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I’m pretty sure that by this point Nintendo is used to being one of the giants on whose shoulders many other video game developers stand. After all, just about every platformer or action RPG owes a debt to the company’s Mario and Zelda franchises, and its Metroid series was so influential in the design of similar exploration-heavy titles that gamers just threw their hands up and decided to call the genre “Metroidvania” (somewhat unfairly giving half the credit to Konami’s Castlevania, which wasn’t nearly as groundbreaking in establishing the category).

Still, it’s one thing when some third-tier software publisher or homebrew video game outfit toes the line between being inspired by your creation and outright copying it, and another when it’s world-famous Disney.

Until recently, Disney hadn’t had much luck as a video game publisher, but that’s all changed with Disney Infinity, the hit sandbox franchise populated by characters from Disney animation and the Marvel and Star Wars franchises. Just a few weeks ago, Disney rolled out the game’s hotly anticipated sequel, Disney Infinity 3.0.

One of the series’ biggest draws is its Toy Box mode, which allows users to create and share new environments and minigames. Even the Disney Infinity development team itself has gotten in on the fun and put together an arena-based team shooter called Squid Wars.

As described in its announcement tweet, in Squid Wars the goal is to “Grab you ink gun and paint your turf as quickly as you can.”

Hmm…wait a second. This is all starting to sound sort of familiar. A squid theme? A contest where you don’t shoot your opponents, but try to cover up more of the playfield with brightly colored ink? Where have we heard that before…

Oh, right. It’s exactly the same premise as Splatoon, the hit Nintendo title that just came out a few months ago.

▼ Does this mean we can expect complaints to start coming in about Japanese Squid Wars players?

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Seeing Squid Wars in action doesn’t do anything to make it seem less like a blatant Splatoon clone either.

Needless to say, Nintendo fans aren’t right pleased about this. The Squid Wars announcement tweet garnered plenty of angry English responses, and Internet commenters in Japan are pretty steamed too.

“Disney is the last company I would have expected to do something like this.”

“Eh, Disney’s always been like that. Just look at The Lion King <said by some to be a copy of classic Osamu Tezuka anime Jungle Emperor/Kimba the White Lion>.”

“And Disney keeps such a tight grip on its own copyrights.”

“I think I’m going to go file an IP theft indictment against Disney.”

“So they’re calling it Squid Wars, but are there actually any squids in the game?”

Cooler heads, however, argued that Nintendo doesn’t have the firmest moral high ground here either, pointing out that Splatoon itself has more than a little in common with Color Wars, a cancelled Xbox 360 title whose development predates the release of Nintendo’s game.

Color Wars gameplay sample

Seeing as how Color Wars never made it to market, though, one could take the stance that it left the door open for Nintendo, or whatever other developer could complete such a game first, to plant their flag and claim dominion over team-based ink shooting. That said, it’s somewhat unclear whether or not Nintendo actually could take damage-seeking legal action against Disney, as Squid Wars’ free-to-download status means the latter company isn’t directly profiting from it. Further muddying the waters is the question of whether or not Squid Wars was officially produced by Disney, or simply a private, off-the-clock project of Disney employees who were also on the Disney Infinity 3.0 development team.

The whole thing gets especially awkward when you consider that Disney Infinity 3.0 is a multi-platform release that’s playable on Nintendo’s own Wii U console. After the Squid Wars incident, though, you can bet Nintendo will be keeping a closer eye on the Disney Infinity franchise and its content.

▼ Although really Nintendo should have been on guard after Disney promoted the original Disney Infinity in 2013 by showing how well its engine could replicate Super Mario Bros.

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Sources: Byokan Sunday, Jin, Twinfinite, Squid Boards
Top image: Twitter/@DisneyInfinity
Insert images: Nintendo, YouTube/Disney Infinity