Last year, before we knew what the Nintendo Switch actually was, there were several leaked games. One of these, was a port of Splatoon, which made a lot of sense. Splatoon was a fantastic game that gained a strong following, but suffered from being on the Wii U, a console very few people owned. While Wii U ports are happening, such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I was very surprised to learn that we were instead receiving a proper sequel to Splatoon.
Splatoon 2 takes a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. Pretty much everything functions the same way it did in the first game. You still have a hub area where you can visit shops and look at drawings that other players have made. There’s still a manhole that leads to the single player campaign. There’s even still two pop stars who will announce the current maps and make little quips. On paper, Splatoon 2 almost is a port of Splatoon 1.
While you’ll spend the majority of your time playing the game’s multiplayer mode, the single player is still absolutely worth playing. Much like the first one, you enter small hub worlds where you have to hunt down entrances to the actual levels. The levels themselves are very linear, but make good use of Splatoon’s unique gameplay. For the unfamiliar, Splatoon is a third-person shooter, but instead of shooting bullets, you shoot ink which your character, called an inkling, can swim through. Inking the side of a tall wall lets you swim to the top, for example. This leads to level design that’s quite a bit different from your typical shooter.
I really enjoyed the single player mode in the first game, but it only allowed you to use a splattershot, which is the Splatoon equivalent of an assault rifle, unless you had Amiibos to unlock a couple different weapons. In Splatoon 2, the levels are designed with certain weapons in mind, and the first time through, you will have to use those weapons. This results in the player learning how to use all the weapon types in the game. Because of that, I think Splatoon 2’s single player mode is essential. It helps that it’s a lot of fun too.
But as I said before, you’re going to be spending the majority of your time in multiplayer. The most basic mode, which is also my favorite, is called Turf War. Here, two teams compete to cover a map with as much ink as possible. It’s pretty cool, because although you’re still encouraged to kill (or “splat”) your opponents, that’s not actually what you’re scored on in the end.
I’m much less fond of the ranked modes, which are a little more complicated than Turf War. I’ll admit that part of my dislike of it comes from of the modes, Splat Zones, which was the only mode offered at the start of the original game’s life. In Splat Zones, instead of trying to cover the entire map in your ink, there’s a specific marked part of the map that you must cover and hold for a certain amount of time. In my experience, this mode is either completly one-sided or a stalemate. Either way, I don’t find it very fun.
The other two ranked modes, Rainmaker and Tower Control, fair a little bit better. In Rainmaker, there’s a special weapon, called the Rainmaker, which spawns in the middle of the map. It’s your team’s job to get it and bring to the goal. The weapon itself is very powerful, but it’s hard to hold on to since the entire other team will be gunning for whoever is holding it. Tower Control tasks you with climbing and inking a tower. When the tower is covered in your ink, your team has control, and it begins to move toward the enemy’s spawn point. If you can get it all the way over, you win.
Every once in a while, there’s a scheduled event called a “Splatfest”. In a Splatfest, you’re asked to choose between two different sides, like mayo vs ketchup. During the event, all fights will be divided up between the two teams, and a winner is chosen at the end based on how many wins they got plus how many people chose which side. It’s a pretty neat thing, but ultimately, it’s just more Turf War.
The only truly new mode in the sequel is Salmon Run. Simply put, this is Splatoon’s take on Gears of War’s popular Horde Mode. In this mode, you and a team of four must take out waves of enemy Salmonids, which are some kind of mutant fish. Along with basic enemies, you’ll fight bosses which drop golden salmon eggs. You must collect a certain amount of eggs within the time limit to move on to the next wave. After three waves, you win. While horde modes are nothing new, Splatoon’s take on them is fast and fun and I always enjoyed jumping in. Unfortunately, it’s only available on a set schedule. Honestly, this didn’t bother me too much, but if it’s specifically the thing you want to do, having it not available can be pretty frustrating.
As you win fights in whatever modes, you earn money, which you can spend in the various shops in Inkopolis, the hub world. The most obvious thing to buy is new weapons, but you can also buy new pieces of clothing. Each shirt, hat, and pair of shoes come with special abilities, one that’s already unlocked and up to four more that you earn with experience points. These can be things like spending less ink when you shoot or being able to be completely invisible while submerged in your own ink. There’s even a new NPC in Inkopolis who will let you customize your clothing with whatever abilities you’ve earned from your other clothes. It grants you a lot of freedom in making sure you can play the way you want to play.
While I’ve been very happy with the game, there are certainly some glaring flaws, especially if you plan to play the game with friends. In the original game, the only way to play with friends was to select the “friends” option in the multiplayer menu and join the same lobby. This let you play with your friends, but didn’t guarantee you’d be on the same team. This is still possible in Splatoon 2, and it’s the way I’ve played with friends primarily. However, if you want to actually form a team and try to be competitive, you have to use Nintendo’s pretty shoddy mobile app. This is also the only official way to use voice chat. I don’t really want to get into just how bad the app is here, since that’s kind of a separate issue than the game itself, but it’s really a shame that this kind of thing can’t just be handled on the console itself.
While not perfect, Splatoon 2 is an excellent addition to the Switch’s early library. It brings the fun and unique gameplay experience that many people missed in the first game to a new audience, while offering new maps, a new campaign, and Salmon Run for loyal fans. While I hope a third game can try to differentiate itself a little more, Splatoon 2 is almost exactly what I wanted it to be.