It’s no secret that Nintendo has a reputation for milking their most popular franchises. For every new venture, players are force-fed a dozen Mario spin-offs. Which is why it was so refreshing to see the original Splatoon, for Wii U, succeed despite the systems less than stellar sales. And while the Wii U is all but dead, Splatoon has returned to entice a new console audience with its flashy colors and fluid gameplay.
When Nintendo first teased the next Splatoon by showing the series during the Switch’s grand unveiling, there was debate as to whether the game would be an enhanced port of the original (a la Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) or a direct sequel. Therein lies both the best and worst parts of Splatoon 2. It’s a well made game with some enticing new content, but at times it doesn’t feel different enough from its predecessor to be a true sequel. It’s a great, but familiar, game.
Splatoon has always been a series focused on online play. Once the single player mode has been conquered in Splatoon 2 there’s not much else to do outside of a few mini-games and doodling memes for the community to see. Players can battle online to improve their rank, gain in-game currency, level up, and access new modes. One can’t even attempt to buy new gear without making it to level four in online competition. This set-up is all very reminiscent of the first Splatoon, which was beefed up over a period of two years with a steady stream of free DLC. Splatoon 2 picks up where the original left off, and adds in a plethora of weapons, stages, and silly squid outfits for players to fawn over.
The new content is just different and interesting enough to make novice and veteran players excited to jump back into the fray. When it comes to Splatoon, more options is always better. And there a lot of ways to customize your squid for battle this time around. Nintendo is clinging hard to their classic “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality, and it’s certainly working in their favor with Spaltoon 2's online multiplayer.
The most exciting addition to the world of Splatoon is Salmon Run, a zombie hoard-like mode that has players blasting through wave after wave of creepy sea life in search of golden eggs. Salmon Run can be played locally with two or more Switch systems, or online with up to three other players. Each Salmon Run consists of three rounds, each with a quota of golden eggs to retrieve from the slimy salmon beasts sneaking onto the shore. Changing water levels, multiple overwhelming bosses, and a randomly selected rotation of weapons can make SalmonRun both highly enjoyable when your crew is working together and terribly frustrating when things start to go south. It’s a satisfying challenge that’s always different and rewards players with special gear and other goodies for going above and beyond in their egg-snatching efforts.
It may seem like a “no duh,” kind of comment, but the ability to play any part of Splatoon 2 on the Switch’s portable screen is a huge step forward for the series. The original Splatoon wouldn’t allow for online play via the Wii U gamepad, as it was solely dedicated to the current stage map. Being able to play Splatoon on the go is fantastic, as is being able to play it while someone else uses the TV.
It should come as no surprise to those who played the first game to find that Splatoon 2 is dedicated to keeping the overly outrageous inkling community alive. This can already be seen in the goofy Miiverse-like sketches and overly competitive Ice Cream vs Cake Splatfest that Nintendo made open to the public pre-launch. Let’s keep that quality content coming, Splatoon fans.
The Splashdown is one of eight new special weapons introduced in Splatoon 2. When powered up it allows its user to deliver an earth-shattering punch while on foot or (as seen to the left) in mid squid jump. It’s easily the most satisfying finisher in the game, and I found myself praying that each weapon I unlocked would be coupled with this awesome display of power. Nothing makes you feel more accomplished then splatting a whole opposing team in the blaze of inky glory that is the Splashdown.
Splatoon 2, like its predecessor, features a main hub in the inkling city of Inkopolis. Players find themselves in a new area of the sprawling urban metropolis known as Inkopolis Square. The square is adorned with familiar stores and secret corners. A line of clothing and weapon shops sit to the left, followed by a sewer grate leading to the single player mode and a secretive entrance to Salmon Run. Dead ahead, as always, is the entry to online multiplayer, Judd the cat snoozing loudly nearby. The local co-op building, known as The Shoal, is located to the right, while the giant amiibo box has returned in the far back of the square.
The best addition to the Splatoon hub is Crusty Sean’s food truck, the Crust Bucket, where players can trade in special tickets for meals and drinks. These edible delights give players temporary boosts in experiance points or monetary rewards for online matches, and cost different amounts depending on their effect. It’s a fun system to throw into the mix, and it certainly is the most enticing part of Inkoloplis Square from a competitive stand point. Those who want to bask in the glow of squid culture will enjoy interacting with other inklings, as well as gawking creepily at Pearl and Marina for hours (if you’re into that kind of thing).
As mentioned above, Splatoon 2 is first and foremost an online affair. All the hats, shoes, shirts, guns, and rollers one acquires for the multiplayer has no effect whatsoever on the single player campaign. Instead the solo adventure introduces its own upgrade system, and an arsenal of “loaned” weapons. This is already a big step up from the original Spaltoon, which forced players to wield the same Splattershot gun for the entity of the story mode. It’s a welcome change that brings a lot of variety and strategy to the well designed levels. Unfortunately there are only 27 stages to conquer, along with five bizarre boss throw downs.
And though this often overlooked single player aspect of the game has been improved, it still feels like more of the same in many instances. The story is terribly predictable and almost exactly the same as the original. The hub islands that house the different stages have been styled after some of the new solo mechanics, like ink ferlers, ride rails, and bouncy pads, but they still don’t offer much to explore beyond the first play through.
Players who want to snoop about on their second go round will find searching for each level’s Sunken Scrolls and other hidden items to be a nice distraction, but it’s a shame there wasn’t more for dedicated inklings to do and see in the grand scheme of things.
This part is pretty straight forward - while waiting for a lobby to fill up with online opponents and allies you can’t do anything. I take that back, you can mess with the background music by fiddling with the buttons and analog sticks. But you can’t decide to exit the match, or even swap your weapon. Not even after you’ve just gone a round with a weapon and realized it’s not for you. Once you’ve committed to an online game you are stuck waiting for how ever long it takes to fill up. It’s a gaping, and rather annoying, flaw in what should be a very user-friendly and streamlined online matchmaking system.
While Splatoon 2 does a lot right, it somehow manages to go even further in the wrong direction when it comes to split screen co-op. The Wii U original only featured a handful of modes for two players to try their hand at, and most of them relied on the tedious task of shooting balloons. This time around you can only play couch co-op with a buddy if they have their own Switch system and another copy of the game. Which is honestly pretty fun! It’s just kind of disheartening that Nintendo, king of party multiplayer, only allows one player per system this time around.
Splatoon 2 takes everything good about the original and dials it up a few notches. Players will find more to do, see, and collect then ever before, and Nintendo has already promised a steady stream of free content over the next few years. It may seem a bit too similar to its predecessor at times, but the fact of the matter stands - Splatoon 2's zany gameplay still feels fresh and incredibly fun.