Splatoon 3

Splatoon 3 is basically what Splatoon 2 should have been. Hear me out. My first Splatoon game was Splatoon 2. I’ve also put some hours into the first Splatoon while waiting for the third one to come out. And while it has only been out for about a month at the time of writing this, I’ve put some good hours into Splatoon 3 and its various modes. The big question here: Is Splatoon 3 significantly better than Splatoon 2 to warrant playing this sequel? Let’s put on our inking caps and super jump in to find out! Yeah, that shit is gimmicky enough to read like generic games journalism copy.

Splatoon 3 is still based around the same concept of using ink-based weaponry to cover turf and splat enemies. The main modes from the previous game return. Turf War where the team with the most ink on the field at the end wins. Splat Zones where you fight to control and hold select areas on the map. Clam Blitz where you gather clams and the super clam to score in the other team’s goal. Tower Control where you must ride on a moving tower across the map. And Rainmaker where you have to grab and carry the rainmaker weapon to the checkpoint in enemy territory without dropping it. Only Turf War is unranked still so you’ll have to wait for ranked modes to cycle in and out, but now all ranked modes share the same ranking bar. There’s also a new addition where you can play ranked games in a series for even more points which ends after you either win five games or lose three. Spawning in these modes now starts in the air instead of a spawn pad, allowing you to choose your landing spot or to super jump immediately from the launcher. Otherwise matches play out pretty much the same way.

Salmon Run returns with the same basic premise of beating boss salmonids, grabbing their golden eggs, and bringing them back to the basket. However, this time around there are a few new boss types to deal with in the mix, such as the Fish Stick which is a tower that lands in with salmonids swinging around the top that you’ll usually need to swim on top to defeat. There are even a few new types of special waves that can occur like a tornado sending a treasure chest of golden eggs far into the distance and dropping down enemies from the sky as you go to bring them back. This is where another new addition comes into play. You now have the ability to throw the golden eggs. This will consume about as much ink as your secondary weapon and fly roughly as far too. This can be used either to toss eggs to other teammates or directly into the egg basket.but be careful, the new egg snatchers now come flying in on propellers and can even snag eggs right out of your downed buoy. You might also notice a strange meter in the lobby area slowly filling up. Once everyone has their meter full and you clear all three waves, you’ll be given the Xtra Wave. In this wave a gigantic King Salmonid appears with tons of health. Everyone swaps weapons one last time, gets a single charge of their special, and is equipped with a special egg cannon. Many boss salmonids will still show up here and you can fire their golden eggs at no ink cost anymore in order to deal larger chunks of damage to the King Salmonid. Whether you win, lose, or run out of time you’ll still likely get some scales from the mighty beast which can be used to purchase exclusive cosmetics in the Grizzco shop.

Splatfest also returns with a new twist. While it’s still based in users aligning under a team banner to score points for their side in Turf War, now there are three teams to pick from. At half-time the current scores for normal and ranked play will be totaled. Whoever is in the lead will then have to defend in the brand new Tricolor turf War. These are still based on having the most turf inked at the end of the match, but here a team of four from the leading team will have to defend against two teams of two from the other teams. Duos will generally spawn at the four sides of the map. In addition to inking turf like normal, there’s also a item in the center of the map called the Ultra Signal. Should one of the opposing teams get to it and hold it long enough, it will activate a Sprinkler of Doom which is a giant sprinkler tower that constantly rains down ink of their color. If either attacking team has more turf inked than the defending leaders then both attackers get the win. You can also still choose to do standard Turf War battles during this time for more points like normal if you’d prefer as well.

The story mode here is notably different than the previous two games. While it still follows the basic premise of returning the Great Zapfish to the city and has you going through individual levels, there’s a little more going on. For one thing, you now have a companion Smallfry that can be tossed onto enemies to attack them, grab far off items, and interact with out-of-reach obstacles. the overworld is covered in fuzzy goop that can be destroyed if you have enough power eggs, which you gain from playing and beating the levels. Most levels will also give you multiple options for weapons to use, each one having a different cost and reward payout plus a first time clear bonus. On the overworld you can also find hidden collectibles. Some of them are used elsewhere in the game like food tickets, but sometimes you can obtain sardinium which can be used to unlock areas on your skill tree. You can also get them from boss encounters at the end of each area. However, to actually upgrade your abilities you’ll need upgrade points, which you acquire from clearing overworld fuzz goop and inking turf anywhere in your campaign. You can also find secret pages that unlock bits of historical lore on top of your progression slowly revealing information in your menu. These levels also introduce a handful of new ideas like breaking targets, or being restricted to a certain special ability or sub weapon for the whole level. There are also interesting new ways of using older mechanics, such as shifting levels via ink switches. No spoilers, but keep making forward progress to find out what happens.

Tableturf Battles are a new mode that have nothing to do with the main mechanics of the game. Instead this is a tabletop type of deck building game where you and your opponent place cards down onto a grid trying to fill up the most space with your color. Most cards have special blocks on them that become active when fully surrounded by other filled squares or the edges of the map. These active squares can be spent on a special placement of a card, each with its own number required, which can be placed anywhere in bounds as long as it doesn’t hit another solid block and still touches one of your own special blocks. Otherwise you can’t overlap your spaces unless you both placed something in the same overlapping area and one goes before the other. At the end of the match the player with the most squares filled in wins. You gain more cards through various means of rewards throughout the game.

