Monday, July 31, 2017

Splatoon 2 Review

Do squids migrate? Well, these did. The Inklings are back for the sequel to the hit Wii U game, Splatoon. It’s been a while since Nintendo had a good shooter series to call its own. We had Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on N64, but not much since then besides a few failed Metroid multiplayer games. With this sequel, Splatoon cements itself as Nintendo’s prime shooter series.

I’ve heard critics say that Splatoon 2 is more Splatoon. Splatoon 2 is definitely more Splatoon. A lot more Splatoon. The first game was heavily criticized for its lack of content at launch. I guess Nintendo heard the complaints, because Splatoon 2 has launched with more than twice the content. It has more stages, more modes, and a better single player campaign. The original launched with 5 multiplayer maps, 2 online modes, and Hero Mode. Splatoon 2 has 8 maps (with only 2 from the first game), all the modes Splatoon had after all the DLC, plus Salmon Run. All of these modes are also playable in LAN or wireless link mode. There will also be more more maps and weapons added to the game over the next year. We’ve already seen 2 new weapons added just 1 week after launch and there will be a Splatfest exclusive stage going live next weekend.

The first thing most people notice about Splatoon is its style. It’s a mixture of Super Soakers, Nickelodeon slime, fashion, music, and oh yeah, sea creatures. It’s not often we see such stylish games. It reminds me of games like Jet Set Radio, The World Ends With You, and a little bit of Super Mario Sunshine, but not for the same reasons. Mario doesn’t know anything about staying fresh.

At its core, Splatoon 2 is very similar to other popular shooters. The goal of the game isn’t shooting other players, but the controls, weapons, and gear are really not that different from what you might find in Halo or Destiny.

I play the game like a console FPS. I use the Pro Controller and I use the right stick to aim and Y to quickly turn around. I do not use motion controls. I know many people swear by them, but I don’t like them at all. My big issue with them is the way you turn with them. The motion controls work like you’re the pivot point, so if you turn your controller, the character turns, and then when you straighten your controller, your character also turns back. You have to use the right stick to help you out. You’re using 2 different methods to aim with motion controls, instead of just one with the right stick. I’d rather have something more like mouse controls. Metroid Prime 3 did it right.

When you start the game, you’re greeted by Marina and Pearl. These two are Callie and Marie’s replacements as the game’s hosts. They’ll give you a rundown of the current stages in rotation and what’s going on in the game. The game changes the 2 available stages in each mode and the game types in Ranked and League modes every 2 hours. This keeps the game fresh and gives people time to learn all the modes and maps. There’s also schedules for everything in the game menus.

After Pearl and Marina stop talking, you step out into the Mecca of Inkling culture, the Shibuya of Splatoon, Inkopolis Square. This is the hub that connects everything in the game. Here you’ll find stores, helpful NPCs, entrances to all the different modes, and other people’s Inklings. Random Inklings, along with those of the people you’ve played with, will appear around the square. You can check their gear out, look at their Miiverse-like drawings, and even order the clothes they're wearing.

The Lobby is where you’ll find all the online multiplayer modes. The main mode is Regular Battle, which is Turf War only. In Turf War, the team with the most ink on the floor wins. After a game of Turf War, you get coins and XP. You can use the coins to buy gear at the stores and XP unlocks the abilities on your clothes and raises your character’s level. Once get to level 10, you can play Ranked Battle. Ranked Battle is where you can play the game’s other multiplayer game types; Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Splatzones. These modes are basically the Splatoon versions of Payload, Capture the Flag, and King of the Hill modes you find in games like Team Fortress and Halo. When you win in ranked mode, you get points that increases your rank, and when you lose, you lose points and can go down in rank. Aftering getting at least a B- rank in one of the ranked modes, you can play League Battle. League Battle is just like Ranked mode, but with a different stage and mode rotation, and you can only play it with friends. There’s also modes for playing with friends in the other modes, hosting private online battles, and creating lobbies with the Switch Online app.

There are 3 stores where you can buy clothes. There are stores for shoes, shirts, and hats. The clothing selection changes every day at Midnight. There’s also a weapon shop. As you gain ranks in Regular Battle, more weapons will become available for purchase. In the back of the square there’s a food truck where you can buy food and drinks that give you buffs, like double XP, double coins, and buffs that increase the chance to get specific abilities on your gear when they level up.

