Review: Splatoon 2 (Switch)

A stunning sequel that outshines the original.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/02/2017 19:15 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Wonderful presentation; Salmon Run; multiplayer is stable and engaging; single-player better than ever
Poison Mushroom for...
Salmon Run is limited; soundtrack is good but a bit subdued

Splatoon surprised the heck out of me when I saw it for the first time at E3 2014. The game brought with it a whimsy and energy that felt both foreign and familiar as a longtime Nintendo player, and I was excited to see it eventually arrive on Wii U. Much to my delight, when Splatoon finally did land in the hands of fans, the end product was of such a quality that the title was met with the same enthusiasm that I had for it at E3.

It’s not all too often that Nintendo puts out fresh IPs, and it’s even less frequent when one of them goes on to spawn a franchise; Splatoon is one of those exceptions. The game exploded onto the scene, quickly asserting itself as a legitimate pillar amongst Nintendo’s classic franchises like Metroid and Zelda. Now, the series has officially made the leap to Switch with Splatoon 2, and it’s evident that it hasn’t lost any steam.

Splatoon 2 is by no means a direct copy of its predecessor, but the two titles have a lot in common. With that in mind, I’d like to direct you to my review of Splatoon for a more thorough understanding of Splatoon 2‘s basic, core experience. In a nutshell, this is a game that prioritizes the multiplayer experience over single-player. Splatoon is ostensibly a third-person shooter, but it eschews rifles and pistols for glorified squirt guns, which keeps the action appropriate for a more universal audience. Everything about the original Splatoon has made the leap to Splatoon 2, but there are some notable improvements that make this installment a significant upgrade.

Splatoon 2‘s single-player campaign is much more satisfying than the original. It’s longer, the stages are larger, and the variety on display is much greater. The evil Octarians are back, with a wider array of foes to take on than before. While single-player does have a lot of shooting, there’s also plenty of puzzle solving. Using ink to tackle tricky platforming challenges is wonderfully satisfying. The boss fights, however, are over-the-top and in many cases outright magnificent to behold. They’re scene stealers of the highest order.

Part of Splatoon 2‘s shock and awe is owed to the graphical horsepower afforded by Switch: this game looks awesome. There’s a greater fidelity to the texture of the ink (and everything else), and more detail in general to soak in from both characters and environments. Every detail of the presentation has been lovingly crafted, but I’m a little less impressed with Splatoon 2‘s soundtrack. It isn’t bad by any means, as many of the tracks are legitimate ear worms. However, overall I felt like the tunes were just a tad bit too mellow given how zany and explosive the game is from a visual standpoint. I suppose I’d say this applies more to the multiplayer mode than single, but it was a letdown nonetheless.

Single-player forms a nice bridge to multiplayer by rewarding players with new weapons to utilize in that mode. Arms dealer Sheldon will give your Inkling various new guns to experiment with, which then eventually become obtainable in multiplayer. It’s a nice incentive to see the campaign through to its end, which in turn helps players brush up on their skills for competition with live opponents. There are also some buffs which can be granted by trading in Crusty Sean Tickets, which can be used in multiplayer to enhance character leveling. Take them to the nominal vendor at his food truck in the main plaza and you can boost how much experience you earn during multiplayer, as well as other benefits. Again, this linkage between single- and multiplayer is a fabulous motivation to keep playing through the whole of the main quest.

As good as single-player is, however, multiplayer remains the marquee event in Splatoon 2. Whether on or offline, linking up with human players to square off against is irresistible. Splatoon had one of the most addicting multiplayer modes I’ve ever encountered. I love how attacking opponents is completely secondary. The game does a brilliant job of directing players to focus on painting the ground and not trying to eliminate one another. What’s more, the formula established in Splatoon has carried over to Splatoon 2 without that original game’s initial limitations.

One of the biggest problems with the first Splatoon was that it launched with a very small pool of weapons, modes, and stages to choose from. That’s not the case in Splatoon 2. It has dropped with a healthy selection pulled from the full complement of extras that Splatoon meted out over the course of months via DLC, and Nintendo has promised that there’s more to come.

While the game has some wonderful new additions, Splatoon 2‘s greatest addition is arguably Salmon Run. Acting something like a “horde mode” found in other games, Salmon Run tasks players with joining three other Inklings to take on waves of enemy Salmonids. While this alone is a fun challenge, the real joy comes from battling Boss Salmonids. Defeat these more demanding enemies and then take their golden eggs, which in turn are transferred to your “employer” Mr. Grizzo. Completion of matches gives you points that can then be used to earn bonuses like Crusty Sean Tickets, money, and more. Sadly, there are only certain hours during the day that Salmon Run can be played online. Though it would be cool to play it more frequently, it’s likely limited in order to ensure that players don’t milk the mode for those aforementioned rewards. Still, a bit disappointing given how fun it is.

Splatoon 2 has taken everything from the original and amped it all up to eleven. There’s no lollygagging with this sequel; online modes and gear are robust right out of the gate, with the promise of even more to come. New additions like Salmon Run expound upon an already winning formula and offer veteran players further reason to give the title a try. It also can’t be ignored that the boon of being able to pick up and play the game anywhere is something that is only possible with Switch. While I do feel that chat is needlessly cumbersome, it’s fairly easy to start matches with friends, and I never experienced any hitches while battling online. Splatoon 2 is a brilliant and rare game that manages to outshine its predecessor, and is yet another reason to own a Switch.

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