Well, first and foremost, it’s been awhile since I’ve written and posted a blog-post or review here. I’ve had a lot of review ideas, drafts, and other stuff bouncing around in my brain but I just haven’t been able to write any of it down and post it because I’ve been too busy or lazy. But hey! Splatoon 2! Let’s talk about that, eh?
Just a note, I am beginning a series of differently formatted reviews with the prefix, “Thoughts On”. I feel like full fledged reviews with images, long drawn out paragraphs detailing gameplay and all that garbage can easily be found elsewhere on the net. While I still plan on doing full reviews for some things, I feel like articles that are just my random thoughts on the game are a bit more unique, plus they show my taste and style as both a gamer and a reviewer!
So Splatoon 2 is obviously the sequel to the original Splatoon that debuted on the Wii U back in 2015. It was a massive worldwide hit for the system and pretty much the sole reason I had a Wii U for a year or so. I recall buying my system as part of a Black Friday “Smash-Splat” bundle which was a pretty damned good deal. $250 for the 32GB Wii U with Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon installed. Even though I eventually sold my system the following year in order to buy a PS4 (and put the money down on Persona 5), I enjoyed a lot of rounds in the original title. I loved the Splatfests, the characters and the unique and colorful world that was created in Splatoon. It was the first Nintendo game in a long time to me that still felt uniquely and weirdly “Nintendo” but also wasn’t at the same time. It was a third person shooter with a focus on covering the play field in ink! I mean how different is that?
The original game really struck a chord with me since it was so different and to me, quite accessible. I didn’t have to aim well, I didn’t have to focus on killing people or getting to an objective. I didn’t have to hear a bunch of teenage boys telling me over voice chat what I was doing wrong or how they fucked my mother the night before. It was a simpler game that was weird, fun, and addictive. But unfortunately it didn’t stick with me. As much as I was hyped to play the game and given how many hours I initially poured into it, I eventually stopped playing and my Wii U started gathering dust. There were many other things that caused this; but it still stung hard when I eventually sold my system, knowing how much I enjoyed Splatoon and how I thought at the time that I would never be able to enjoy it (legally, at least) again.
Then, Splatoon 2 was announced at the full press reveal for the Nintendo Switch. I was intrigued and excited! I would be able to experience Splatoon yet again, but this time with the promise of being able to truly take the experience on the go and enjoy it on anywhere in my house (mainly the toilet). It also looked fantastic and solidified my thoughts on the Switch’s processing power. Seeing the colorful maps and characters from the original title recreated and enhanced on a system that was somehow a home console and handheld was so fucking cool and at the time, Splatoon 2 was the sole reason I wanted a Switch. I was determined to get the game as soon as it was released, and get a Switch shortly beforehand so I could be ready. Sure enough, I had it all once the game released last week on July 21st of 2017.
But what are my actual thoughts on the game? I have just spent the past 500 words explaining why Splatoon and Splatoon 2 appeal to me and are special, but I haven’t said shit about the new game other than praising its sheer existence. Well, let’s get to it then.
I want to start with the game’s music. It’s fucking rad. I had the original game’s soundtrack downloaded on all my devices as soon as it was available and I jammed out ot it for hours on end. The music was so weird but catchy, blending a made up language with extremely fresh beats. Splatoon 2 not only provides a damned good soundtrack to listen to, but pretty much surpasses the original in quality and variety. There are moodier, more varied tunes in Splatoon 2, along with some extremely weird songs that are included for the new Salmon Run mode (these are songs with maniacal laughter going on in the background here). The soundtrack for Splatoon 2 is going to stick with me long after I’ve left the game, and shit do I hope they release another soundtrack soon. It’s also really cool that there is a Taiko-esque mini-rhythm-game in the plaza area of the game for you to either listen or try to full combo any of the songs in the game’s soundtrack.
The graphics are simply gorgeous. The single player areas of the game have a shiny, sparkly ink that you spread everywhere that unfortunately doesn’t show up in multiplayer, but I’ve spent plenty time just ogling it and talking about how pretty it is. The areas in the single player campaign are so varied and weird. There are a bunch of different stages that introduce you to all the different weapons and make use of some clever gimmicks to make each level feel unique and fun. The single player experience as a whole almost feels like a completely different game compared to the multiplayer. The gimmicks and cool level design of the campaign unfortunately don’t show up much in the multiplayer maps (with the exception of the sponges and ink-grind-rails), but this is pretty understandable; most multiplayer maps are already dense enough and chaotic enough without gimmicks, and while it would be cool to see some of the more unique things from the campaign there, it would likely overcomplicate some of the levels.
