Even though you’re growing up, you should never stop having fun.
“The following is a guest post by the Valiant Vision Mage.”
The Splatoon series has been very popular among Nintendo fans. Despite premiering on a console that didn’t do so well (the Wii U), the first Splatoon took the console’s fanbase (as well as others who didn’t have the console yet) by “Ink Storm”. For instance, when the game first released, I saw that online players were saying through Miiverse that they got a Wii U just to play the new game. Another example was that less than a month after launch, people were creating modifications to other games to make them play more like Splatoon did. What makes this franchise so different from any other though? I would say a few things: Ink-based combat, Squid Kids that can shoot ink and swim through their own color of it (even up walls), and unique platforming and player-versus-player mechanics.
The name comes from a merging of the words “splat” (because of the ink-based combat), and “platoon” (because it has team-based multiplayer combat). Every Squid Kid (also known as an “Inkling”) has the ability to switch between kid and squid forms at any time, although the squid form has little resistance to enemy ink. Inkling kids can shoot, paint, and slosh ink (just to name a few actions) at their opponents, or more importantly, the floor and occasionally walls. Inkling squids, on the other hand, can swim through ink of their own color at high speeds, even enough to go up walls. These attributes can make for great mechanics to go with the action.
The series was ready for another “inkredible Splattack” when the Nintendo Switch hit its first Summer. Shortly after being revealed, there where many people who thought this might be a port of the original Splatoon. This happened despite some announcements during the Nintendo Switch presentation which included a few major changes and a “2” in the title. The talk of it potentially being a port mostly stopped after the Splatoon 2 Direct revealed even more changes, some major and some minor.
When Splatoon 2 finally released on July 21, 2017, the reaction seemed mostly positive among its players, but still a bit mixed as to whether it was different enough from the original. Gamers outside of the series’ fanbase who saw footage of both games felt the way people often seem to feel about other shooter-based series they haven’t played. That feeling is the “It’s barely a sequel, like with every multiplayer shooter”-type feeling. But with the scope of the game that I have, my experience with the original, and several updates to Splatoon 2, including two major updates (bringing the version to 3.2.0 at the time of writing), I can tell any new fans that none of that matters and tell old fans that it’s more than worth buying the more revised sequel.
And this bit of information (even if from a few weeks ago) seems to say that Splatoon 2 has done extremely well:
Whether you’re in it for a unique style of platformer with the story mode, unique player vs. player experience with Turf War or another game mode, or player vs. environment with Salmon Run, you’re in for something amazing. I’d even compare the experience to a gallon of ice cream of a flavor you haven’t tried before, assuming you never played Splatoon on Wii U, because it’s a real treat assuming you’re willing to try something different.
Let’s dive into the ink of…
The 8-bit Review
The only visual flaw that I see in the graphics of Splatoon 2 is one that exists in every game with 3D graphics of which I’m aware. That would be models of moving objects sometimes going through each other (such as a player walking right next to another player) or a non-moving element of the game. With it being said that no game is perfect in every aspect of graphics because nothing is in reality objectively perfect, I have to give this game a subjectively perfect score for its quality and uniqueness.
I had heard sometime during the development of Splatoon 2 that the team was focusing more on performance and having a smooth 60 frames-per-second than on graphical quality of said frames. That said, when I look at the game (at least when docked), it’s of 1080p resolution with 60 frames-per-second as far as I can tell. Could they have made the models and textures have slightly higher quality? I really can’t tell, and it probably won’t matter unless these same assets are eventually used in a game on a 4k-resolution system. The visual quality is just amazing!
In addition to quality of the technical side, the visuals also have a lot of personality and color. When was the last time you saw a skatepark of Squid-Kids wearing so many different styles of outfits that were shooting the walls, floors, and each other with vibrantly colored ink while making a game out of it? Outside of the Splatoon franchise, I’ve never seen anything close to this, and I love it! The Inklings, gear, weapons, stages, and even the enemies in certain modes all have so much personality in their designs. I cannot praise this game enough for its visuals.
The soundtrack of Splatoon 2 is one of few that I could ever say made me feel like a kid again. The music of Splatoon 2 is…different for the most part. Sometimes it has lyrics, but not of any actual language. With the exception of a few specific voice clips, most of the music and spoken sound-effects are in a language named after the species (“Inkling”). If you’re in for something different and wacky, the sounds and music of this game might just be for you.
Here’s “Don’t Slip” as an example of such music from multiplayer:
And that was my favorite of the multiplayer battle themes, that is, until update 2.0.0 brought “Seafoam Shanty”:
Even then, one of the two themes that came with update 3.0.0 managed to be my new favorite. This is “Wave Prism”:
If you’re looking for something a bit more worthy of dancing to, you can participate in a Splatfest and possibly listen to “Ebb & Flow”:
Those are many examples of the multiplayer action, but what about the singleplayer? All except the final boss music is without lyrics, and I won’t spoil that final amazing theme for you. That said, here is a different example of music from the single-player campaign called “Octo Eight Step”:
In my opinion, there’s nothing “bad” about any of the audio. Could some of it be better? I’d certainly say that about the single-player campaign and Salmon Run. Overall though, the music here is great, and the various Inkling and combat-related sound effects compliment the rest of the audio nicely.
