The first Splatoon on the Wii U was a pleasant surprise at the time. On the Wii U, a console that was lacking in “fresh” games, as it will, it was thrilling to see a game that was so original, deep and fun as that game was. On top of that, Splatoon‘s popularity made it an obvious choice for a quick sequel on Nintendo’s new Switch system. So, does Splatoon 2‘s obvious similarities to the first game make it lack the freshness of the first game, or does it still wow with its squiddy goodness?
Well, fortunately, Splatoon 2, for the most part, is good. It takes the excellent foundation of the first game, and builds upon it to deliver a game that is doubtlessly better than what came before. While there are no huge changes from the original, there are big additions and smaller changes that make this more than worth the purchase for any returning squid, and a must-purchase for any new fish out there.
Like with the previous game, Splatoon 2 is an interesting twist on the multiplayer shooter genre. You are equipped with various ink-related weaponry, and the focus is shifted from eliminating enemies to painting as much of the ground as possible. This is beneficial to you as a player, since you can turn into a squid and quickly navigate through any areas with your team’s paint, and at the same time it immobilizes enemies who stand in your color.
This mechanic is used in some truly interesting ways in all of the game’s modes, all of which return from Splatoon. Whether it be the insanely fun multiplayer modes, or the single player campaign, one thing you can say about this game is that there’s really nothing else like it. Its originality, both in gameplay and presentation, help it stand out among the crowded field of competitive shooters.
A New Coat of Paint
The first thing that’s apparent from Splatoon 2 is the clear visual upgrade. While it may look similar to the first game on the surface, this game boasts an improved resolution of 1080p, up from 720p in the original game. The textures look sharper, the character models are more detailed, and the animations are way more fluid and filled with personality. All in all, this is a much more refined visual experience than the first game, and it’s all the more apparent when you compare the two.
The music and sound design was perhaps the strongest aspect of the original Splatoon‘s presentation. I’m glad to see that Splatoon 2 surpasses the original in this regard. The music in Splatoon 2 is wonderfully sugary, filled with alt-rock squid tunes as well as furious and anthemic electropop songs. The music was designed to fit the in-game universe, but it’s still so damn catchy and it’s worth listening to outside of that context as well. That’s all I’ll mention about the music, but I could write a whole piece about how fantastic this game’s music is.
Aside from this, the gameplay also received a few tweaks here and there. Special abilities are much, much more balanced, there are new weapon types, and some old weapon types have changed. All of the game modes that were introduced throughout the life of the first Splatoon return here. One of the biggest problems with the original Splatoon was the lack of content at launch. If you remember, that game only launched with the Turf War mode, which is fun, but can’t support the game on its own. Splatoon 2 has Turf War, as well as the Rainmaker, Tower Control and Splat Zones competitive modes. It also has 8 maps right out of the gate, compared to 5 in the original game.
In addition to this, there is the introduction of a brand new mode, Salmon Run. Salmon Run is the game’s co-op mode, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Basically, you have to survive multiple waves of enemies while collecting salmon eggs in the process. While it sadly restricts your gear and weapon choices, I love the varied boss mechanics and the chaotic difficulty it can provide. Sadly, this mode is inexplicably restricted to specific time slots, which can be as annoying as it sounds on paper. Thankfully, the openings are numerous enough where you can play Salmon Run pretty often, but why even have such a stupid restriction in the first place?
Baby Ink Me One More Time
There is, of course, a single-player mode. While it isn’t the focus of the experience, it’s also not something you should pass up either. The original Splatoon had an exceptionally good campaign, filled with superb platforming challenges that invoked the creativity of Super Mario Galaxy. Splatoon 2 ups the ante even more. It departs from the original in that it features levels that cater to all of the weapons in the game, such as the Roller, Charger, Splatling and new Duelies weapons. On top of that, you can replay all the levels with all the weapons, and they will adjust to accommodate the difference, which is very nice in contrast to the original, where all the levels were designed with the basic Hero Shot.