The story is told mainly through events with Marie as you take on the role of a new “Agent” and try to find Callie, who goes missing before the game starts. It’s pretty heavily implied that something has gone awry with Callie from the reversible box art that the game is packaged in, as well as some of the comments that Pearl, the little gremlin from the new idol band, makes. I haven’t gotten past the second area (out of five present) in the campaign, so I can’t comment on how great the story does or doesn’t get. Hell, I didn’t even finish the campaign of the first game either. But I am dedicated to playing through this one. The cool levels and bomb music are enough to keep me coming back, even if the various multiplayer modes are mainly what I’m here for.
The various weapons, abilities, sub abilities and gear variations in the game are pretty satisfying, even though I only use the OP-as-hell paint roller and just buy gear that looks cool. You can have a pretty good loadout, and you can obsess over which weapons are the best for which situations, but I really don’t plan to go that deep. I’ve never been the kind of gamer that focuses on raw damage output, the best loadouts and the best techniques to play the game; I just use what I like, and I put my character in clothes that are cute. The great thing about Splatoon and Splatoon 2 though is that both kinds of players will feel at home. Statistic freaks will be happy with seeing raw damage outputs for each weapon in the training area, and people who shop for the best gear will be perfectly content seeing each ability that every pair of gear has. Hell, people who want to get even more invested can re-roll their gear for better abilities or even apply specific passive and active skills to items from “Ability Chunks” earned throughout the game (I think? to be honest, I haven’t dabbled much in this since I don’t care too much about it).
The meat of the game lies in its multiplayer experience. Splatoon 2 introduces more varied multiplayer modes like the horde mode styled Salmon Run, which is pretty fun, but only playable during certain hours of certain days for whatever reason. The new ranked battle modes are also very neat looking, but kind of daunting for me to get into. There are modes similar to other shooters, like securing and escorting a payload to an area, capturing an item and carrying it to your turf, and just straight up more elimination focused modes as well. The only thing putting me off from jumping into these modes though is that you must be level 10 to enter them in the first place, and I know for a fact that everyone there will probably be better than me. I also feel like if I get into the more “advanced” modes that I will have to start paying more attention to skills, armor abilities and different weapon types, and that’s not really something I want to mess with right now. That isn’t to say I will never touch these modes, because I am sure I will if normal turf wars and Salmon Run ever begin to get boring to me. But for now, I’m not touching them, just because I am not the best gamer in the world and I know that.
There is some significant controversy over the exclusion of certain features in Splatoon 2’s multiplayer, the main thing being the lack of proper voice chat. To me, I couldn’t care less about voice chat in Splatoon 2. Sure, if I want to play with friends and coordinate rounds together, it would be cool to be able to talk to them, but that’s why I have discord on my computer and on my phone. I don’t need to talk through the Switch to talk to my friends. Plus, I don’t even have any IRL friends with Switches of their own anyways, so the feature would likely never get used by me anyways. I truly feel like people are complaining so hard about it just because as gamers we’ve gotten so used to the way Xbox and PlayStation do multiplayer; we’ve gotten so used to being able to curse fellow team mates out and belittle other players online over voice chat. I think it is respectable of Nintendo to not include voice chat in the bulk of their online games; it only makes sense given that their core demographic is a younger audience in the first place. And while it would be neat for them to talk to each other via voice chat, Nintendo knows as much as you and I that the service would be used and abused by all kinds of players. Kids and adults alike would be calling eachother names left and right just because they can. It’s a bold and obviously polarizing decision that Nintendo has made, but I personally think it is for the better.
What I most certainly don’t enjoy about multiplayer is some of the matchmaking quirks and lobby issues. The biggest issue to me is that once you’ve queued up for a match, there is absolutely no way to exit the match or cancel. No amount of button presses will let you exit the matchmaking screen, which frankly sucks. There have been quite a few times where I’ve just had to play through another match because I hit the wrong button after the last one and got thrown into the next round. Not being able to leave mid-match is also frustrating, even if I understand that allowing such behavior would welcome rager quitters and throwers into the mix. One key complaint a lot of other players have with Splatoon 2’s lobby and matchmaking systems is that you cannot change your loadout between matches to better suit your team or the map you are playing on. Personally, this doesn’t bug me too much since I’ve pretty much just played the game using the roller because of how much I loved it in the previous game. I know how it handles, and I know how to use it, so I usually just stick with it no matter what. But it would be nice if I could change out some gear between rounds, even if it’s just to avoid being on a team with four rollers.
