Splatoon 3’s push into a deeper narrative has brought with it waves of speculation as players try to decipher all the new lore introduced in Return of the Mammalians story mode, thanks in part to the enigmatic O.R.C.A. For a game that initially started life as zany, high-octane multiplayer, Splatoon 3 marks a subtle shift in tone as it quietly lays out a mystery that, until now, players hadn’t even considered. While there were early hints that something bigger was lurking under the series’ surface, such as the Eiffel Tower appearing in Splatoon 3’s trailer, the new story mode makes it clear that there’s more to Splatoon than previously thought.

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Splatoon 3‘s story mode involves the antagonist Mr. Grizz, a bear that had miraculously survived the extinction of all other mammals on the planet, which fans of Splatoon now know to be Earth. But as the player progresses, they are introduced to an artificial intelligence named O.R.C.A. who provides help and instructions to the player wherever possible. It’s revealed throughout the story mode that O.R.C.A. has ties to humanity, raising many questions about its original purpose, why is it still around, and what its existence means for the future of the Splatoon series.

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O.R.C.A. and The Player

At face value, O.R.C.A. serves as a player guide by explaining level objectives, providing details about available weapons, detailing entry costs or rewards, and ensuring special objectives are completed where applicable. To some degree, O.R.C.A. is just another of Nintendo’s interpretations of how best to guide the player without being too overt, similar to how The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword had Fi. In fact, the use of companions as player guides is seen across many other games beyond just Nintendo, so it’s appearance in Splatoon 3 is hardly surprising.

As Splatoon has gradually built up a greater narrative across its games, O.R.C.A. could represent Nintendo’s recognition that a more ambitious story mode for Splatoon 3 might be viable. With its name reflecting the maritime and aquatic themes seen across Splatoon, it’s clear Nintendo wants players to see O.R.C.A. as a natural part of the Splatoon universe, where it both helps the player and provides Nintendo with an opportunity to flesh out the series’ lore. Within the story mode, O.R.C.A.’s origins and original purpose are quickly explained, demystifying an initially mysterious “character.”

O.R.C.A. and The Humans

O.R.C.A.’s name already hints toward its origin, as orcas are fact mammals and not fish, giving players their first clue that it ties to the mammalians. In fact, O.R.C.A. is actually an acronym for Omniscient Recording Computer of Alterna, explicitly linking it with the new region introduced in Splatoon 3 and supported by the Alterna logo appearing behind O.R.C.A. when on-screen. As the player progresses through the story mode, several Alterna Logs are unlocked stage-by-stage. These logs provide a backdrop of new lore in Return of the Mammalians, including details about how and why Alterna was founded to how Mr. Grizz outlived Earth’s devastation.

Explained in the Alterna Log titled “The Rise of Civilization (Again)” O.R.C.A.’s name and purpose is confirmed directly to the player. It exists akin to a black box or time capsule for humanity, fulfilling its namesake by recording everything and anything about humanity as they survive and adapt. O.R.C.A.’s original goal, then, was to preserve and pass its knowledge along to future people. If humanity is truly extinct and hasn’t survived just as Mr. Grizz had, then O.R.C.A. is now attempting to achieve another goal: in humanity’s absence, it is providing tips to Splatoon players and guiding them by passing on its knowledge.

Splatoon 3 is available now on Nintendo Switch.

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