An Ink-redible Package:
In my review of the original Splatoon a few years back I called it a brilliant debut, and that I couldn’t wait to see more of the Inklings in the future. Luckily for me I didn’t have to, as “Splatoon 2” has launched to buoy the Switch’s ever growing library. Planned as another big multiplayer push to follow Arms, I’m pleased to say Splatoon 2 succeeds wholeheartedly, having the right stuff to pull new players onto its platform and diversify Nintendo’s broad portfolio even further.
Splatoon 2’s story was a big surprise for me. The first game’s story mode seemed like an afterthought to some, and Nintendo seems to have listened to that criticism. With a campaign that lasts longer than the first and big narrative hooks to keep it all tethered to the world of Splatoon, Hero Mode feels a lot fuller this time round.
It’s actually directly tied into the final Splatfest of Splatoon 1 – the grudge match that pitted BFFs Marie and Callie against one another. I fought in that war, friends, so it’s special to see the results (best girl Marie won, of course) directly impacting the storyline of Splatoon 2, and a really neat narrative trick that makes our online shenanigans feel like they actually mean something.
Callie has gone missing, along with the ever-important Zapfish, and Marie is deseprate to find her. She enlists our help and so begins another strange little journey. There’s even a prequel story on the official site that fills in the gaps between the first Splatoon and the second, documenting the fracturing of the Squid Sisters friendship after one found out they were quantifiably cooler than the other.
Gameplay & Multiplayer:
Splatoon 2 doesn’t mess with a good thing. Players who put a lot of time into the original Splatoon will feel right at home hopping back into Inkopolis, and they’ll even see enough friendly faces and familiar places in their opening hours to cause a little concern that Splatoon 2 might be resting on the laurels of its forebear. Thankfully these fears are unfounded – whilst the sequel certainly has plenty of vanilla content packaged in, it’s bursting with fresh stuff to see, do and unlock as well, making for a rather generous package all round.
The meat and bones of the game is undeniably the online multiplayer, with the classic Splatoon mode ‘Turf War’ seemingly front and center again. That’s no bad thing, as it’s a mode that shook up the definition of online shooters for the better. Instead of tasking you with murdering your opponents until an abitrary goal has been reached, you have to cover the stage in your crew’s colours. You do this by splatting the stage with ink from a variety of weapons, covering fresh ground or covering up the paint of your enemies. The team with the most ground covered at the end of the three minute timer wins. Any death count you might accrue in protecting your turf is a bonus, but ultimately doesn’t weigh in on whether or not you’ll be victorious.
Removing the importance of a killcount did wonders for how unique Splatoon 1 felt, and it’s still a great change of pace all these years later. That said, murdering your foes is still great fun – especially if you sink underground in squid form and quickly get the drop on them from behind. If you truly want to master the battlefield in this combatative way (rather than inking lonely places behind the scenes) you’ll have to learn how to use all the new toys. Splatoon 2 introduces new weapons to really mix up the online meta, including the zippy Dualies – a dream come true for someone like myself, who thinks akimbo wielding is still the height of John-Woo-inspired-class – and the curious but powerful umbrella weapon. It functions as a shotgun of sorts, and it feels brilliant to deflect enemy bullets with it before punching through their defenses.
There’s also a host of new maps, and of the ones I’ve played they all feel just as good as what’s come before. There’s plenty to learn here, tricks to figure out and shortcuts to master, but overall the stage design is where Splatoon 2 decidedly plays it safe, with few levels really defining themselves against what we already had. That’s not a bad thing, as these new maps are wicked fun to fight desperately for control over, but I’d love to see some more experimental stages in the future DLC – which, after the glorious post-launch campaign of the first game, is an inevitability, right?
I’m still not entirely sold on the rotation system, which swaps two maps into online play every day. Playing a bunch of games in a row can see you hitting the same locales over and over again, which helps you learn the ins-and-outs of any given stage but isn’t neccesarily the most fun way to interact with all the quality content Nintendo has produced here. I can see the benefits of such a system, but I’d love for casual play to cycle through all of the tracks whilst keeping ranked matches to this rotation system.
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