stories then relay Callie and Marie's life after the final Splatfest. At first, things are well. They continue to live in the same apartment, and they continue to perform together even though their growing solo careers have them spending more and more time apart.
But just as Marie starts wondering if Callie resents her over her Splatfest win, the story takes a sunnier path as the girls get to spend some unexpected free time together. They shop, they eat, they bond, and they both inwardly believe with noted relief that they managed to bridge the gap between them before it was too late.
Such a tease. In the next chapter, Marie takes the train to visit her parents in the country. Callie, who usually accompanies her on these excursions, says she has an appointment she can't miss, but promises to arrive tomorrow. Though Marie believed all was well between herself and Callie again, she slowly realizes all is not well as she talks to her parents. They ask her how Callie is doing, and Marie discovers she can no longer guess at her cousin's mental well-being, something that was never a problem before. The ocean-deep bond between Callie and Marie has become a puddle that's barely surviving on hurried lunch dates and superficial gossip about Inkopolis' residents.
Marie makes one final, desperate reach by reminding herself Callie will join her in the country tomorrow. Dawn arrives, but Callie does not. Marie rushes home after she's unable to raise Callie on her phone, and she discovers Callie seemingly hasn't been home at all since her "important appointment." She's gone.
Now that we're up to date on the hottest squid drama, it's time to ask: Why is Nintendo telling us this story? No doubt it wants to drum up hype for Splatoon 2 (mission accomplished), but how will the Squid Sisters Stories factor into the game itself?
I speculated some time ago that there might be a war between the Squid Sisters in Splatoon 2's single-player campaign, and the player has to choose a side. I said that as a joke, but I was still intrigued by the idea.
Now that I've read a detailed account of the slow break-up between the Sisters, though? Well, I'd just feel terrible if I was forced to choose a side.