Splatoon 2 is the sequel to the original released on Wii U. it is a third person shooter with an emphasis on team work. The original was a gem on a failed console and with the success Nintendo is having with the Switch, this is an opportunity to show the world how great this game is. The question is whether or not this one lives up to the original, an overlooked amazing multiplayer experience that should have gotten the recognition it deserves.
Release date: July 21, 2017
Approximate Size: 3.6 GB
Genre: Team Based Third Person Shooter
Developed by Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch; Console Exclusive.
Nintendo managed to do something special for returning players from the first Splatoon. The final Splatfest in the first Splatoon had players choose which of the Squid Sisters they liked the most. At the time it was a simple choice allowing players who had played through the game at the time to choose one they grew attached to, formed a bond with. Little did we know at the time that the outcome would directly affect the foundation on which its sequels story would be built on. It was, and is, a nice touch that no one would have predicted and a nice nod to those who stuck buy the original’s release.
Without going into spoilers, one of the Squid Sisters (the one on the losing end of the final Splatfest) is missing and the other seeks help from the player on finding her cousin. What this does is give weight to the single player campaign, it gives it a personal reason to participate. For returning players who were on the winning side, it’s an attempt to ease their guilt in sending this missing character into their unknown fate. For returning players who were on the losing side, it’s a chance at redemption to not fail their character again. For the player new to the series, it is a simple plot device to add an incentive for playing the campaign. Either way, there is a reason to play the campaign and I recommend everyone does because it was a blast and a ton of fun.
The campaign is broken into five sectors with, depending on the sector, anywhere from three to six levels and each one ending with a boss fight. The single player experience is mix between a third person shooter and a third person platformer. These levels are nicely built with tons of enemies and mobility options, some of which are unique to this mode and do not appear in the online multiplayer. For example, there are these ink pipes where you grind on them as if you’re from the cast of Jet Set Radio. Its designed to make you feel as if your gliding across the inked rail and you are still able to engage enemies and items. This would be phenomenal on the online modes but its glory is tied to this mode and maybe that’s a good thing, a minor reason to enjoy this small experience.
The entire campaign is designed to be replayed with all the weapons to unlock the ‘Hero’ variant of them to take into the online space. It’s a nice touch to add extra incentives to completing the campaign but replaying the entire thing 4+ times can become tedious. The highlight of this mode however has to be given to the boss fights. They are truly engaging, challenging, well designed, and a true blast to play. I mean they have done a tremendous job with the campaign, and the game as a whole, and this sequel surpasses all the good and bad of its predecessor by miles. If there was one thing I wish I could add to the single player experience is to maybe have a form of co-op where, once completed, both players unlock the ‘Hero’ variant of the weapons each individual used. This would make completing the campaign less of a chore for completionists.
GAME PLAY STYLES
The Nintendo Switch is the most versatile console ever made in terms of options available to the player on how they want to play their games. You can play on your television seeing the game on the big screen shows genuinely how beautiful it is. You can play it on table top mode with Joycons or the pro controller and its exactly like if you were playing on T.V., just on a smaller screen. By far the most enjoyable way to play, in my opinion, is in handheld mode. It is completely satisfying and relaxing to lay in bed and play any game, especially this one, in complete comfortability. The beauty of this console is that you can transition to any style in a manner of nanoseconds. It’s that easy and flawless.
The game does offer, regardless of how you play, motion controls for aiming. The accuracy this provides is game changing and effective. I do not play this way but I’ve never felt at a disadvantage playing with people who use it and the few times I have tried it out, it’s easy to get the hang of it. once you master it, you may find it difficult to go back to traditional controls. It’s that good.
The vast majority of your online experience, at least until you reach level 10, will be played in Turf War. The concept of the game mode is simple, the team with the majority of the map in their ink wins. With such a simple concept, it’s a wonder how the beautiful inky concept of playful nickelodeon style chaos wasn’t discovered years ago. I guess in some ways, only Nintendo is capable of creating wonderful concepts with bright colors and focus on actual fun gameplay and not, like their competitors, on dark and gritty multiplayer games with a focus on points acquired from a large body count. That’s not to say both can’t coexist, I believe wholeheartedly than can but before you knock this game for its “childish” approach and appeal, you should give it a shot because you may actually be pleasantly surprised.
Each player in the 4 versus 4 team based battle is equipped with a weapon of their choice, a sub weapon, and a special. Weapon variety is healthy with everything from pistols and sniper rifles to buckets and ink rollers. Each weapon has its own different samplings of the same core weapon but with different sub abilities and specials. This translates to that if you see more than one roller, don’t think they are the same. Some rollers are slower but cover a wider surface area, some are smaller but offer your inkling the ability to traverse faster, and one may have a special where they launch themselves in the air to only come crashing down on top of you while another may wrap himself in a hamster like ball to chase you around the map, corner you, and explode covering you and another area with ink. This is how this game offers balance by locking sub weapons and specials to weapons because if you could choose every section and customize it to how you wanted, you’d be overpowered.
