I’ll never fully understand what it is that made the original Splatoon such a crazy success. Maybe it was the fresh and fun take on the 3rd person squad shooter. Maybe it was the recognizable characters and the affinity that players developed for weapons, stages and even abilities that lead to brand association. Or maybe it was the combination of love by the customer and love by the developers that created a year of glorious, well supported online gameplay. Regardless, it was an exhilarating experience, and Nintendo is once again hoping to capture lightning in a bottle with Splatoon 2.
If you’re unaware of the “plot” of Splatoon, let me give you a quick crash course. You’re a squid person, called an Inkling, who can turn into a squid at the press of a button and then turn back into a human. You run around with a series of weapons that use ink in an attempt to cover the land with your team’s color, and also shoot opponents till they splat. There are a variety of weapons and stages, and there’s no blood, no violence and no gritty and dark undertones. It’s a totally cartoony and light shooter that is fun and competitive in the same breath. If you played the original, you probably will buy this sequel without a second thought, provided you’ve been able to find a Switch in the wild.
Graphically, Splatoon 2 has seen some major improvements. At first, a lot about the environment and squids will seem essentially the same, which isn’t a bad thing. Rather than go completely overboard and revamp what the game is about, Nintendo took the time to focus on what was great about the original and sharped/tweak the details. For one, the shadows of the characters are a bit crisper, though you will see some rough edges in handheld mode if you get up close. Additionally, the ink itself is so much more blobby and, well, ink-like. It actually runs down the walls a bit when you splat vertically, and it spreads in a more cohesive and layered manner when you use larger explosion items, like the bombs and Bucket. There has also been a big overhaul in the clothing department, as most of the classic designs have gone by the wayside in favor of fresh new threads.
Speaking of threads, the lobby has also undergone a pretty great overhaul. You still have the shops for weapons, clothes, shoes and headwear, but the addition of Crusty Sean’s food truck is a huge boon for players at either end of the spectrum. The tickets that you can find and win throughout the game give some serious edge to money and experience dropped from online matches, so a ticket could be the difference between getting your next level in one match or several. It’s not going to be something that’s a make or break for people who are interested in the game, but it will be incentive to jump into the single player mode during downtime to gather more tickets.
Oh boy, Splatoon 2’s single player mode. Alright, a blessing and a curse, single player mode is a bit different from Splatoon 1. On the one hand, it does feel quite a bit shorter in regards to the number of stages available, at least in their vanilla form. On the other hand, each stage is replayable for collection and completion purposes. Like the first game, there are hidden scrolls throughout each stage that give a little insight into the world of Splatoon 2, the history about what happened since the last game, and the general satisfaction of finding the hidden items. There are also sardines, which are important for weapon upgrades, but really only matter if you’re looking to do your best in single player mode. And then there’s the matter of weapon completionist.
The original Splatoon made sure that you focused on doing single player mode with just the original ink gun, the Splattershot Jr, and you could unlock the ability to do the stages with other weapons via Amiibos (a clever cash grab from Nintendo). This time around, you naturally will get Sheldon’s request to try out other weapons in the levels and not have a choice in the matter, at least the first time. I understand the purpose is to give single player mode a more well-rounded feel, but there is something about it that bugs me. For one, I’m terrible with some weapons, such as the roller, and it kills me to HAVE to do a stage with the roller. For another, now I’m reminded that I can go back and do the stages I’ve already beaten with the roller if I want a badge for that stage to let me know I did it. If you’re at all deadset on doing things 100%, you’re looking at investing many additional hours beating stages and bosses with every weapon available, and I don’t even know if it’s totally possible. Good luck?
Control-wise, Splatoon 2 had to make some serious renovations to transition away from the massive WiiU tablet. Everything you would have seen on the screen is now available by pressing the X button. And jumping, which used to be the X button, is now B. If you think you might have some falls and mistakes as a result of hitting the wrong button, you’re exactly correct! This won’t be a problem for new players, but vets might find it annoying. Otherwise, the game handles fantastically with JoyCons or a Pro Controller. I personally recommend against motion controls, but some swear by it, and I’m not going to fight preference. The smaller size of using a regular controller instead of a massive touch screen brick makes for much longer play sessions and, in my opinion, better response time. Expect a lot of fancy footwork on day one.
Multiplayer picks up exactly where the original left off, with some great new additions to the level set as well. The return of Port Mackerel is much appreciated, though the Inkblot Art Academy certainly looks interesting (I didn’t get a chance to play on it just yet). Our new announcers, Pearl and Marina, make a point to change-up everything for Regular, Ranked and League battles daily. I’m excited for Leagues to begin taking off, because I can’t wait to work together in a squad like an official eSports team might. Nintendo is clearly angling for more investment from eSports players with the creation of the voice app and the more defined rankings based on stages and types of battles rather than just a blanket score. I, for example, found out that I’m pretty good in Splat Zones, but I’m simply god awful when it comes to Tower Control. I think this also has to do with the fact that I’m still really bad at communication, and I doubt I’ll use the voice app once it launches. Sorry team, I’m always going to be the loose end. And I wish I had more to say about Salmon run, but dammit if I couldn’t find a time to join in on a game or find another reviewer nearby who had Splatoon 2 already. I’m sincerely looking forward to other first impressions so I can find out more too!
If people have been waiting for “The One” to arrive on the Switch before finally joining the frantic hunt to get the elusive console for themselves, this is it. Splatoon 2 takes everything that was great about the original, makes it portable, accessible and even more fluid, and then gives you a huge ton of free content pending to boot. The upcoming weapons, the upcoming stages, the promises of even more gear and customization to come…it’s insane. Being able to roll after a super jump changes the way I play completely. The thought of shooting around a stage like Danny Devito as the Penguin makes me giddy. If there becomes a way for me to tether my Switch to my phone, then that’s the end of it, I don’t think I’ll need another game to play for months to come. This is Nintendo at their very best, doing what they always do best: making something fun in a way that transcends genres and barriers. It doesn’t matter if you hate shooters or online games, I know you’ll find fun here. If you still can’t bear to give it a shot, then I wish you luck on finding a more perfect game. To everyone else, I’ll see you out on the fields this Saturday. Don’t get cooked: Stay Off the Hook!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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