Review: Splatoon 2 (Nintendo Switch)

Splatoon 2: Official GBAtemp Review

Nintendo Switch 3,578 views 15 likes 54 comments
Reviewed by Jakub Kowalski, posted Jul 22, 2017, last updated Jul 22, 2017
It's no secret that the Nintendo Switch, as most brand-new systems, suffers from a shortage of games. Fortunately that does not deter the hardcore fans who stormed stores worldwide to grab the latest Nintendo system in anticipation of playing the company's upcoming blockbusters, including Splatoon 2, the sequel to the highly acclaimed 2015 third-person shooter for the Wii U. I was among that group of fans, so it comes as no surprise that I was overjoyed to receive a copy and jumped straight in to the review process. Is Splatoon 2 worth splashing out for or is it a game for suckers? Let's get kraken and find out!
Jul 22, 2017
  • Release Date (NA): July 21, 2017
  • Release Date (EU): July 21, 2017
  • Release Date (JP): July 21, 2017
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Nintendo EPD
  • Genres: Third-person shooter
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Splatoon 2 is a team-based third-person shooter available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.
Jakub Kowalski

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Whalecome Back!

Splatoon 2 is a direct sequel to the Wii U's Splatoon, reviewed by our very own chavosaur right here. I'll be frequently referencing the original in this review, so if you're new to the series, consquider giving it a read first - it's sure to clarify things. After all, I don't want you to feel like I'm squirting ink in your eyes! With that out of the way, let's sea what the squidquel has to offer!

The game takes the player back to the familiar city of Inkopolis, the dwelling of Inklings, our half-squid, half-human, shape-shifting protagonists. After creating your very own Inkling and completing a brief tutorial which introduces you to the controls you scuttle straight to Inkopolis Square, the game's main hub location. Not much has changed since the last time you visited - Inkopolis is filled with familiar faces like Sheldon or Crusty Sean, as well as a cast of new ones, and it features all of the familiar hot spots. The vibe of the city is quite welcoming - launching Splatoon 2 feels like returning to your home town after a few years, slowly rediscovering what's new and what's comfortably the same. This makes sense as the Splatoon formula was very effective and the only thing that held the game back was the rather poor performance of the platform it was released on. In this sense Splatoon 2 is the result of polishing a rough diamond rather than a whole new jewel without actually being a re-release - it's a whole-new game that retains the look, feel and features that made the original great.

You're a Kid Now-- You're a Squid Now-- You're a Hero!

Insquidentally, the first common thread you'll notice between the original and the squidquel is the main storyline. It appears that once again someone has stolen the Great Zapfish, and it's up to you to chase down the squidnappers and recover the Inklings' precious power source. All this seems pretty fishy, but a familiar fellow agent will guide you through your adventure in Hero Mode, teaching you various tricks and skills along the way. Much like in the previous game, the campaign is composed of several hub worlds, each divided into smaller stages, culminating in a boss battle accessible upon completing the hub.

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The story mode revolves around saving zap fish in your search for the one and only Great Zapfish, the main power source of Inkopolis

The purpose of the campaign is not only to teach the player how to play the game effectively before diving into the multiplayer matches, but also to give players something to do when they take their Switch on-the-go. As such, the single player campaign is slower than the multiplayer matches - it's platforming and puzzle-oriented. The campaign introduces some new mechanics into Splatoon's tried-and-true gameplay, for instance rail grinding, in order to keep it fresh, however many of said skills are not available in multiplayer, which seems like a lost oppor-tuna-ty. Adding more platforming elements to the arenas would really spice things up=. This fact doesn't make them any less enjoyable though, so if you have an inkling of a hero in you, grab your Hero Gear and save the Great Zapfish - only you can do it, Agent!

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

The Deca Tower standing in the heart of Inkopolis is always the talk of the town - it's your portal to the multiplayer section of the game. Splatoon 2 offers a variety of activities both for casual and competitive players - newbie inklings such as yourself can only participate in unranked Turf War matches, and once you gain some squid cred, you'll be able to join ranked matches with their own respective modes, including Splat Zones, Tower Control and Rain Maker, all known from the original Splatoon. The modes and stages are in constant rotation, with changes announced by the city's two host superstars - Pearl and Marina from "Off the Hook", so you don't have to worry about variety - you won't have to play the same map over and over again. Occasionally the Inklings will also shellebrate a Splatfest, a global competition in which players join one of two global teams and amass points throughtout the festival - naturally there's loot to be had, so be sure to work as hard as you can, and may the best squids win! In addition to official matches players can also set up their own private, password-protected match lobbies and invite friends to join in on the fun, which is a great option for those who want to hone their inking skills before entering the fray. If you think you've got the guts, don't sit around in a coffee shop, fame awaits! Grab your loadout, head to Deca Tower and grab victory by its tentacles!