Near the Lobby entrance is Murch. Murch is an urchin kid who can remove, reroll, and apply new secondary abilities on your gear, for a price. When you “scrub” (remove) the secondary abilities on your gear, you get Ability Chunks, which you can collect and use to add custom abilities to other gear. Murch also delivers the clothes you order from the Switch Online app or the Inklings around the square.

The Shoal is an arcade where you can set up local multiplayer modes with up to 8 players. You can play all the modes, in any stage, and with custom rules here. You can even do Salmon Run whenever you want. You can play in LAN mode with docked Switches and with local wireless in handheld mode. There’s even a machine with a playable Guitar Hero-like game with songs from the game in front of the arcade. There’s also an empty UFO catcher and a DDR-like game out front, but you can’t play those, at least not yet.

Standing on top a sewer grate in the square is Marie, one of the hosts of the first Splatoon. If you follow her, you'll end up in Octo Canyon, where you can play the single player campaign of Splatoon 2, Hero Mode. Hero mode has 27 levels and 5 boss fights. The levels start out as easy tutorials, teaching you how to move around and use each weapon type, but start getting challenging pretty quickly. This mode kind of reminds me of Portal. There are enemies around, but you main goal is to make it to the end. Since Inklings can’t jump like Mario, you have to use your ink and ink swimming skills to do all the platforming. It’s a lot of fun and the bosses are very creative and really test your skills with each weapon. This mode is kind of short, though. I beat the whole thing in about 5 hours. You can beat every level with each weapon to unlock them in multiplayer, so there’s a lot of replay value there if you want those weapons, though. I still don’t think this mode can stand on its own. I wouldn’t recommend buying Splatoon 2 just to play Hero Mode.

Hero Mode is also where you’ll get the story of Splatoon 2. A lot of it is about fighting the Octolings and testing weapons for Sheldon, but as you progress through it, Marie will start revealing your true mission, finding Callie. Much like in the first game, there are Sunken Scrolls hidden around the levels. The first game’s scrolls explained a lot about the history and lore of the world of Splatoon, but the ones in Splatoon 2 are more about the backstory of the NPCs and the changes and new stuff in the game.

Off in the corner of the square, in a back alley, you’ll find the entrance to Salmon Run. Salmon Run is basically Firefight, Spartan Ops, or Horde Mode from Halo and Gears of War. You get one of 4 preset weapons and fight 3 waves of monsters and bosses. If you survive and kill enough bosses, you get big money, big prizes. I love it! Much like Ranked Mode, you gain XP and gain ranks (or pay grade) when you win and lose XP and go down in ranks if you lose. The higher your rank, the better your pay and bonuses are, and the harder the games will be.

When the game launched, Salmon Run was available in 12 hour periods, around every other day. Lately, it’s been showing up for 24 hours every other day. There has been a lot of criticism about how how Salmon Run is only available at certain times. I agree that it sucks having a mode only available at certain times, because it’s a fun mode. I think the issue is that the money and prizes you get from it are pretty ridiculous. You get huge amounts of coins, tickets, Ability Chunks, and even clothes. If they had those kind of prizes available at all times, it would throw the game’s progression balance out of whack. There would be no need to do any other mode to fully customize gear. I guess they could rebalance the bonuses and make it available all the time and then do special events for it, like they do with Splatfests.

Splatfests are special events in which you pick a side and fight it out in Turf War. For what, you say? To determine what’s better, mayo or ketchup? Cake or ice cream? Yes, it’s silly, but there is actually an awesome gameplay incentive to participate. Once you choose a side, you get a T-shirt with the thing you chose on it. I’m wearing a ketchup shirt at the moment. This shirt has a 2X all abilities primary slot and 3 ability slots, and and while the Splatfest is active, Murch will remove the abilities and give you Ability Chunks for just 2,000 coins. It’s usually 20,000 coins to scrub a clothing item, so this is a great time to farm Ability Chunks to create your perfectly balanced, custom gear.

I think Splatoon 2 is a great game. I could spend hundreds of hours playing it. The rotating game types and maps, Salmon Run, and Splatfests make it feel like there’s always something fresh going on in Inkopolis. I think my biggest complaint about it is that there is no single player content besides Hero Mode. Hero Mode is fun and all, but it’s not really what Splatoon is about. Splatoon is about the multiplayer modes, and that’s kind of an issue when the Switch is also a handheld you can take places where you can’t get online. This is not the game you want to take with you on a long car ride. There should be a way to play the multiplayer modes offline against the AI. Besides that, I think it’s one of the best games on Switch. It’s definitely off the hook!