The Wii U era for Nintendo may not end up being seen as a high point for the company but there’s not denying the fact that the console featured some of the most creative, innovative and forward thinking games ever to come out of the Big ‘N’, and leading this charge of new, more modern experiences was a little shooter called Splatoon. Announced to very little fanfare, the game quickly found its footing and is now mentioned in the same breath as mainstays like ‘Mario’ and ‘Zelda’ as one of the key franchises in Nintendo’s arsenal. So it was no real surprise when Splatoon 2 was not only revealed to be coming, but only a few months into the Switch’s life, and it’s a good thing that it did, because the game shows that the console can be home to robust online just as well as any system out there.
There’s an old saying that if it ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and, while that’s very applicable to a lot of things in life, it must also be Splatoon 2‘s motto because the game is in many ways, very similar to the original. In fact it’s mostly the small changes that the game makes that set it apart from its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no stretch of the imagination a bad thing as the original Splatoon was a great title and to get more of that, especially so soon into the Switch’s life is pretty cool, but some more ‘freshness’ would have been nice. That’s not to say that some of the core additions aren’t fun. I’m personally in love with the new Splat Dualies and their quick-role ability, and some of the new specials like the curling bombs and Inkstrike are pure fun and give the game, and the online-meta-game some new depth.
Unlike the original though Splatoon 2 offers up a whole new set of plays to physically play the game, thanks to the Switch’s multiple motion-enhanced controllers though I really recommend getting a Pro Controller (or if you’re lucky the Splatoon-branded one) to play the game. The reason why I suggest this controller over say the singular Joy-Cons or the grip attachment is mostly ergonomic as the Pro Controller’s stick and triggers are much more suited to the fast-paced gameplay than their smaller and counterparts on the Joy-Cons. Also, if you’re anything like me and put a lot of time into the original Splatoon then the controls might take a bit of getting used as the mini-map is now set to display when ‘X’ is pressed which, of course used to be jump in the Wii U game, but overall Splatoon 2 plays just like you remember it did back in the day.
If you’re looking for a lot of new things to do in Splatoon 2 then you might come out a bit disappointed, as similarly to the gameplay most of the content is either recycled from the original or a slight variation. For example, a lot of the game’s online maps and modes are comebacks from the first game, in fact a bit too many of the maps are back which makes the core gameplay feel a bit stale. That being said the new maps are all excellent and an absolute blast to play, though I dp wish the game would rotate through them quicker or give you more options to choose from. Also making its return is the game’s single player campaign which will see you assisting Marie as he tries to thwart the nefarious Octoling’s plans. The campaign mostly serves as a way to familiarize yourself with the more complex actions you’ll do in the online mode with each level acting a mini-tutorial on the game’s mechanics.
The biggest new addition to the series though, and arguably the best part of Splatoon 2 is the new Salmon Run mode. Here you and a squad of three other players take on waves of Salmonids, a new enemy faction in the game, in the hopes of harvesting their special and valuable Golden Eggs. Similar to Horde modes in similar games, you’ll have to survive wave after wave and battle against boss type of enemies to complete your mission. On its own Salmon Run is a deep, fun and challenging mode (I’m pretty sure its impossible to beat on the hardest difficulty) but when combined with the rest of the Splatoon 2 experience, its a refreshing diversion when you don’t want to just splat people online. It’s just a shame that the mode isn’t available all the time (the posting board its only open a few hours a day) and that the Switch’s voice chat (crucial for a mode like this) is a bungled mess.
On the surface it may seem that visually, Splatoon 2 is not so different from Splatoon 1, however seeing the game in motion its clear that the Switch titles underwent some subtle, yet noticeable improvements. Everything just looks sharper and cleaner (ironic in a game about getting covered in goopy ink) and somehow more vibrant. The game continues with the series urban, skater look which helps give it its fresh appeal and the new Inkopolis Square is teeming with life and activity, especially during the recent Splatfest. Nintendo even carried over the popular Miiverse posting style, letting players share their (sometimes weird) art with others which is a nice touch. I suppose the one thing I miss are the 8-bit style mini-games that you could play in between matches but overall the game’s look and feel are spot-on.
Music and sound are a big part of Splatoon 2 and like the original the game’s soundtrack is absolutely bumping with electric tunes. Most of these are led by the two new idols gracing Inkopolis square, Pearl (eww) and Marina (<3) who form the pop-duo Off the Hook. Most of their songs are insanely catchy to the point that Nintendo has even taken to release them individually via social media and the Switch’s new portal. It all comes together to make a game that is not only a blast to play but fun to listen to. Thankfully you can listen to the full soundtrack via an included rhythm mini-game found in the plaza, which, while hard to play is a fun diversion when you just want to chill out to the game’s beats.
Splatoon 2 is, depending on your point of view, the second or third high-caliber release from Nintendo on the Switch and comes at an absolutely critical time for the company and its newest system as they look to continue the momentum of a successful launch and follow-up games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Arms. And for the most part, the game does its job superbly at filling out the Switch’s summer lineup and making the wait for the holiday’s big games more bearable. That being said, the game is very similar to the original, in terms of gameplay content and presentation, so if you did not appreciate any of those in the original game, you’re not likely to get a lot of value out of the game here. And while Splatoon 2 did launch with more content than Splatoon 1 did it’s still a bit on the shallow side, though Nintendo has promised constant updates for at least a year to help keep the game fresh well into 2018.
So what’s the verdict? Should you get your hands wet with Splatoon 2? Absolutely! It’s a terrific, fast paced and (pardon the pun) fresh take on the genre and one of the Switch’s early must-play games. That being said, it’s not perfect. A lot of the content is either recycled or a slight variation from the original Splatoon and as of writing, the game is a bit light on content. That being said, Splatoon 2 is not so much a game but a platform, and I have no doubt that Nintendo will continue to grow it in the weeks, months and years to come into something that Switch owners can boast about for years to come.