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Winning consecurative matches improves your Freshness Meter, resulting in even higher bonuses!

One of the bigger additions to the game in terms of multiplayer is Splatoon 2's Salmon Run - an all-new cooperative mode, courtesy of Grizzco Industries. Salmon Run teams up players against a horde of Salmonids, a new and viscious enemy species, and tasks them with collecting the highly sought-after Golden Eggs. Salmonids will attack your team with both strenght and numbers - in addition to the grunts you'll also have to fight numerous bosses, each with unique weak spots for you to memorise and strategise against. This mode is both fun and challenging, it provides a more-than-whalecome relief from the otherwise competitive multiplayer, offering an enjoyable co-operative experience. Mind you, it's not a clean job, but someone's gotta do it, so if you want to earn a squid or two, put your hazmat suit on and and don't come back until you get Mr.Grizz his eggs!

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Ink-win-repeat!

Splatoon 2 accounts for the fact that the Switch is a hybrid console by introducing The Shoal. This new location enables you to host your very own local multiplayer matches, both in competitive and co-operative modes, allowing you to splat around with your friends on-the-go. In addition to standard local multiplayer, Splatoon 2 also supports the LAN adapter, allowing for up to 10 players, 8 combatants and 2 spectators, to connect together in an offline network, which greatly facilitates organising Splatoon 2 tournaments in the future. This shows Nintendo's commitment to the competitive scene and I'm sure Splatoon 2 will become a staple of upcoming Nintendo-oriented tourneys, much like Super Smash Bros. became one before.

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Pearl and Marina will keep you up-to-date with the current modes and stages available... and judging by Pearl's expression you can tell which of the two is "off the hook"

Of course it's not all honkey-dory - it never is. The dreaded lobby system known from the previous game still remains unchanged, except this time around you don't have a minigame to distract you from its shortcomings. Players still don't have the ability to squid nearly empty lobbies and are slaves to the game's own counter, which is a shame as it was widely criticised after the original's release. It often took a considerable amount of time before I could connect to a full lobby, and since the game refuses to auto-balance and launch a match before all spots are filled in, waiting for a match to start often times takes more time than the match itself. I can only hope that this issue had more to do with playing the game prior to its release on basically unpopulated servers, but it's hard not to notice that the fisshues of the original persist in the squidquel.

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Welcome to the dreaded lobby - get comfy, this might take a while...

It's nice to see Nintendo accounting for platform differences between the Switch and the Wii U and keeping offline players in mind, however it appears that they've forgotten about a very important feature of the Switch - the two Joycons and tablet mode. The console was advertised as a sytem you travel with and share with your friends, almost like a brand ambassador, using the kick-stand and the two Joycons to recruit new Switch-acolytes by playing multiplayer games on one system. We've seen this feature used very effectively in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and it's mysteriously absent in Splatoon 2. The Battle Dojo known from the previous installment is completely absent and the game features no split-screen modes whatsoever, requiring each player to own their own Switch. This seems like another missed opportunity to capitalise on the features of the hardware - it's not a big con, but it's glaring when the system features everything you'd theoretically need right out of the box.

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You're a squid now-- you're a headset now?

It's also worth noting that Splatoon 2 is released alongside the long-awaited Switch chat accessory, the Spat and Chat. I'm not going to comment on it in length as one was not provided for the purposes of the review, but needless to say, lack of voice chat was one of the major criticism the original faced at the time of its release. The Splat and Chat, in conjunction with the Switch Online app, is supposed to address this issue... in an incredibly squidiculous way, by introdicing an octopus-like adapter and enabling you to create chat lobbies on the smartphone app. Hey! It's something.

Cash-in, Splash-Out!

After a grueling day of splatting your foes and cashing in your check, there's nothing better for the sole than changing into a new set of threads. The Booyah Base mall saw some major changes in staff, but although most stores are under new management, you can still count on the vendors to sell you exactly what you need. Splatoon 2 retains the original's emphasis on customisation, not to mention that Inklings by their very nature are fashionable creatures, so expect to spend a lot of time sifting through the game's selection of the latest and greatest in gear - shoes, shirts, headwear and, most importantly, weapons of splash destruction.

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The Galleria has all the gear you can dream of, and if it's not a 100% up-to-scratch... Your sea urchin buddies can figure something out for you.

Rather than giving you access to all of the gear outright the game implements a rotation system for clothing and a level-based unlock system for weapons, both of which ensure that in order to get the top-of-the-fishing line threads and weapons you'll have to visit often. Shopping is important for more than just vanity purposes - each piece of clothing or weapon has multiple skill slots which unlock passive abilities as you gain experience wearing them, affecting how the character plays in multiplayer matches. The more you use your gear the more versatile it becomes, which means that players will have to balance their innate closet-expanding instincts and their gear loyalty to reap all the benefits of the skill system.