There are a few other new things to mention here as well. Weapon badges have been replaced by a freshness star rating system for your weapons, still determined by the amount of turf inked. As it increases you’ll get rewards. One of the rewards is a Sheldon License which can be used to purchase new weapons in the shop. You can also use three of them to purchase a weapon beyond your current level requirement. You’ll be given one for each level up as well. You gain experience points towards a catalog across all modes which will grant you more rewards as it levels up. In the clothing shops you now get the opportunity to not only buy new clothes but also upgrade existing ones if they are in the rotation. There’s a splashtag system that lets you pick a background, up to three badges, and mix of two titles from a set of two different lists. These customization options are also often rewards for the catalog levels, the shell-out machine, and more. You can even get some victory poses. On top of that you can get a large variety of items and stickers to customize your locker just off of the lobby waiting area. The general store is a new shop that will have a rotation of these items in stock. There are two new weapon types. There’s a splatana class which can shot mid-range swipes or be charged for strong melee slashes. And there’s the stinger class which is a bow that can shoot a spread of shots or be charged to fire them further and closer together. There are also a few new special abilities but hey, I’m not the wiki. Look ’em all up if you’re curious. While swimming in ink quickly you can perform a swift jump by sharply changing directions and jumping. While swimming up a wall you can hold jump to charge up a slightly higher jump. After matches you’ll now get medals for certain things like most turf inked or popular super jump target, and the scores will no longer add an extra 1000 points to your total for winning. I’m sure there are many more details I’m missing but I think that covers most of the major mentions.

Most of these changes are definitely for the better. The maps all seem to be pretty straightforward to ink without too many obstacles blocking inking areas, including both old maps from 1 and 2 along with new ones. The floating spawns help you not get spawn killed. The Tricolor Turf War battles are very frantic and interesting. Plus, those along with the standard Turf War battles being split three ways gives you more ability to still shift the tide with points even if you lose. The new Salmon Run additions are pretty much exclusively good in my book because tossing eggs and new bosses makes it so much more varied and dynamic with how you approach the same basic concept. I love it. The weapon freshness giving rewards is basically a better badge system and buying them with something other than money is nice to keep your focus split into multiple places at a time rather than trading off weapons for gear and cosmetics. The story mode FINALLY rewards you for inking everything! And I think the progression is great there too on top of some really fun and unique level ideas using both new and old mechanics. Lots of fun levels to teach you how to play, how weapons and specials and sub weapons work, and ultimately prepare you for online play in a very engaging way. I was also surprised how smooth and nice it looks even in handheld mode. And the music is pretty good. Slowly finding more instrumentation for the overworld areas as you explore was also a nice little touch in story mode. Lots of really nice additions and improvements.

That being said, there’s still some work to be done here. The biggest issue by fair is the dreaded “A communication error has occurred” that pops up all too frequently. I’ve had a lot of instances of trying to get into a match 3+ times in a row only to have it error out of even finding one. The Splatfest matchmaking seemed to almost never give me a Tricolor Turf War battle because my team was so big it would often just match me against my own team in regular matches rather than having me wait for a match that would actually count. Maybe there’s a way to remedy that one but maybe not. The cosmetics for the locker seem like a big waste of your money because they don’t give you anything gameplay-wise and cost an absurd amount of cash. The story mode doesn’t really reward you much for beating all of the levels with all of the weapons, along with a few of them being MUCH more difficult with the recommended weapon than the other options. Some of the story mode levels are also kind of gimmicky because they do an idea only once and never again rather than building it as a mechanic throughout. Tableturf Battles don’t really use any of the game’s core gameplay mechanics so they feel like much more of a spinoff aside than a proper mode. I also kind of wish ranked modes had dedicated lobbies for each type at all times rather than being rotated out. The new spawn mechanic wastes a bit more time to shoot down compared to just spawning right on the pad immediately, which I understand how it’s helpful but still can cost you some time. I think most of the weapons are more geared for kills than inking this time around too. Of course, the change that makes me the saddest… no more Marina.

So why did I start this off by saying Splatoon 3 is what Splatoon 2 should’ve been? Because after going to the first Splatoon I realized just how similar the first two are. Splatoon 2 feels more like Splatoon Deluxe than a proper sequel. Splatoon 3 feels like they actually added things on top of making changes. There’s a lot more going on and more to do. It’s the ideal way to play the series at this point. It’s kind of a hard sell if you only recently got Splatoon 2, but the sooner you move to it, the better. The older games are going to slowly dwindle the player base down to the more hardcore players and the longer you wait to play Splatoon 3, the less you’ll get out of it before Splatoon 4 maybe exists someday. But between the single-player, PvP online, and PvE Salmon Run you have so much to do and enjoy that it’s hard not to recommend it. Just… please, if Nintendo is reading this… bring back Marina.

Want to see some gameplay in action? View the full video review here:

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