Can it have been two years since the original Splatoon came to us in a spurt of glorious, riotous colour and 4-on-4 mayhem? Wow…time flies! Well, the inklings are back in Splatoon 2 with a new adventure with new toys (read: weapons), gear, and opponents to fight, as well as new Splatfests and even a few new modes of play. And all of this on the Nintendo Switch, a console far more popular than its older, neglected awesome brother, the Wii U. Grab your super soakers and meet me in the Underpass for some cephalopod on cephalopod action.
Like its predecessor, Splatoon 2 takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where squid and octopuses have evolved into bipedal creatures with a craze for multi-coloured ink and squirt guns. This game takes place after the first game, and instead of the Squid Sisters Callie and Marie, we have two new hosts, Pearl and Marina to introduce us to the game’s stages. Marina herself looks suspiciously like an Octoling, but those sorts of observations are bound to get the words “specist” bandied about. As for Callie and Marie? They’re…elsewhere. In fact, it seems that Callie has disappeared after the last Splatfest, which was Callie vs Marie. Your character is a newcomer to Inkopolis and you’re ready to get down and colourful with the best of the best.
In practise, if you’ve not seen or heard of the original game, Splatoon 2 is a third-person shooter game where your character, known as an “inkling”, is outfitted with ink-spurting guns or similarly-themed weapons (ink rollers, buckets, paintbrushes and so on). Your inkling has a tank on their backs that indicates the ink level, which can be replenished by shifting form into squid mode. This form doesn’t allow you to shoot or attack, but it DOES allow for quick movements and the ability to swim through ink of your own colour. While swimming in squid form, your inkling is nigh invisible, so if you’re canny, you can use this to your advantage. On the other hand, inklings wielding rollers tend to kill hiding inklings this way, so pick your form carefully.
Splatoon 2’s story mode (now called Hero Mode) is almost identical to the original’s story mode in many respects, and covers five areas with several stages in each area. Instead of trying to help Captain Cuttlefish solve the problem of the Octarian menace, though, you’re now helping Marie hunt for her sister in an effort to reunite the Squid Sisters. The stages themselves serve the same purpose they did in the first game: to get players to get a feel for the game and its nuances, and in that respect it does well. You’ll be a far nimbler after a stint in Hero Mode. I swear I could have seen a number of these stages before, but there were very few actual new mechanics at play here. The same sponges, the same invisible platforms, and the same #$%@^@ ink-scrubbing vacuum dog thing that sits on the walls and destroys any path up it that you create. I hate those guys. On the other hand, you now are introduced to most of the weapons in the game, as opposed to the one weapon you had from the first game. It’s much like the additional levels you got to play if you brought an Amiibo to the party in the first game. Likely, many of you will not have played the original, as brilliant as it was, and so this will be your first foray into things.
On the other hand, many of you will be here for the multiplayer sections, because that’s where Splatoon 2 shines. The usual turf war is here for those of you just starting out, and this means you have three minutes to ink as much territory as you can while preventing the other team from doing the same. Judd returns again for judging duties to announce winners. Winning turf wars gives you a ton of rank points, and losing earns you participation points. Once you’ve ranked up enough, you can join the ranked battles, and there is a fair amount of variation here this time around. Included are the usual Rainmaker (reverse CTF) and Splat Zone (think fortress mode where you have to hold a region for a specified time) modes, as well as Tower mode (escort the tower mode). In addition to Ranked battles, there’s also League battles, which are the same modes as Ranked battles, but with a team of four friends in a league match that takes up to two hours. This looks like the answer that everyone has been wanting out of a more competitive Splatoon instead of the original Ranked mode. Time will tell, of course.
In addition to the ranked battled, there’s a new mode called Salmon Run, in which you and a team of friends battle it out against waves of enemies. Think of it like a Splatoon-themed horde mode, where you and up to three other friends battle it out to grab the rare eggs from the hordes of Salmonids that ramage across the map. This mode requires a fair amount of teamwork and coordination, but the rewards allow you to obtain more powerful gear. This mode can’t always be played online (there’s a roster of times when this is available for play in the pause menu), but you can always play a Salmon Run match via local co-op.
Aside from that, Inkopolis has changed in the two years since, and there are now several different shops in addition to the ones you are familiar with. Likewise, the gear have new abilities and can be tailored to your liking from the start. In fact, from the Inkopolis Main Square you can quickly see who is wearing what and order clothing based on that. I can’t say I prefer the grungy look of the changes, and I’m not as attached to the music as I was to the first game’s, but perhaps time will see fit to grace my earworms with Splatoon 2 tunes.
Some of the issues that I had with the original game make a return to Splatoon 2, like the fact that you STILL can’t quit from a lobby once you’ve accidentally entered it. You also still can’t change your loadout once you’re in the lobby; you have to quit the lobby mode entirely and head outside to change your gear and weapons. There are a number of other small niggles, but it’s stuff I’d become so used to that I’d forgotten they’re there.
I’m not going to mince words here: Splatoon 2 is DEFINITELY the reason you should pick up a Nintendo Switch if you didn’t grab one for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s fun, wild, and absolutely what the game was made for. And it’s the reason your friends also need this game, because between Salmon Run and League Matches, you need to get your act together. Splatoon 2 doesn’t add a lot of new material to the game, but I reckon that the original install base was small enough that most of the people coming to it are going to be new players anyhow. Of course, the Hero Mode is just different enough that veterans will still want to play it, but what I’m looking forward to is the expansion of the game’s setting and lore. And is it too early to start asking for an RPG set in the Splatoon universe?