When Nintendo first announced Splatoon 2 alongside the official release announcement of the Nintendo Switch, one of the most commonly asked questions was whether or not it look as though it was worth of having the number ‘two’ in the title. Was this going to be a full-fledged sequel, or was it going to feel more like an update to the original Wii U title. Fans awaited with bated breath to finally get a chance to play when it was announced that there was going to be the Global Testfire back at the end of March. The demo let Switch owners with new levels to try and the ability to check out the new dual-wielding weapons called the Splat Dualies, and every Nintendo Direct that followed left fans eagerly waiting for a release date announcement. Splatoon 2 was finally released on July 21, 2017 is it the release that fans were clamoring for?
For those who played the original Splatoon, loading up the game will immediately be familiar. You’re treated to an introduction from the game’s hosts Pearl and Marina (who replace the original’s Callie and Marie) who give you the run down on what new weapons and clothing are available, what levels are currently in rotation, and when it’s your first time loading up the game will give you a bit of a set-up for the single player campaign. You then transition to the hub-world where you can customize your Inkling and choose what game mode you want to play.
The meat and potatoes of Splatoon 2 is the online multiplayer. So if you don’t plan on playing online, you might just want to stop reading and move onto something else. Unlike the original which launched with only four levels, there six new levels as well as two reworked versions of Port Mackerel and Moray Towers from the original. Nintendo have promised that there will be more levels coming, which isn’t much of a surprise since the original received a lot of post-release content.
The base multiplayer portion of the game is Turf War. In this mode, the goal is simple. Whichever team has covered most of the map in their team’s color by the end of the three minute match wins. Although there are ranked matches that provide additional modes such the king-of-the-hill themed “Spat Zones” or my personal favorite “Tower Control” which is a fun play on the tower defense genre. The rankings in these modes are letter grades instead of the standard numbered levels that you get as you play through Turf War. You’re numbered level will never go down, only up, but your letter ranking can drop if you lose too many matches. One aspect of the leveling system that has changed is you now have a letter grade assigned to each individual ranked game mode. So if you’re really good at one mode, but not at the other, you don’t have to worry about that impacting your rank. There’s even a league mode for those that are able to obtain a high enough letter ranking to really compete in the big leagues.
One of the biggest gripes most players had with the original Splatoon was the online map selection process. How it worked was that of all the levels that were released in the game, two levels would be available for four hours and then they would rotate out and be replaced by two other levels. This made sense in the beginning when there were only four levels available, but as the number of released maps got larger it got frustrating to not be able to have a wide variety of levels to choose from. Splatoon 2 attempts to fix this issue, but with mixed results.
While it would have been preferred to get rid of the rotation all together, that unfortunately is not what has happened. Instead what Nintendo have done is change the time of each rotation to two-hours, and you can check to see what levels are coming up for following rotations in-game and through the Nintendo Switch Online App. It’s nice being able to look up ahead of time what levels will be available and that the time frame is shorter, in case you end up with levels that you don’t really like, but it’s still baffling why they don’t implement a level selection similar to Mario Kart 8 or any other online shooter, where players can vote which level they want to play.
The lack of serious updates to the online gameplay is where Splatoon 2 really starts to fall short. Other issues that would’ve been easy fixes carry over from the original. You’re not able to change your weapon load-out in the lobby, so you have to completely drop out of the game if you want to try out a different weapon. The new maps themselves are also seriously lacking in variety. Nearly half of the new maps have a design similar to the original’s Urchin Underpass.
While Underpass was one of the standout maps from the original, the fact that so many of the new maps follow this format of the two spawn points being connected by an underpass of sorts where you can fight above and below makes the levels feel redundant. This redundancy makes the shorter timeframe of the levels rotations almost pointless because it’s not necessarily going to feel like you’re playing a new level.
That being said there are some new and exciting maps. Muscleforge Fitness is one of the standouts. There was also a new level released during the most recent Splatfest called Shifty Station. This is one of the best levels in the game, as the level itself is constantly moving and requires a bit more thought than any of the other levels available in the game. While it’ll be nice to have it to look forward to during Splatfests, having it available all the time would give the map selection a healthy dose of the variety it desperately needs.
There’s also a new horde mode called Salmon Run. The issue with this mode being that it’s only available at specific times and there’s no couch multiplayer option, which is really disappointing. These types of modes are built around communication and not having the option to play it split screen is again baffling, especially since the original game did have a split screen multiplayer mode.
Trailers and announcements about the game prior to its release hinted that the single player campaign was going to be a lot heartier than that of the original. In the original game, the story was an afterthought and the levels worked more as ways to prepare the player for going online, and learning the ins and outs of the controls. In the single player you had hub worlds where you had to discover the levels similar to Super Mario 64. While the game tries to include more of a story this time, it falls flat. The single player stages are just more of the same as they were in the first game and since you can play them out of order, the story isn’t any stronger either.
I don’t want to get too down on the game as it is a perfectly serviceable title. It’s a solid well-made game, and anyone who didn’t get a chance to play the original will surely fall in love with Splatoon 2 as I did the original. The game is oozing with that classic Nintendo charm. It just doesn’t feel worthy of the number 2. There’s great moments to be had, but those who spent hundreds of hours with the original, will be left scratching their heads wondering why Nintendo didn’t follow up their most innovative title since the GameCube with something a little more special.