Splatoon 2 has a primary focus on team-based multiplayer with five different modes and four ways to play them (outside of Private Battles). Along with player-versus-player, there are also the player-versus-environment and single-player modes. The core gameplay is mostly the same within all modes, but the rules and goal vary depending on which one the player is in.
For the core gameplay, you have a set of weapons (including main, sub, and special weapons) in order to cover turf and defeat your enemies. When you ink enough turf using your main and sub-weapons in multiplayer, your special weapon will be charged and can be used. In single-player, you will find tuna can-like objects that give you these special abilities.
If you ink turf that the opponent has already inked, it will then be claimed by you. You can also swim through your team’s ink at high speeds, but trying to swim through your opponent’s ink will revert your transformation. If you get hit with enough ink, you will explode in the opponent’s color of ink before you respawn in multiplayer, lose a life in single-player, or need someone to revive you in Salmon Run, so watch out!
When beginning the game, you start with only the single-player and Turf War (unranked multiplayer) modes unlocked. You aren’t even, as the game puts it, “fresh” enough to access the shops or Salmon Run (player-versus-environment) until you reach level 4 in multiplayer Once you reach level 10, you also unlock Ranked Battle. If you want to unlock everything in the shops, as well as every mode, you need to reach level 30 and get to rank “B-” or higher in any ranked mode. All shops will consider you fresh enough to buy any gear and skilled enough to buy any weapon at level 30. For ranking up to “B-“, you will unlock League Battle.
But wait, what does all of this mean?
The single-player is a 3D-platformer combined with a third-person shooter. It has some story, but it’s not intended to be at the quality of the greatest story-rich games. Your main objective, after meeting one of the “Squid Sisters”, Marie, is to figure out what happened to the other Squid Sister, Callie. The weapons shop owner, Sheldon, will help you along the way by supplying you with different weapons.
The single-player in the game makes for a great platformer, and the core gameplay is phenomenal and unique. In the multiplayer, every Inkling has three pieces of gear. Each piece of gear has space for one Primary and three Secondary Abilities. Each piece of gear has a Primary Ability by default, and Secondary Abilities are usually earned through level-ups. Abilities are always helpful in one way or another, but may also have a drawback, depending on the ability. Ability options may include effects such as reducing ink consumption or making you go faster.
With that explained, multiplayer modes in this game have their own section…
While the single-player campaign of Splatoon 2 is good, the focus is on multiplayer battles. These modes include Turf War, Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz. if you’d rather play without competing against real players, Salmon Run is also an option.
Now let’s dive into these descriptions of game modes!
In Turf War, your primary objective is to claim turf (area of the ground) by shooting ink at it and aim to have more turf claimed than your opponent after three minutes. At the end of three minutes, the team with the most turf covered wins.
If a Splatfest happens, you will need to pick a side to fight for (cats vs. dogs, ice cream vs. cake, etc.). In addition, the only player-versus-player mode available is Turf War, but you are able to assemble a team with friends in order to gain (or lose) the advantage for your side. Splatfests take place during the night in-game and have music more focused on parties. At the end of each Splatfest that you at least pick a side in, you will be given Super Sea Snails, which can be given to a character named Murch in order to help you get gear with the abilities you want.
In Ranked and League Battles, the way you play the game (even using the same stages) is different. There are four game modes within Ranked and League Battles, but let’s first focus on the difference between Ranked and League formats. They each have different modes and sets of stages during each two-hour rotation. In Ranked you have four separate ranks for each mode, while in League your rank is recorded but still reset after the two-hour rotation ends. Your goal in Ranked battles is to reach higher and higher ranks, while your teammates are constantly switching between battles. In League battles, you have two pairs or a set of 3-4 players in a set team, and your goal is to win as many matches as possible during the two-hour rotation. These types of battles can be difficult, but usually prove to be fun!
The modes you play in Ranked and League battles include Splat Zones, Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Clam Blitz. These modes take up to five minutes and potentially overtime if a team is close to making a comeback. In all of these modes, each team has 100 points to score to knockout the other team, but points are earned differently in each mode.
Splat Zones can be compared to the common “King of the Hill” mode in many other games, the difference being that the zones are captured by inking them instead of simply being there. Points are earned by keeping the zone(s) captured.
In Tower Control, you ride a tower from the center of a map to the opponent’s side of the stage, and points are earned for how far you reach.
Similarly, in Rainmaker, your team works to bring the Rainmaker superweapon to the opponent’s side, where points are earned by getting closer to the opponent’s side.
Clam Blitz is probably the most different mode (for the multiplayer shooter genre) in Splatoon 2. In this case, clams are spread across the stage, and each team has a shielded Clam Basket. Points are earned by throwing clams into the basket, but the shield can only be broken by merging 10 clams into a power clam.
