This weekend those of us outside of the gaming industry got our first taste of Splatoon 2. For hour increments from March 24th through the 27th Nintendo Switch owners had the opportunity to take part in the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire. The demo allowed players to ink it out in Turf War on two new maps while choosing one of four predetermined weapon load outs.
To bring newcomers up to speed Splatoon was a new IP for Nintendo introduced in 2015 for the Wii U. The Big N’s first take on the online shooter genre pitted teams of four against each other to see who could cover the level with the most ink. It was a giant game of paintball with a twist. You played as a squid who could swim around in your team’s ink to refill your ammo as well as quickly traverse the level.
At this time, the Nintendo Switch is sorely lacking in multiplayer games, especially ones that can be played online. The Global Testfire could not have come at a better time. With Nintendo announcing that online gaming through the Nintendo Network will start coming with a monthly fee in the fall, Splatoon 2’s success will be crucial to the service’s long term success.
So how is Splatoon 2? It’s a lot of fun. While it will be hard for the game to match the innovations of the original they have done a wonderful job adding to the foundation of the first game. It’s still very much the Splatoon that you know and love, but with slight tweaks that make for a more enjoyable experience.
One of the most notable changes is the level layouts. The two levels that were available to play during the Testfire The Reef and Barnacle Sports Club are much more open than the multiplayer maps from the original title. This allows the end game score to be much higher due to there being more space to cover. This also means that you don’t have to worry about the other Splat Roller on your team going down the same narrow corridor you were planning on covering as often.
It’s not just that the levels are bigger, but there is also less debris on the ground. There aren’t as many low walls scattered about to maneuver over and those giant bean bag/airbag items aren’t as common as they were previously. The level design of the two playable maps are similar to classics from the original game: Urchin Underpass and Blackbelly Skatepark. While neither of these levels have anything special about their design (there’s no floating platforms or water levels that change half way through), they are well designed for players to get the hang of game.
There were a total of four weapon load outs available: the standard gun, the roller, a sniper rifle, and the newest attraction the Splat Dualies. Remember how life changing it was when Halo 2 introduced dual wielding weapons? This is Splatoon’s attempt at reviving that excitement. While the standard dualies that the demo offered wasn’t enough to pull me away from using the roller pretty much full time, I was intrigued by it and am excited to play around with some of the other forms of the weapon when the full game is released.
Nintendo also announced that the special abilities in the game are going to be brand new, and not a rehash of the abilities from the original. The four abilities that were on display here did a great job at teasing what is still to come. While I’m sad to see the Kraken go, my excitement for seeing what Nintendo has in store is at an all time high.
Graphically, Splatoon 2 looks nice. It’s more refined than the original, but doesn’t look a whole lot different. There were some different color schemes for the matches that I appreciated and they are just as visually appealing as the ones that return from the original. Unless there’s going to be a graphical upgrade before the game launches, it’s going to look good but it won’t knock your socks off.
The music was such an integral part of the original Splatoon, and with Splatoon 2 the music is just as important. There are brand new tracks as well as remixes of tracks from the original. The match loading screen replaces the Squid Jump game (which I hope makes it’s way back in some way) with the ability to alter or remix the music by pushing the analog stick in specific directions, or by pressing specific buttons. It’s silly, but fun.
If you’ve played a decent amount of Splatoon, there isn’t going to be much that Splatoon 2 does to surprise you on the gameplay front. It is very nice to be able to play it with the Pro Controller, perhaps my biggest qualm with the original. Even those that preferred using the gyroscope controls to replace looking around with the right analog stick will still be able to use the gyroscope while holding the more comfortable Pro Controller.
The gameplay is incredibly fluid. The only hiccup that I ran into was now that the Wii U Gamepad isn’t available to display the game’s map it has been assigned the X button. This is the button that was previously used as the jump button previously, so there were many times I found myself accidentally pulling up the map when I wanted to jump. It was frustrating at first, but I adjusted faster than I expected to.
The Splatoon 2 Global Testfire was a great treat for Switch owners who are anxiously anticipating the release of Splatoon 2. While I wish the matches had been available for longer than an hour at a time, or more frequently, I was left wanting more in the best way.