Well folks, it’s a new year, and thanks to a nice Christmas bonus I now have a Nintendo Switch. So now I have another platform to play games on, and review. I apologize for the delay in getting out some articles to you. Just know, the end of the year gets very busy for me, leaving me not as much time as I’d like for reviewing games. All of that being said, my first Switch game purchase is a sequel to one of the best games I own for the Wii U. Is Splatoon 2 as good as its surprise hit predecessor?
PROS: Everything you loved about the original, and then some!
CONS: Convoluted voice chat. Consulting the map is worse. Drawing with thumb sticks.
AMIIBO: The older figures have as much merit as the new ones.
In a lot of ways Splatoon 2 is a much better game over its predecessor. It features a lot of new weapons, and new maps. It has a few new modes. It also takes the Nintendo Switch’s wireless capabilities to add a LAN like feature. Think in the vein of the original Xbox’s system link feature. There are new characters, and a lot of great customization options. Even the campaign is improved. There is a lot to like here.
For those who never played the original game, be it because they didn’t have a Wii U, or because they were more enamored with something else, Splatoon 2 is a shooter. More accurately, it’s a third-person shooter with a lot of the stuff you’d find in a first-person shooter. You’ll be killing people, and blowing things up. But what really sets the game apart from every other game of its ilk is its mainline game objective.
Splatoon 2 is a very multiplayer focused team shooter. You’ll hop into game modes with other players online or offline (I’ll get to that soon enough), and fight alongside your teammates for victory. Splatoon’s trademark mode is called “Turf War”. In it, each team has to focus their efforts on painting every floor their own color. You’ll be doing this with a variety of paint, and water themed weapons, and tools that shoot ink. As is the case with many modern shooters you’ll start out with a competent gun. But as you play the game more, over time you’ll begin to level up. Once you get to around level 4 or so, you’ll be able to go into the various shops to buy newer weapons.
Each of the weapons also comes with a perk you can use once you earn enough points by painting the floors. Some of them are things like jetpacks where you can temporarily hover above everyone dropping ink. Others are rack mounted ink missiles. Or shields. Or any other number of things. During all of the game modes, you can, and will be killing each other. But that doesn’t get your team victories. Playing the objective does. When you kill an opponent it is really just a means to buy yourself a few more moments to paint.
Seeing how the characters in the world of Inkopolis are Squid people, you can transform into a squid which results in all different kinds of strategies. As a squid you can swim under your own team’s ink. You can camp in it, waiting for enemies to walk into an ambush. You can paint walls, and swim up to higher ground. You can try to go stealth, and get around opponents so you can start painting over their ink, and change the those floors to your team’s color.
Each of the modes lasts around five minutes per round. At the end of the Turf War the game displays an overhead look at the arena, and the team who painted more of it their color wins the round. Winning a round gets you a lot of points, which helps you level up faster.
The other modes are played under Ranked Battle, which you can begin playing once you reach a certain level. There’s Tower Control, which is a take on the push cart mechanic seen in other games. You have to hold your position on it, and the longer you do, the further toward your goal it drives. Of course the opposing team will try to kill you, and take it for themselves. If they’re able to do so, it will go in the opposite direction toward their goal.
Splat Zones is a variant of the mainline Turf War. Only instead of painting the entire map, the game will outline two key areas to paint. If your team gets one, or both painted your color, you have to defend the position, and hold it as long as possible. At the end of the round the team that held them down the longest wins.
Finally, there’s the Rainmaker, which is another take on the push cart mechanic. But this time it’s centered around a special weapon; The Rainmaker. One player on one team will have to take it, and then get it to the goal on the opposing team’s side. The player can defend themselves with it, as it fires charged shots. But the player will instantly become the default target. The entire enemy team will try to kill them so one of their own can take it for themselves. This is the only mode where your attack performance is going to matter as much as an objective.
Once you, and some friends have at least a B rank, you can group up into a League Battle, where you can play as a team in the various Ranked modes. The nice thing about the Ranked modes in this is that each mode has its own individual rank for you. So for instance, if you’re doing well with the Rainmaker mode, but patently average in Tower Control, you’ll see an *A* in the former, and a *C*. It’s great because if you get competitive you can see where you may need some practice.
There is also a fourth mode called Salmon Run. This mode works as a horde mode, where you have to keep waves of killer robot fish from taking you out. You’re also given a quota of eggs you need to collect during waves. These are dropped by bosses. It throws you into the grind with three other players, and you’ll have to work together to get all of the eggs, and survive. This also mixes up your load out when you play it, so you’ll be forced to learn to use weapons you might not normally choose. The only real issue with this mode is that you can’t play it all of the time. At least online. You have to be leveled up enough to do Ranked play, and the game’s servers will turn this mode on, whenever whomever manages it decides it’s playable.