The stars of the show are the boss fights, which are wonderful and are the most Mario-esque thing here. They are visually spectacular, and although the final boss is kind of a letdown, all in all, I thought they carried the torch of the original game very well. Through all of this, you’re getting treated to the funny pun-filled dialogue of Marie, who is fighting the Octarians while searching for her missing Squid Sister, Callie.
In the end though, one thing kind of bugged me. Even with all of these improvements, Splatoon 2 as a sequel is incremental in nature. Returning players will really get a sense of deja vu with this game, for better or for worse. Splatoon 2 is not the sea change of improvement that some (myself included) were hoping for, and a lot of the annoyances that were present in the original game are here in full force.
Squids are Online-Challenged
There is certain functionality that a lot of us take for granted in multiplayer games. Be it the ability to group up with your friends, the ability to meet new people and the ability to communicate, these are things that are just expected at this point. How is it that Nintendo can screw it up this badly in 2017? In Splatoon 2, it’s the small things that are a problem, and it’s sad because it’s not like any of these are new issues.
First and foremost, matchmaking is messy business in Splatoon 2. As a solo player, yeah, you can simply queue up on your own and it works fine. Like in the first game, you inexplicably can’t switch weapons in between matches, and you have to exit the group entirely in order to do so. This kind of limits the amount of strategy in the game. For example, if you notice that your group is kind of heavy on players with rollers, you can’t switch to balance things out. That’s fine in the more causal Turf War mode, but in the competitive modes? It kinda hurts.
I’m sure you’ve already read about all of the messiness involved with Nintendo’s Switch smartphone application, and I’m not going to dock the game itself for that (Directly, at least). However, it’s ridiculous that you can only use voice chat for private matches, and again, the game shoots itself in the foot severely by limiting the viability of a serious competitive scene. So you want to strategize on the fly with your team mates? Think again.
It’s not the end of the world though–and if it sounds nitpicky, it’s because it it’s a little annoying that they haven’t fixed these things the second time around. That said, players will find a way. The newly introduced League Battle mode adds a step above Ranked for the competitive mode, where you can queue in groups of 2 or 4. This, along with another voice chat application such as Discord or Skype, could allow for awesome gameplay experiences. In my time so far, I have played a ton of Ranked multiplayer, enough to reach the minimum B- rating to use the League Battle mode, but unfortunately none of my friends have gotten there, so I haven’t tried it yet.
Reunited and It Splats So Good
There’s just something enchanting about Splatoon. The way you level up and unlock new clothes and weapons has a very Animal Crossing vibe. It was awesome in the first game, and it is even better here thanks to one of the positive aspects of Nintendo’s smartphone app: SplatNet 2. I do a little bit of shopping on my smartphone, and I loved checking the app here and there to see if there were any new deals on its exclusive item shop.
But even beyond that addictive item collection aspect, the gameplay itself is just addictive. The unique multiplayer modes kept me coming back time and time again this past week. Putting it in the simplest way possible, Splatoon 2 is like the first game, but better in many ways. It’s just sad that it didn’t improve its online infrastructure as much as it could have, but that’s easy to forgive when it does so much other stuff right.
- The game looks sharp and beautiful at 1080p, and runs mostly at a stable 60ps. Its visual style is much more realized now than it ever was on the Wii U.
- The music. Oh my kraken, it’s SO damn good.
- The expanded single-player mode is a clear improvement on the first game, delivering more fun levels and bosses.
- All of the modes from the original Splatoon return, along with 8 awesome new maps.
- Salmon Run is a fantastic new addition, proving the potential for Splatoon as a co-op experience.
- That multiplayer is still a hell of a lot of fun.
- The item collection aspect is fun and addictive.
- Little stupid things about the online mode, such as the fact you can’t switch weapons mid-match, the way you can only play 2 maps at once every 2 hours, or the ridiculous way matchmaking and voice chat is handled.
- You can only play Salmon Run on specific times.
- Possibly not different enough from the first Splatoon to appease all players, although I thought it was fine.