These are some really fun modes, but level 10 must be reached before you can participate in Ranked, and rank “B-” must be reached in any mode before playing League battles.
In Salmon Run, you and three other players fight Salmonid to harvest their Power Eggs in order to receive rewards from…a bear? Let’s not worry too much about that. For three waves, you have a few goals: you must keep at least one teammate alive, revive teammates when needed, meet the Power Egg goal, and watch the time limit! Rewards include in-game cash, gear, something called an “Ability Chunk” (these are not explained in this review – they can be complicated), and tickets to be used with Crusty Sean in Inkopolis Square. His food and drinks can boost your experience gain, cash gain, and likelihood of gaining certain secondary abilities on your gear. As you do well in Salmon Run, you can get a raise or paycut depending on how well you and your team do.
Splatoon 2 has a lot of multiplayer content. Hopefully, any newcomers can find something, whether with friends or random matchups, that they enjoy!
The range of difficulty in Splatoon 2‘s multiplayer is very large. It can be anywhere from average difficulty to near-impossible difficulty while just playing online. On the other hand, Splatoon 2‘s single-player campaign is relatively easy compared to its multiplayer. Salmon Run would be somewhere in between. My conclusion with how the difficulty is formed includes the following:
- Single-player enemies have artificial intelligence (AI).
- Salmon Run enemies are similar, but the amount and types of enemies that you face adapt to how well you’ve previously done.
- Multiplayer uses no AI-controlled opponents. It instead uses your opponents’ actions and reactions toward whatever the battle brings.
I tend to think that, in general, player actions can be smarter than AI. This isn’t always the case, and enemies can be made to be stronger than the player’s character, but this is my general conclusion on how difficulty is formed.
Ranked Battle would have to be the most difficult part of Splatoon 2, as the climbing of ranks usually has to be earned. Climbing from rank “C-” to “A+”, then through the “S” ranks and eventually rank “X”, would be almost unachievable as a whole. Being rank “X” really proves how good you are at the game, but even getting to a letter above “C” is something to be proud of in my opinion. You are getting better in such a case.
While playing Splatoon 2, you should be able to find something that is easy or difficult enough to appeal to you. An issue, however, may be which way you would preferably play.
Being a game focused on multiplayer (whether that be online, through wireless play, or on a LAN setup), Splatoon 2 thrives on replayability in its multiplayer form. An aspect that helps this is that until at least December 2018, we should continue to receive free content updates.
I do feel that the game somewhat lacks replayability in its single-player campaign, however. One way to somewhat get around this is to use a different weapon than originally used on a level to beat it again. If you manage to beat every level with the same weapon, there will also be something special for you when you return to multiplayer.
When I think about multiplayer, especially Ranked Battle, the experience rarely feels exactly the same twice. It may happen here or there, but the occasion is so rare it may as well not be there. I’m sure even I’d be surprised if I found out how long attendees of LAN tournaments play, as I’ve played over 170 hours and am not even a third of most of their in-game levels.
The only reason I’m not giving Splatoon 2 a 10 out of 10 in terms of uniqueness is that Splatoon did it first, even if I think Splatoon 2 did most things better.
That said, I’ve never found a game with quite as much personality and uniqueness as Splatoon 2. To play Devil’s Advocate, it is yet another team-based third-person shooter. Even with this quality though, it doesn’t quite play like any other game I’ve experienced (aside from Splatoon). The characters, stages, lore, and even weapons have quite a lot of character and occasionally jokes as well. You just need to have an open mind going in.
If you choose to play, experience all that you can. Savor the experience when you first start and with every content update and Splatfest. Have fun!
My Personal Grade: 9/10
Splatoon and Splatoon 2 are two of the most quirky and most fun games I’ve ever played. Splatoon did really well for being on the Wii U, and likely would have done even better if it had been on the Nintendo Switch…
Wait a minute, we now have a sequel on the Nintendo Switch! Splatoon 2 is exactly the kind of thing I didn’t know I wanted until I saw it in the First Look at Nintendo Switch!
My only personal issues with Splatoon 2 are that I found the arena for the final boss of this game too standard (compared to the one in Splatoon), and that the single-player mostly felt like more of the same with some added gimmicks and new level designs. While I won’t let this factor into the score of my review, the “Octo Expansion” fixes all of my personal issues with Splatoon 2 versus Splatoon.
I hope the quirky excitement can be spread to any of you who decide to get the game.
Aggregated Score: 8.9
The Valiant Vision Mage wants to be part of changing the future of gaming journalism. He enjoys more than anything the positive interactions with fellow gamers, and hopes to gain more interaction through blogging about his experiences with games. He puts the experience of a game higher than how it looks or sounds. So when it comes to talking about good experiences in gaming, you may run into the Valiant Vision Mage. Read more at lodestarvalor.wordpress.com.
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Categories: Game Review