Splatoon 2 doesn’t feel like much of a sequel. It honestly feels like an expansion pack or big update, something akin to the amount of content Overwatch has received since the year that has passed since its launch. However, the majority of its merits (and some of its issues) do come from the fact that it’s on the Nintendo Switch. So is Splatoon 2 as fresh as a new catch straight from the ocean? Quite likely, but it does seem a bit fishy.
So for those uninitiated in Nintendo’s kid/squid focused franchise, the main conceit of the games are that they are third-person shooters, but with less of a focus on eliminating each other and instead on various non-violent objectives through the usage of ink-guns. The main mode of this less threatening shooter is Turf Wars, a game type where you try and cover as much of the map in your own team’s ink. However, what’s most genius about this is that you can turn into a squid and swim faster in your own ink; but equally you slow down and get damaged by your enemy’s ink. This in turn leads to a nice back and forth where you shoot your ink as far and wide as possible to gain traction whilst holding back the tide of the opposing team’s own colourful ink.
So basically the core gameplay is exactly the same as the prior entry in the franchise. It doesn’t feel as refreshing as experiencing it two years ago when it burst onto the Wii U; it just feels like an iteration on a pre-existing good idea. In fact stages from the previous game appear up in the rotation of maps (and the issues that come with the game’s bizarre choice to rotate which maps can be played at a time) furthers this feeling of the game being a glorified content update.
But I don’t feel particularly as scorned or negative about it as that sounds. What new they do bring to the franchise is indeed relegated to outside of the main multiplayer mode, but is still just the right amount of innovation for the game to be worthwhile. For instance, the single-player mode is just as-fantastic, if not more-so than its older sibling with its creative platformer-esque implementation of the core concept of being able to shoot ink and swim in and up it. It was also quite nice how it continued in a small way the story of the first game with a in all honestly emotionally stirring final boss, at least for someone like me who loves the franchise and its characters. Add to that the genuine evolution of the game’s aesthetics to fit new trends in the real world, and the game does feel fresh enough overall to warrant a sequel in my mind (Though I do wish the two new Squid Idols had a larger role in the game to really set it apart from its predecessor).
The big new thing with the game however is the horde mode called Salmon Run. There you go up against mobs of creatures called Salmonids, defeating various bosses and retrieving golden eggs to clear each wave. It may seem like quite a pedestrian mode considering its one that has been around in many other shooters for years, but the uniqueness of Splatoon 2’s core gameplay combined with it and extremely unique bosses lead to an addictive and compelling mode. It’s just a shame that the mode is only available at specific and erratic times with the rewards being limited and difficult to find due to a lack of any indication of where to gather them from the game.
By far my favourite part of this sequel has to be the simple fact that it’s on the Switch. The fact that I could easily take this fully fledged console game that I genuinely love anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection and play it is just inherently such an impressive and appealing thing for me. But the fact that it’s on the Switch does come with some, not necessarily issues, but road bumps namely getting used to a new control scheme and not using the Wii U gamepad as the controller. But this honestly just happens because I played the last game and would not be an issue at all to newcomers to the franchise. However, there is an issue with the game being on the Switch: playing it in handheld mode. I understand that this isn’t the suggested mode in which the game has been advertised to play in, yet it still is a flawed way to play it. It’s very difficult to play the game when you are moving the screen itself to aim your shots. Again thankfully it’s not the only way to play it, but be warned it’s very difficult to play it on the go without setting the console on a flat surface and playing with a controller.
As for the mobile app, well I am of two minds of it. On the one hand the fact that I have to have my phone on and with a large mess of wires going out of it and my console to have in-game chat is a bit ridiculous (however this is more of a problem with the Switch itself, rather than Splatoon 2). On the other hand, the fact that I can browse clothes to buy along with my stats and what maps are available is really cool and acts as a nice companion to the game. So it’s not as good as it could be, but the small amount it does is pretty dang cool.
All in all, yes, Splatoon 2 feels like a HD remaster port of the original to the Nintendo Switch at some points, especially with the main multiplayer mode. However that in it of itself is a good thing and along with the many quality iterations of concepts from the first game, the game is worth getting. It does indeed help bolster the Switch’s library and if you haven’t played an entry to the franchise before it’s well worth getting; but if you got your fill of ink with the first game, it might not be as valuable to you.