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Game reviews ranked Nintendo Co.’s “Splatoon” almost on par with best-seller “Call of Duty,” giving an early indication of success for the company’s first-ever foray into the online shooter genre on its console.

“Splatoon,” a family friendly action game where players spray ink instead of bullets, sports a score of 81 on the review aggregator Metacritic after its release last week. That compares with 83 for the PlayStation version of Activision Blizzard Inc.’s “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” the industry’s top-selling console title in 2014.

Without the draw of last year’s hits like “Super Smash Bros.” and “Mario Kart 8,” Nintendo is looking to “Splatoon” to revive flagging demand for its Wii U player. The game has sold out in stores across Japan since its May 28 debut, prompting an apology from the Kyoto-based company on Twitter.

“This game creates a new genre, precisely the thing that has driven hardware sales in the past,” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo. “‘Splatoon’ will undoubtedly become a million-seller worldwide. It has the potential to become the next great franchise for Nintendo.”

“Splatoon” players wield spray guns, rollers and ink bombs in a four-on-four turf war where the goal is to cover as much of the map as possible in your team’s color. In a departure from the graphic violence common to the shooter genre, the characters get sent back to a spawn point when splattered and can shift between squid and human forms.

Yasuhiro Minagawa, a spokesman for Nintendo, declined to give sales numbers.

Nintendo last month forecast a slump in demand for Wii U software this fiscal year as sales of the hardware are projected to remain little changed at 3.4 million units. The company is starting a smartphone service this year to win back casual gamers and partnering with Universal Parks & Resorts to offer theme-park attractions based on its iconic characters.

The Wii U struggled to gain traction after its 2012 debut amid a shortage of new software titles, while Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. used advanced graphics and hardware to lure serious gamers when they released new machines.

“The company had a rough few years with no new hit titles,” Yasuda said.

“The momentum seems to be changing.”

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