Developed by Nintendo EPD Published by Nintendo of America Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Splatoon for the Wii U was a huge gamble for Nintendo. It was not only a new IP, but it was also focused on online multiplayer, something Nintendo wasn’t too familiar with. Yet, it stood out as one of the most successful games of 2015, and that’s saying a lot seeing how poorly the Wii U itself did. Two years later, the sequel to that quirky online shooter is here and its more of the same thing…but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you played the original game, you will feel right at home in Splatoon 2. Everything from the interface, the lobbies, and the freshness meter feel very reminiscent. From the main hub you can walk (or use the menu) to get to the shops to grab some new gear or the online lobby to go splat people around the world. You can also enter the single player story mode and the new Salmon Run mode, a horde mode where you and three others need to steal power eggs from enemies. Unfortunately, Nintendo made it to so Salmon Run is only available at random times to play online. Why? Beats me and everybody else in the world, seeing how this is easily the biggest and greatest addition to the game.
In Salmon Mode you will enter an arena where you will fight waves of enemies. Your main goal is to find boss enemies, splat them, and take their precious power eggs. Every wave has a minimum number of eggs you must get to move onto to the next wave. Not getting enough eggs means failure. Evvery wave you are equipped with a randomized weapon, so strategy and cooperation is key in taking down the baddies. This can be played with up to 3 other players, online or local. This mode is a blast, especial playing with friends and communicating with each other. Oh, speaking of “communicating”…
Nintendo finally added voice chat! But you should stay clear from it. Voice chat in Splatoon 2 requires you to download the Nintendo Switch app on a smart device like a phone or tablet and then sync it to your Nintendo account. Communication is done through the app, not the Switch itsself. Worst of all, the chat sounds poor and is very limited, allowing you to only talk to friends and people in private parties. Honestly, just use Skype or Discord on your computer or phone for a far better chat experience. On the plus side, the Nintendo Switch app does have some cool features, including tracking your wins, losses, and overall battle stats. Best of all is the ability to buy exclusive clothing that provides style and abilities using your in game currency.
Normal online gaming in Splatoon 2 has you playing Turf War where two teams of four compete to ink the ground the most with their color. It’s very simple yet frantic, and you will blaze across the map filling in every corner you can while splatting the competition. This is the heart of Splatoon 2 and where you will spend most of you time. Once you level up a bit you will unlock more modes like Ranked which puts you up against more serious players in different modes. You will also unlock League mode which allows you to play in a party of two or four. Unfortunately, there are a couple issues with the online play of Splatoon 2. First off, once you join a group in the lobby you are stuck with whatever weapon and gear you have equipped. There is no way to change it before a match without exiting the group entirely and going back to the main lobby menu. Nintendo even added an amiibo functionality to save and restore weapon and gear load outs, yet this can only be used at certain times and not during a game group.
Another major issue is that once you join a group, you can’t leave it. You have to wait until you start a match and finish it. This is a problem if you have to leave the game for personal reasons or if no one is joining; sometimes you’re sitting there for minutes hoping a match will begin. The last major issue is the lack of a proper way to play with friends. You can meet up with three other friends in a friend lobby, but no less than that. If you want to play with a single friend or even two, you are out of luck. They can join you once a match has started and vice versa though. What is bad about the friend lobby is that you won’t necessarily be on the same team. You and your friends will be put into a random team with the other players. So you never know who is facing who. This is a really bad decision. Why you can just play on the same team? Online games have been doing this since the late 90’s, so there is no real reason why Splatoon 2 doesn’t offer this option at all. One other thing Nintendo decided to keep from the original game was how you can only play one of two stages randomly. Originally the two stages would rotate every four hours, but Nintendo shortened it to two hours for the sequel. Honestly it gets old playing the same stages over and over again. They should have added another stage into the rotation or even lowered it to an hour between rotations.
So what about the single player story mode? It’s pretty much the exact same as Splatoon on the Wii U. Not just in gameplay, but the story as well. There are minor tweaks here and there, but essentially the evil Octarians have stolen the Great Zap Fish once again and it’s your job to get it back. The story itself is goofy and nothing brilliant by any means, but it’s still a lot of fun. You will go through multiple levels where you must go from point A to point B while splatting enemies along the way. You’ll also find some hidden items, which provides written passages that help add more to the game’s goofy lore. After a few stages you will fight a boss which will unlock the next set of stages. The bosses are fun and creative, and are most definitely the best part of story mode. Playing through it will also unlock special weapons and gear that can be used online. It’s definitely worth playing through just for those unique items.
Graphically the game is fantastic. It’s simple yet stylish. The game runs at full 1080p docked and at 720p undocked. The game also runs at a constant 60 FPS when in a match. Walking around the city hub drops the framerate to 30 FPS, but this doesn’t affect gameplay at all. Particle effect, splashes, the colors all look amazing running on Nintendo’s little tablet; the Switch surprises me all the time with what it can really do. The music is top notch and upbeat. I can easily see myself busting these tunes in my car stereo on full blast with the windows down. All the tunes are catchy and you will be humming them all day long even if you haven’t played the game in days.
All in all, Splatoon 2 is a fantastic game. It beautiful, fun, and is constantly receiving new content. It’s not without its faults, however. Issues like not being able to switch gear before a match, no proper team play, and limited stage rotations hinder Splatoon 2 from being an amazing game. Though these are the kind of issues that can be fixed with an update, there is no telling if Nintendo will do anything of the sort. In the end the game is a lot of fun for both newcomers to the series and Splatoon vets as well.