Not as fresh anymore.
Splatoon 2 is more of Splatoon. This is a good thing, and a bad thing, both. It’s a good thing in that the same core gameplay loop, that we loved and got addicted to with the original game, is here again, and it is every bit as great now as it was then. Nintendo’s whimsically inventive take on the third person shooter, with its amazing territory control mechanics, and its emphasis on new forms of movement, plays just as well now as it did back in 2015. The new maps are every bit as well designed as they were in the original game, and unlike the original Splatoon, Splatoon 2 launches with a lot of content in which it can flex its mechanical prowess muscle.
So if you liked the original Splatoon – if you liked the territory control of Turf War, the objectives based gameplay of the ranked modes, if you liked the instantaneous ability to turn into a squid, and the movement and new strategies it unlocked for you in battle, if you liked the ability to Super Jump to your teammates in a pinch and co-ordinate with them to claim more of the map, if you liked the grind for better gear, and the great, festive Splatfests… well, all of that is back, and you’re going to like it just as much now as you did back then. This is Splatoon through and through. It has not lost its charm, it has not lost its whimsy, it remains as incredibly fun and addictive now as it was back then, and it has retained its unique sense of style.
It’s bad because, most flaws that were present in the original Splatoon have made it over to Splatoon 2 as well. And unlike with the first game, where the sheer freshness of the concept was enough to make us excuse Nintendo missing some basic things that really should not be missed in a multiplayer shooter, this time they feel exacerbated. This is in spite of the fact that in a lot of cases, Nintendo has worked on improving things, if at least a little. For instance, the infamous map rotation is still here- with the first game, it made sense for Nintendo to do that in that they were not sure about the extent of community the game would get, and they didn’t want to fracture and splinter it across various playlists and modes. But Splatoon was a major hit, and Splatoon 2 is trending to be bigger- so why repeat that? Yes, the rotation is now shortened to only 2 hours, instead of the original 4 hours- but why do I need to be playing at a certain time to be able to play the map I want?
"This is Splatoon through and through- it has not lost its charm, it has not lost its whimsy, it remains as incredibly fun and addictive now as it was back then, and it has retained its unique sense of style."
Ranked mode, similarly, cycles through two of its three modes every two hours, which is a step up from how things used to be- but again, why do I need to be playing at a certain time to be able to play my mode of choice on my map of choice? Matters are made worse because Salmon Run, which is the Horde Mode for Splatoon 2, can only be played online at specific hours- basically, it’s like Nintendo’s timed Splatfest events, it will only be playable online at certain times (you can play it locally whenever and without restrictions).
These problems were all present in Splatoon as well- in many cases, they were even worse (four hour rotations for maps, and only one Ranked Mode playable per rotation). But back then, there was the freshness of Splatoon‘s concept that sort of compensated for those flaws, and made it easier to overlook them. There was also the fact that it was Nintendo’s first entry in the genre. Those considerations do not apply any more- there are no more excuses.
It is, then, probably a good thing that Splatoon 2 plays as well as it does, because even someone more inclined to call the game out on its nonsense will be bowled over by its typically fun gameplay once they get into the swing of things. There is a unique flow to how Splatoon plays- covering the ground in your team’s ink color to claim more territory, transforming into a squid to refuel ammo, and also to be able to move faster and gain access to control points you wouldn’t otherwise, trying to color over enemy territory, trying to not step into enemy ink because you lose health, shooting enemies and splattering them in an explosion of your team’s ink color, gaining time and territory advantage, using gleefully chaotic special and sub-weapons, and more. Win or lose, you get XP (though of course, you get more for winning) and cash, which levels you up and lets you purchase more gear, better gear, which makes you more effective on the field. Rinse and repeat.
You can spend hours playing it, and not realize you have spent hours- everything about Splatoon and how it plays is so effortless, that you don’t even realize when you get caught in the ‘one more game’ trap. The core gameplay remains the same as in the original, though of course, there are some changes thanks to new weapons, mixed up loadouts, and due to how differently Super Jump behaves.