That brings me to another issue about the multiplayer: the team compositions. Nintendo has claimed that the matchmaking and team-making algorithm present in Splatoon 2 is very complex and sophisticated, but that doesn’t explain why I can be put onto a team of all rollers against a team of all heavy projectile weapons. Personally, I wish that teams were only allowed to have one of each weapon on the team at any given time, similar to how loadouts are limited in Salmon Run. That would keep teams varied and eliminate the odds of having a purely attack based or turf-coverage based team. It is also pretty weird to me that the level system is supposed to factor into how players are matched up, but sometimes it doesn’t. Last night, for example, I was playing with 6 other players that were around the same level as I was (between 6 and 11, I’d say since I was level 9), but there was one player who was level 22 and he was fucking killing it. He covered the most turf and splatted the most players in each round we played. I could see clearly on the results screen that he was effectively carrying his team. Despite how good my team could have been, we were no match for this level 22 dude and his higher leveled weapons, gear and abilities. It’s rounds like this that frustrate me in Splatoon 2. Even though they aren’t common, they happen, and I really hope that Nintendo can fine tune their matchmaking algorithm to prevent it from happening more often.
Some really simple things could ease my mild distaste for Splatoon 2’s multiplayer. The addition of a mini-map, for example would solve a lot of issues for me. The original Splatoon had the advantage of being on the Wii U and being a true dual-screen experience. You always had the Wii U gamepad on you, so you could always see the map in live time. This enabled you to see what areas need coverage, where your team members were and jump quickly to their aid if you wanted to. These options are still available in Splatoon 2, mind you, but they exist on a separate screen that you have to pull up by pressing the “X” button in-game. This is less than ideal given that during the heat of battle, the last thing I want to do is bring up a map that will completely obscure the play field just so I can see who is winning. The addition of a little minimap in the bottom corner of the screen would alleviate some of the frustration caused by the map being bound to it’s own button. I feel that if it was a small representation of either the full map or a little chunk of it at least, it would help since players wouldn’t have to take their eyes off the action just to get a look at the map. It would also be convenient and neat if tapping the map in handheld mode expanded it, as opposed to using the X button, but that’s just a little quality of life thing to me personally.
It would also be cool to see the re-introduction of a mini-game to play during matchmaking. Sometimes it takes well over two or three minutes to get into a match, and during those two to three minutes you can’t do anything other than fiddle with the buttons and sticks. While it’s kinda neat that doing so changes the matchmaking music a little bit and allows you to mess with the pitch and speed of the song, it is still boring as all hell. The first title had a Doodle Jump esque mini game called “Squid Jump” that you played on the Wii U gamepad while you were queued up and waiting for a match. It’s understandable that they didn’t think to include this in Splatoon 2 since the Switch only has one screen and it is likely that the developers thought being able to see the team information was more important than playing a minigame. It would still be cool to at least have something to do other than mashing the buttons during matchmaking. It’s a minor gripe, but still one I thought I’d mention.
My last and final thought on Splatoon 2 is going to be about it’s controls. The game, by default, uses motion controls to change the vertical axis. While this probably seemed great on paper, and works well in certain situations for certain people, I hated it and immediately turned it off as soon as I had the option to. In handheld mode, having to move the Switch for aiming just doesn’t work. The motion controls’ sensitivity mean that you will be moving the system in all kinds of awkward ways to get a good angle from the camera, which in turn makes the screen a bit hard to keep a solid eye on. It is probably different for most players, but I personally feel like I am trying to pat my head and rub my stomach while trying to aim with motion controls in handheld mode; it’s a bit overcomplicated and just too awkward for me to focus on playing efficiently. Having motion controls turned on while the Joycons are separated from the system either in tabletop mode or TV mode is less annoying and frustrating, plus it removes the issue of not being able to see the screen, but it is still mildly uncomfortable to do. Despite most players online vowing that motion controls are the way to go since they over higher precision aiming (some people have even compared it to using a mouse on a PC), I have the option completely toggled off with no plans of trying it again. I wish that the motion controls were implemented in a way similar to how Breath of The Wild used them during archery segments where it was something you could still use to get a finer lock onto your target, but the full functionality of the stick still remained in-tact. With motion controls enabled in Splatoon 2, the any vertical movement on the right joystick is useless, since it assigns that bit to the motion controls exclusively. I feel as if I would be more open to using the motion controls if it was similar to how the Metroid Prime title on the 3DS utilized them where you had to hold a specific button to engage the motion controls. If Nintendo ever changes this, I’d be as happy as a clam, but I doubt that they will.
3,243 words later and all the things I wanted to say about Splatoon 2 have been said. I personally love the game, despite it’s flaws. It is a wonderfully fun, weird and uniquely Nintendo. It oozes style as much as the squids ooze their ink (BAD LINE) and God damn I am glad that I had a Switch in time for it’s release. Is it the reason to go buy a switch? Hell yeah. Will it be the best game ever on the Switch? Hell probably not. But is it a damned fun time? Hell yeah.
Damn, that was a weak closing sentence.
Hopefully I will have more reviews, “Thoughts On” and “First Impressions” coming soon (I’d like to write a Thoughts On about the Switch specifically and perhaps a First Impressions on some of the games I have purchased for it). I have a lot of rough drafts saved that I haven’t posted that I should probably finish and post, but who knows when I’ll get to that.