By Israel Harper
A year and two thirds ago, Splatoon 3 was announced for the Nintendo Switch during a Nintendo Direct. During that time, the Splatoon community saw a massive spike in activity and attention. Discord servers exploded in members, online players returned after hiatus, and posts about it were all but unavoidable on the Nintendo-dominated corner of the internet. As a member of the community during this time, it was amazing to see people who were previously uninterested with the Splatoon series suddenly be swayed in its direction, due to its franchise having (minimal, at best) exposure in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the rampant excitement from dedicated fans.
The addition of the new moves, Squid Roll and Squid Surge, offered many new movement options on top of techniques discovered and practiced in the previous game. Controls overall feel much smoother. Some less popular weapons, like the Blaster, were improved on and have since seen a nice increase in play. Except for my personal favorite weapon, the Splat Brella, now having the potential damage output of 80 damage per shot instead of 90. I wish everyone I talked to would know the significance of this reduction. But on the topic of weapons, at launch, all of the weapons with their default kits were available, but none of their alternates, at least until a future update.
This goes for some other content as well, and those outside of the community have been ragging on Nintendo for their latest approach to games where they put them out unfinished now, and update them with more content later. But they fail to understand that with the Splatoon series, this has always been the case; and unlike the other games that have received subpar reception for this, it’s given the game a decent life cycle and longevity.
The game, as of now, has a total of twelve multiplayer stages in rotation, three of which returning from the first game, with the fan favorite of “Flounder Heights” returning in an update. However, the stage design in this game has certainly not improved. A majority of them feel narrow and linear, with more tight spaces in favor of wide, open battlefields. They all – especially Hammerhead Bridge – feel reminiscent of veteran stage “Walleye Warehouse.” Turf Wars feel more like orderly tug-of-wars and there are barely any places and routes to flank opponents. This clashes a lot of the game’s marketing theme of chaos.
I am happy to say, however, that the game’s PvE mode of “Salmon Run,” may have been perfected. Returning players are lured into a false sense of security when the game throws its easiest runs at you… but when continuing to get promoted, the difficulty truly spikes, and that’s an understatement. Rotations seldom give you the weapons that would seem easy for the mode and the sheer magnitude of bosses that can appear and threaten your wage is absolutely insane. It’s a huge step-up from Splatoon 2’s take, and it’s exhilarating, especially with friends.
The game also features a new offline side mode of Tableturf Battles, a turf war played with a custom set of cards. It’s very easy to pick up and build your own strategies and decks, but it’s extremely difficult to master. Like many things, challenging other players online will come in a future update, but as of now, you can challenge computers in the form of the game’s beloved characters and those controlling worldwide players’ decks.
On the topic of playing offline, the game’s story mode delivers an amazing experience. It’s a blending of the formula of the classic ones of old and Octo-Expansion’s re-imagining of storytelling and progression. Stages are designed wonderfully and pack some nice surprises. And the music composition may be the best part, even better than the already high energy tracks you’d hear in multiplayer. Go into this blind and it’ll surprise you. Go into this as a veteran of Splatoon lore and it will blow your mind.
I can’t say that Splatoon 3 lived up to the expectations of fans, with it being kind of buggy on launch, and overrun with internet connection problems, but I can say that aesthetically and substantially, it has definitely improved. Though we may have to wait for a fully realized version of the game, I think that we have a solid foundation for a new era of the community.