When you aren’t in your online battle grounds, you are in the open hub world probably vising the shops. The shops are broken into four: Ye Olde Cloth Shoppe (clothing), Headspace (head gear), Ammo Knights (weapons), Shella Fresh (shoes). Each piece of gear grants you one central ability you can see before purchasing and then several others that unlock as you level up that clothing article. What this does is not only offer players to express themselves in their created avatar but also to gain, in your mind, an advantage over another player. Should you max out a piece of equipment and not like the abilities it comes with, you can change and alter it by seeking out an NPC in the hub world. For a price. Once of the best things about finding and obtain clothing is that the hub world is populated with players you have played with and if they are wearing something you want, you can approach that avatar and order those items. This is a wonderful thing because the shop doesn’t always add things you may want and, so, having alternatives is usually always a good thing.
After honing your skills and mastering the fundamentals of the online gameplay through Turf War and reaching level 10, you can choose to enter Ranked Mode. The only thing it has in common with Turf War is that splatting other inkling isn’t the goal. This mode is designed for those who want a more competitive, strategic, team work style game experience. In Turf War everyone works as a team independently from one another, you don’t have to communicate because the goal is simple: cover more area in ink than your opponent. In Ranked Mode, team work could be more critical to victory and defeat depending on whether or not everyone is working together to push forward in the three game modes available.
Splat Zones is a more hardcore version of Turf War. Instead of spreading your ink across the map, the map has one section that needs to be filled with your ink. What this does is drive all players to one central location where they splat themselves to death in an attempt to secure that section. This alone is difficult and when one of you is actually able to secure the section, there is no time to breath and relax because now you must hold this zone for a certain amount of time. The dynamic quickly changes from attacking to get the zone to defending to keep it and what you have is a pendulum swing of momentum as each team captures and loose the sector down to the last moments and it gets intense and competitive. Understand the game mode is important because if you have a player running around the map trying to cover it with ink and not helping you out, well, it makes the game feel as if it’s a 3 against 4 and you’re at a handicap. This is why communication is key and you have the D- pad to call out to players. I recommend using it because, believe it or not, it could alter the impending defeat into a sweet, unexpected, victory.
Tower control is the next mode you will find available in Ranked Mode. Out of all these modes, I feel this one is the best constructed, the most fun, and the more unique of the others. The concept is similar to Splat Zones but instead of fighting over a section of the map, you fight over a tower. Once you get this tower in your ink, it travels across the map with the caveat that you, or a team mate, must stay on it. Now let’s overlook the fact that it’s a battle to even get the tower, keeping it is even more difficult because your path to victory is headed through enemy territory. It’s imperative that all players work together in attacking enemy players to achieve the tower and then some of them must defend while others travel on the tower, defending as well. the closer into enemy territory you get, the more engagements you’ll get into as player respawns feel quicker. This mode is fantastic and filled with up and downs and provides great war stories and experiences.
The third mode offered in Ranked Mode is Rainmaker. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with Kazuchika Okada, the reigning and defending NJPW IWGP Heavyweight Champion, despite the name. instead what it is, is a game mode in which all players go to the center of the map to fight over and acquire the Rainmaker. This is equivalent to Capture the Flag in other games. Once you fill the illustrious object with ink and pop the bubble incasing the golden, majestic, fish dragon hybrid you then have to carry it into enemy territory to gain victory. However, like everything in Splatoon 2’s multiplayer offerings, it’s not that easy or simple. You see, you have approximately a minute to reach the goal before the Rainmaker explodes and splats you and re-shields itself in a bubble. Should neither team be able to reach the location for victory, the entire match is scored by closet distance and that team will be rewarded the victory. This mode is chaos, fun, and creative.
League Mode takes all the offerings of Ranked Mode but instead of teaming with random strangers, you enter the fray with your own squad of two or four players. Thus you compete in what is essentially an esport-lite type of mode with the team earing the most points displayed on an online leaderboard of sorts. It’s different and, yet, very reminiscent of the seasons competitive cooperative mode offered in a game like Overwatch. With Nintendo getting behind esports, a growing phenomenon, with their own cooperative shooter in Splatoon 2, this is a great mode for those seriously considering to participate. In other words, this for the most dedicated and serious group of players who seek the fame and fortune associated with esports.
There is a section for you to join with a friend, without having to use the abysmal phone app, but it’s not implemented as well as one would hope. First, it requires said friend is already online and participating in a map (because joining them while they search for a game mode isn’t always successful due to the healthy player base). Even when you do join them, there is no guarantee you will be on the same team. At first this bothered me because if I join a friend, I expect to play with that friend. However, once we started to be on opposite teams (most likely balance supersedes playing with your friend, at least doing it this way) we began to not only try and spread our ink to win but also engaged in a game of chest on who could splat the other first. I know this was not their intention but it was damn satisfying and damn fun. If you only want to play with friends, well, much like the commercial for the Switch it is possible and it is easy. All you have to do is set up a private battle, customize the rules to your choosing, and then have your friends join in and have a grand time. Its implemented well and reenacting the Switch reveal trailer was more organic than one would initially believe.