"Back then, there was the freshness of Splatoon‘s concept that sort of compensated for its flaws, and made it easier to overlook them. There was also the fact that it was Nintendo’s first entry in the genre. Those considerations do not apply any more- there are no more excuses."
Super Jump was, if you remember the original game, the ability to jump to any teammate on the map instantly simply by touching their name on the Wii U Gamepad. It was by far one of the best uses of the Wii U Gamepad by any game, because it made it a meaningful and integral part of the game’s flow. The Switch, of course, lacks a Gamepad- so Super Jump has seen some changes to accommodate that. You pull up the map with X now (X originally used to be for jump, which is now mapped to B), and each of your teammates is mapped to one of the D-pad buttons. It’s a bit slower, and if you utilized Super Jump for your game a lot, there will be an adjustment period- but it’s an elegant solution, and there are no complaints to be had from it. It’s not better, and it’s not worse. It is just different.
I’ve spent so much time talking about the game, and I haven’t even talked about the ancillary content (this should tell you how much there is this time around compared to the original game)- there is a single player campaign, which, much like the original game, tackles some humorous story and lore in a 3D platformer inspired format. It’s, again, more of the same as the original game, although, again, Nintendo gets more inventive with the design here, leading to more ambitious levels and mechanics. There is Salmon Rush, which is this game’s take on a co-op horde mode. There is even a music minigame, which lets you jam to the game’s great soundtrack.
Yes, of course, the soundtrack is great- the original game had an earworm of an OST, and Splatoon 2 is no different, continuing the same vibe, but going more experimental. The music on the maps, in the shops, during the single player campaign, the main theme song, and during the Splatfests is all great, and will probably become gratingly stuck in your head for days. Happily, the game looks great too, nailing its artstyle with far cleaner graphics than the original game’s. It’s a subtle improvement, but it is also unmistakeable when you put Splatoon and Splatoon 2 side by side.
"The flaws from the first game still exist, and they will stand out more, and, like me, you will mourn the fact that Splatoon 2 did not heed its own predecessor’s advice to stay fresh."
Where does that leave us with Splatoon 2? It is, as you can imagine, a really good game. It’s great fun, and you will probably get dozens upon dozens of hours of enjoyment from it over the course of the Switch’s life, if not more. If the original Splatoon is anything to go by, Nintendo will probably support it with exemplary post launch support in the form of great free content, too (they already have some cool stuff announced and in the pipeline, as a matter of fact). There will probably be as many fun Splatfests to stake ground in as there were for the original game- if not more. Basically, if you liked the original game- get Splatoon 2. It’s not even a question, this has everything that made that game great. If you never had the chance to play the original, jump on this one. It is fantastic, and its freshness and inventiveness will bowl you over.
But if you were among those who were expecting Nintendo to address the idiosyncrasies of the first game, and be a little more ambitious… then Splatoon 2 will probably disappoint you, at least a little. It’s still very enjoyable, it’s still addictive, and you will still lose yourself to it for hours on end. But the flaws from the first game still exist, and they will stand out more, and, like me, you will mourn the fact that Splatoon 2 did not heed its own predecessor’s advice to stay fresh.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Looks great and sounds better; plays wonderfully, with more inventive map design and refined mechanics; has the same addictive gameplay loop that defined the original; stellar online netcode; oodles of charm; a whole lot of stuff to do, with more to come
Flaws from the first game still persist- map rotation, mode rotation, the inability to change your loadout without exiting to the lobby; the game adheres far too closely to the original
Splatoon 2 comes with all of the original game's strengths and weaknesses. It remains incredibly fun and addictive to play, and newcomers especially will fall in love with it. But if you're like me, you will mourn that Splatoon 2 failed to heed its predecessor's advice to stay fresh.