When you first fire up Splatoon 2, things go about the way they do in the original. It will give you a quick character customization process. After this you’ll, be thrown into a brief tutorial to get you used to the control scheme. Splatoon 2 works in TV mode by using the two Joycons in the grip included with the Switch. Or you can use a Pro Controller or equivalent. As was the case on the Wii U in Splatoon, you can play with or without gyroscopic aiming. For those who eat, sleep, and breathe a controller with their shooters, turning it off might seem like a no brainer. But honestly, I would recommend using the gyroscopic aiming. When you’re in the heat of battle, and need that smooth, yet pixel perfect aim to hit something it is a Godsend. It isn’t quite as good as using a mouse in a PC shooter, but it’s still much better than the thumb stick. Particularly when trying to hit high or low targets on an angle. And you can focus your camera at any time by pressing the Y button. Handy, if somehow you find yourself stuck looking too far off.
With the Tutorial done, you’ll be dropped into the Inkopolis hub world. Again, as in the original Splatoon, you can go to the different shops after you’ve leveled up a bit, talk to NPCs, and get video updates telling you when maps have been rotated on the servers for online multiplayer. But beyond that you can find a shady character named Murch. Murch is pretty much this game’s version of the first game’s Spyke. After you get to the proper level, you can have Murch track down outfits of the random player characters who appear in Inkopolis. For the right price. They generally won’t have the same stats, but it is a way for you to find some of the nicer clothing options early, although they’ll usually cost you more.
As for each of the shops, again as in Splatoon one shop will have the weapons for purchase as you unlock them. You can also try them out before you buy them to see if it’s right for your play style. The others will cover shirts, shoes, and headgear. Each of these does more than simply make your character look cool. They have different attributes that will help you during your multiplayer matches. Some may boost your run speed. Some recharge your weapon’s ammo faster. Some will negate some enemy perk effects on you. As well as other potential benefits. Over time you can add other abilities to the clothes. If you ever regret some of the abilities that found their way into the clothes you can also have Murch scrub them out for a fee. At which point you’ll have to start over leveling that piece of apparel.
You can also buy food from a food truck for some temporary benefits. Beyond that you can also scan in Splatoon, and Splatoon 2 amiibo figures for some costumes. The original toys get you some of the outfits from the first game, while the newer toys get you some newer options. It should be noted if you open the Callie/Marie two pack, these toys also get you songs to listen to. The toys will also give you access to a photo feature, and let you save load outs to them! One cool thing the original game did was implement the Wii U’s Miiverse service very well. You could post on Nintendo’s boards, and even draw fan art. But the game would post these pieces of art on walls at random in online matches.
With the service defunct, this game does retain a draw feature. Going up to a kiosk in Inkopolis will allow you to draw pictures, or write messages that can appear in the game on the walls. The thing to keep in mind though is you’ll want to use this feature in handheld mode, as you can draw freehand that way. Sadly, if you’re using the console in TV mode you’ll have to draw with the controller. Something that doesn’t work well at all. The sticks just swing far too wildly for you to do the intricate kind of detail needed if you’re someone who loves to draw. I should also note that once Nintendo rolls out its online service, you’ll need to pay $20 a year to enjoy online multiplayer. As of this writing it costs nothing to play online. But if you haven’t kept up with gaming news over the course of 2017, it has been something to be aware of. On the plus side, the netcode is really good in this game. I ran into no lag, even when connected to a hotspot getting coffee.
If you’ve been reading thus far, worried that you can only play this game against online warriors fear not. As I mentioned earlier, Splatoon 2 has a mode that works a bit like an offline LAN. If you have a few people with Nintendo Switches meet up somewhere, you can use the system’s wireless setup to connect the consoles together allowing each of you to play against one another in teams locally in the same room. Now unlike an actual LAN, you won’t be sharing files, resources, and other stuff through a router. But, it does make for a great time that will take you back to four player F1 Race on the Game Boy. However, if each of you have an old Wii wired adapter, you can play an actual wired LAN tournament through a router. This is also handy for convention tournaments.
But things don’t end there. If you’re not typically drawn toward multiplayer games, but you do enjoy single player action games, there is once again a campaign. Splatoon 2’s campaign is a bit more fleshed out that the original game’s was. This time instead of following Captain Cuttlefish down a sewer drain, you’ll see a mysterious woman hanging out in the back of Inkopolis square. When you follow her, you’ll find it’s actually Marie from the first game. It would seem her best friend, and fellow pop star Callie has gone missing. As an undercover agent she hires you to join her to face the Octarians.
This time around they’ve taken Callie, in addition to the Zapfish. So you have to help Marie rescue her. In the sequel you’ll again play a multitude of stages that combine elements of Super Mario Galaxy’s platforming, Metal Gear Solid’s stealth, and Doom’s circle strafing. It’s a lot of fun, and requires more than just hand, and eye coordination. Each of the stages houses blueprints, and hidden fish. If you find them you’ll get some back story for the game to read, as well as the ability to unlock some firepower for the multiplayer modes. You can also spend the tickets found in the campaign at the food truck for some boosts. Finding all of them takes some time, and some sleuthing on your part. Especially in later stages where they get pretty creative in hiding these items.
Stages are laid out similarly to Super Mario 64. There’s an overarching hub world, with different entrances to each of the stages. Some of these are cloaked, so you’ll have to shoot them to make them appear. Things get a bit more intricate as time goes on. Every stage will put you in exponentially harder situations that will force you to learn the mechanics. Until you get to that final showdown.