Splatfest is offered every few months and what it does is provide a simple choice to a player. Their choice puts them on a team and for about a day they compete in Turf War where every win or loss is for your choice. At the end of the Splatfest, everything is tallied and one side is declared the winner. It’s a nice little touch and it feels like a big deal every time it arrives. You see in Splatoon 2, when a Splatfest arrives everything changes. The hub world turns into a concert with all the inklings gathered around jumping to the beat and the maps take on night time variants. Also with the two maps comes a third called Shifty Station. Shifty Station is a unique map that feels different from every other map available and Nintendo has come forward as saying that each Splatfest will have a different version of Splatfest.
If you read my Call of Duty: WWII impressions article, then you know that I love cooperative game modes like Zombies and Horde mode found in other games. Well, Nintendo has decided to throw their hand at making a similar mode and not only did they succeed, they excelled far past any expectations we could have ever set. Salmon Run tasks you and three other players to survive three waves of enemies while collecting Golden Eggs and placing them in a basket of sorts. The goal is to at least reach the quote required for each round. Survival is not enough. Sounds easy but in many cases it is not, especially if your team is not paying attention and carrying their weight. You see all other enemies drop Power Eggs which can be used for getting equipment for this mode but bosses are the only enemies that drop Golden Eggs. This means you have to balance your attention between killing the horde and killing the boss. You also have to beware of the Snatcher who will steal unattended Golden Eggs and take them back to the sea where they will be lost forever. To make things more interesting, weather effects change the visibility you may have or the characteristics of enemies and the weapons change every round. There is no choosing your weapon of choice and should you get a particular weapon you aren’t exactly decent at, well, it could be a long round for you. Team work is critical and you have to pay attention to your players because if they go down, you have to shoot them with ink to revive them. If all four players are down, its game over. Your actions will either level you up or level you down.
All in all when it comes to the longevity of this game, it has one of the most robust and healthiest online offerings out there. There is something available for everyone and due to the game’s focus shifting away from killing and towards team work, taking a chance and trying a mode you normally wouldn’t is a satisfying thing. I have no complaints when it comes to the online section, it is balanced and fun. I did have a few instances with issues with connection and the decision to go with a phone app for certain online functions is as mind boggling as it is frustrating. A criticism I have heard from other journalists is the way certain maps and how Salmon Run are locked at certain times. All of their complaints are warranted and valid but I do not share them. Having only two maps for a few hours (all different depending on game mode) is fine because it helps get into games faster and you aren’t left waiting for more than a few seconds. Salmon Run feels special when its available and if it was available all the time, I probably would have overplayed the mode because it is addictively fun. My current routine is simple, if Salmon Run is available that’s where I’ll go, if not I’m playing multiplayer.
The original was very pretty when it first released and this sequel is downright gorgeous. The colors are brighter, more vibrant, and the shadows have been reworked with its lighting effects. It really is a remarkable looking game, even when played on a 4K television (Note: Max resolution is 1080p on T.V.; 720p on tablet). You can see they crafted this game with detail and love down to the smallest parts, they didn’t go halfway with any of it or take any shortcuts. If there is one thing about Nintendo games it’s that they age wonderfully over time and this is no exception. More impressively, it manages to do all of this why still maintaining its silky smooth 60 FPS.
When I’m playing in any game mode and completely enthralled in trying to gain victory for my team, I still find myself stopping and taking everything all in because it’s beautiful. Character models are reminiscent, as is the entire aesthetic, of 90’s cartoons and no one ever looks or feels out of place. The ink looks gooey like how one expects it to be in real life and transitioning from inkling to squid is flawless and with the touch of a button. Simplicity and color is what is presented over detailed and grit and the tradeoff is worth it.
Let’s start this section off with the soundtrack. Wow. Just wow. The music is upbeat and catchy whether you’re paying in the game modes or traversing through the hub world. I’m not kidding, I’ll be humming the music after a game while I’m in the shops or throughout my day after playing. It’s that good. I’m not surprised it’s good because I played the original and it was also great, I just never expected it to be this good. The voice sound effects are good as well, their weird babble reminding us they are not humans. A nice touch.
The guns sound like a mix between the real thing and water guns, it’s hard to explain but, in a way, I imagine this is how ink filled weapons would sound. Splatting enemies has a nice sounding impact, as do explosions and landing specials. All the sounds in this game from rolling over an enemy with a roller to swimming through ink, it’s all been crafted meticulously and it shows because it all sounds amazing.
Splatoon 2 is a phenomenal experience and one of the best online multiplayer games I’ve ever played. Finding any negatives with the game itself would require hours of searching and extreme nitpicking. The only negatives with this game are with archaic design choices in regards to connecting with other players and communicating with them. In 2017, we should not need a buggy phone app to group up and communicate, that’s just unacceptable but it’s not something that hinders the game in any way. The map rotations and Salmon Run only being available during certain times may bother some players but it is nothing that directly impacts the game or the enjoyment of the game.
if you own a Switch or plan on buying one, you owe it to yourself to buy this game. It should be the second game you buy, Zelda being first.