In 2015, Nintendo released Splatoon – the third-person shooter that pitted two teams of four against each other for control of the map. Players took on the role of Inklings (a humanoid-like creature that can morph into an adorable squid), who were tasked with spraying everything in sight with ink. Although the game was initially criticized for its lack of modes, Nintendo pushed out free updates throughout the game’s lifespan that drastically altered the title’s suite of features. With Splatoon 2, Nintendo has come out of the gate strong by including much of the post-release content from the original game, as well as a few new modes and weapons to make this iteration even fresher.
As an Inkling, your goal is to spray everything with the color of ink assigned to your team. In Turf War (the basic mode), players must cover as much area in their color as possible. This includes covering the enemy team’s ink with your own, which creates a constant tug-of-war over who has covered the most area. At the end of the match, whichever team has covered the most area wins. However, the ink does have other uses as well. By pressing the left trigger, players transform into their squid form, allowing them to travel through the sprayed ink at a faster speed than they would in Inkling form and supplying more ammunition as well. Conversely, standing in a puddle of enemy ink will slowly drain the player’s health; so regardless of which mode is being played, players will always want to ensure that they have plenty of friendly colored ink across the map.
Once a player has reached level 10 through Turf War battles, Splatoon 2’s ranked mode becomes available. This mode is notably different but retains much of the fundamental gameplay that is learned through playing Turf War. There are three distinct modes for ranked battles: Splat Zones, Tower Control and Rainmaker. Splat Zones is a king-of-the-hill style mode where players must hold an area at the center of the map. Tower Control tasks players with climbing a tower that moves across a set path toward the enemy’s goal. Rainmaker is a capture-the-flag mode where players must pick up the Rainmaker weapon and push it into the enemy territory. Each mode requires much more of a team focus than Turf War and are typically longer matches (the game timer is set to five minutes in ranked, three minutes in regular battles), but can end after only one minute if one team controls the objective.
In addition to the regular and ranked battles carried over from the first game, a new game mode, League Battle, has been added to the playlists. This mode is much more focused on team play than even ranked mode, requiring that players be partnered in groups of two or four to enter the playlist. In addition to being grouped, League Battle players must also reach a “B minus” rank in ranked battles. While this mode is sure to entice players who rise to the top of Splatoon 2’s ranked mode, the requirements to access the mode may end up being a barrier that keeps many players from ever accessing it. Compounding upon the problem is the lack of an in-game voice chat* and an invitation system that is somewhat confusing. Whether this mode will flourish the way Nintendo seems to hope is yet to be seen, but the odds seem stacked against it initially.
If competitive multiplayer is not your cup of tea, Splatoon 2 offers both cooperative mode and a single player mode. Much like the first game in the series, the single player mode is more of an extended tutorial/obstacle course rather than a true campaign. There is a hint of story (the Squid Sister Callie, from the first game, has gone missing) and collectibles to be discovered, but do not expect to spend more than 5-8 hours completing your first playthrough.
The cooperative game mode, Salmon Run, is a horde mode that asks players to work together to defeat three waves of enemies. Boss enemies appear throughout each wave and will drop eggs when defeated that need to be picked up and dropped into a collection basket. Players have a quota of eggs that must be obtained during each wave and failing to reach that number results in a loss. The premise is simple but at the beginning of each wave, players are assigned a different weapon. This is a great way to familiarize with weapons that might not be used often. Completing matches in Salmon Run awards points and collecting enough points will unlock items that can be used in the game’s multiplayer mode.
The most important thing that should be said about Splatoon 2 is that it is fun. Matches are quick and satisfying and, even in defeat. The controls are tight no matter if you are using traditional controls or motion. Inklings can be customized with tons of different cosmetic items that can be leveled up. Each clothing item also has a certain number of perk slots available that can drastically change the way you play the game. The number of slots is based on the rarity of the item and new items are always available for purchase from the in-game shop.
There is also a wide variety of weapons for purchase that have their own perks and abilities fit each play-style. The mighty Ink Roller is a close range weapon that crushes enemies that it comes into contact with. The Aerospray MG is a rapid firing but inaccurate machine gun that can quickly cover areas in ink. The Splattershot Pro offers mid-range support for those who prefer more precision. There is something for everyone in the weapon department.
While Splatoon 2 is not a drastic change from the original formula that was available on the Wii U, there are certainly enough additions and alterations that separate it from its predecessor. Some of the maps have been recycled, and one can’t help but wonder if this decision was made to expedite the development of the game. For a system that is currently starved for new, triple-A titles the way that the Nintendo Switch is, it seems plausible that a few corners needed to cut to get the game out the door. Regardless, Nintendo made good on their promise to support the first title in this series, and one can only assume that they will give this title the same amount of love and care. If you own a Switch, this game deserves a spot in your library.
*There is technically a voice chat feature available through the Nintendo Switch app.