Boss fights in Splatoon 2 work almost exactly as they did in Splatoon. You’ll find the weak point, attack it, and then find you’ll have to do it three times. But each time, the attack patterns become a bit more complex, and so you’ll have to employ the advanced strategies you’ve learned in order to take them down. Aesthetically they get more, creative as they’re introduced to you too.
The campaign is also done in a way that ultimately trains you for the multiplayer. But does so in a way that feels fulfilling. It doesn’t feel like padding, or that it only there as a trainer. The story is entertaining, and has a lot of funny dialogue. It’s also got a fair amount of challenge, and isn’t too long, nor is it too short. Though the final boss may irritate you a little bit with the cheap desperation moves.
Visually, the game looks slightly better than the original. With the game going up a minor notch from a 720p resolution to a 1080p resolution. A lot of the art has call backs to the original game, and even some of the old maps were retooled, and brought back. The texture work is also a little bit cleaner than in the old game. Overall, it isn’t that different from the last game. It’s still beautiful, but those hoping this would be a massive graphics leap over the old game may be left wanting a bit.
There are a few minor complaints I have with the game though. As a veteran of the first game, the dual screen gameplay really did one thing well. That was the map screen. You could jump to a teammate’s aid at any time by touching them on your screen. In this one you can still get to them, but you have to pull up the screen mid battle, and then select them. That fraction of a second in the heat of warfare can get you killed as you’re busy pulling up the map instead of looking at the incoming threats.
Another thing I think some people won’t like, is the cumbersome way they implemented a voice chat feature. Rather than, simply including it in the game, and letting players use a common headset you have to download an app to your smart phone, and have that an arm’s length away. This doesn’t affect me as I don’t have much more than a crappy old prepaid emergency phone. (I know, I know, I’m a relic.) But for those who do, this can be inconvenient, especially when someone calls your phone, and trying to take a call while voice chatting is going to be a pain.
It’s probably better to have a cheap, old laptop nearby with Discord, or another voice group chat application on it, and just using that to strategize on the fly instead. It’s not that much different although at least you won’t have to drop out to take an important phone call while you’re in a game. You can just tell everyone in the chat you have to take the call, without inexplicably leaving.
I also found it odd that the Salmon Run can’t be played online all of the time. Shooters generally let players play their favorite modes whenever they want, and locking this one up for arbitrary reasons just seems perplexing to me. Maybe they were trying to make it feel like a Splatfest event. But then again, it is one of the offline LAN modes too.
Fortunately, one thing that is very impressive is the soundtrack. Not only do some of the great tracks from the original show up again, but the variety is larger too. You’ll get the Pop Punk, Power Pop fix. But you’ll also get a lot of New Wave, Funk, Disco, and J-Pop too. In fact, a lot of the tracks mix a lot of these sounds together to make for something new. It really is a lot of fun to listen to. Hopefully, Nintendo will find a way to release this soundtrack as they did the first. Just at a much wider availability.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the game. Aside from a couple of baffling decisions it does successfully move the great gameplay of the original onto Nintendo’s newer, highly successful system where more people can be exposed to it. It’s fun because even if you’re not very good at shooters, you can still do very well by focusing on the objectives. As long as you’re painting a floor, you’re getting some points, and leveling up. In fact, just like last time around, you’ll find a lot of good players don’t boast the highest Kill to Death ratios. That isn’t to say it isn’t important. It buys your team more capture time. But you don’t have to feel bad if you see your little squid combatant explode into Looney Tunes gibs constantly. I only wish they could work on solving the AFK issues that rise on occasion. If someone abandons a match, or stops playing, it’s curtains for their team. If you’re on that team it can be frustrating to find the reason you were beaten is because player 4 got zero points. Which is impossible unless you set the controller down, and walk away. But I digress.
Splatoon 2 is a great game. It is pretty much everything the first one was, with a lot more weapons, and clothing. The new mode, is pretty fun, even if it does only open up once in a while. And if you really don’t do multiplayer, the campaign is something that you’ll at the very least enjoy one play through on before trading it in or selling it off. I wouldn’t hop in if you aren’t willing to at least try a multiplayer game. At least with this being somewhat portable though, the LAN option is a great way to play locally with friends if your only concern with online are the trolls, and jerks who spoil things. And even beyond that, the ability to join a lobby with three friends mitigates this a bit.
I know I keep repeating myself in this review. But for those who do love online competitive multiplayer though, this one is a no brainer. There are a ton of great strategies, action, and advanced movement techniques to master. If you like online multiplayer, but are hesitant about needing to Get Good, fear not. It’s still something you can have a blast playing at a rudimentary level. Really, the only people who may want to pass are those who have no interest in competitive gaming. Though the campaign is still worth a rent for those who love a good platformer, or action romp. The issues I do have with it don’t ruin the experience by any means, but can be annoying. Still, as I said earlier, it’s a must play for Switch owners who are fans of multiplayer. Especially those who loved the original Splatoon on their Wii U machines.
Final Score: 9 out of 10.