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Gathering experience unlocks new abilities in your gear, so sticking to your favourite threads can pay off in unexpected ways!

But what if you find a shirt or hat you really like, but its skills are not quite what you're looking for? Have no fear, the backalley urchins can "help" you with some skill laundering - I'm not sure what's the legal status of their operation, but I'm pretty sure that they can swap the unwanted skills for some fin else that might be more suitable.

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Splatoon 2 features Amiibo compatibility, so why not take out your favourite figurines for a stroll across town in your spare time?
Oh, you don't have any? No problem - you can blow off some steam in-between matches by playing some Squid-Squid-R.

Splatoon 2, much like the original game, allows you to create a truly unique Inkling, which is great. The options are admittedly limited to keep the playing field level, but they're broad enough to allow for minor adjustments, and that's all a player could really wish for.

Are You Sick of the Puns Yet? Because I'm Not Going to Squid It!

Overall Splatoon 2 was exactly what I expected it to be - it's what it says on the tin of tuna. The developers took the strong points of the original, buffed the rough edges, made it even prettier, even smoother, both in portable and docked mode, and released a squidquel more than worthy of the original. I was quite critical of the first game as, to me, it came across as somewhat incomplete. I didn't get the same feeling with Splatoon 2, or at least not to the same extent - many of the technical shortcomings of the original have been addressed, and with all the new content in mind you're guaranteed to have a whale of a good time with this title. Moreover, judging by Nintendo's track record of expanding upon the original Splatoon with numerous free updates along the way, the squidquel is likely going to follow in the same footsteps, which means even more bang for the buck as time goes on. It's a solid title in the Switch's growing library, especially if you enjoyed the original - the game's well-worth shelling out the asking price. Don't take it from me though - grab a copy yoursellf, get off the hook, and don't get cooked!

Verdict
Pros
+ Colourful, beautiful graphics with butterfish-smooth framerates in both portable and docked mode
+ A brand-new co-operative mode
+ Good adoption of the new platform's advantages
+ Newly-introduced in-game chat via the Switch Online app
+ Finally you're allowed to skip Sheldon's long-winded explanations of each new weapon
Cons
- The lobby system was not improved in any noticeable way
- Lack of split screen multiplayer
- The in-game chat requires the use of a seemingly inconvenient smartphone setup, although that's a shortcoming of the console rather than the game itself
- You're still restricted from skipping dialogue of any character besides Sheldon, which is quite odd
10 Presentation
Splatoon 2 with its highly-stylised art style and great sound design is truly charming - it's hard to poke flaws in a game that improves upon the original in every way. The game's graphics are truly beautiful and the framerate feels nice and smooth, as it should be!
8 Gameplay
Splatoon 2 inherits its gameplay mechanics from the original game, introducing even more maps, weapons, a new co-operative mode and a brand-new campaign. Unfortunately, not all of the new mechanics introduced to the campaign make their way to the online arenas and certain technical flaws of the original are still present in the squidquel, most notably the crippled lobby system. Moreover, the lack of the Battle Dojo, or any split screen features at all, is a disappointment as the Switch is the perfect opportunity to open Splatoon 2's fish net and catch new players in the game's charm. These flaws aside, Splatoon 2 is a blast destined to become one of Switch's killer apps.
9 Lasting Appeal
The game offers a variety of single and multiplayer content, both competitive and co-operative, casual and ranked, and this wealth of content is further bolstered by the promise of upcoming free updates which will ensure the game's longevity. The title is a huge improvement upon the original Splatoon which cashed most of its fish and chips on competitive multiplayer. The introduction of co-operative horde mode-style multiplayer adds a whole new facet to the Splatoon fish pie, which now bolsters new, fresh flavours. Of course, as with most multiplayer games, Splatoon 2 can get repetitive during long sittings, but it's a fantastic pick-up-and-play game that you're likely to come back to over and over again. If there's one thing I think could use some improvements, it's the single player campaign - it was definitely expanded upon, but the hub levels still feel relatively empty, they're like a level selection menu that you play, and that's yet another missed opportunity to take something that worked in the original and make it even better by populating the hubs with NPC's, perhaps the occasional quest or two. Nintendo, take note! We'll be waiting for Splatoon 3!
8.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Splatoon 2 greatly improves on every aspect of its predecessor without sacrificing much on the new platform. It's bigger, it's better, it's still fresh, and that's quite the recommendation. If you're an early Switch adopter, be sure not to miss out on this one. Splatoon 2's here and it's here to stay - it was a pleasure to be one of the first on the squid train, now excuse me while I scuttle off, I've got some turf to ink!
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