Nintendo is bringing “Splatoon” to its wildly successful Nintendo Switch console.
Splatoon originally debuted as a Nintendo’s Wii U game and while the Wii U console was a flop, it was a flop with a bunch of killer games. Stuff like “Super Mario Maker” and “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” were underappreciated gems, handicapped by the console they were exclusive to — the Wii U.
And then there’s “Splatoon,” an excellent new series first introduced on the Wii U back in 2015.
“Splatoon 2” will arrive in less than two weeks — it’s planned for launch on July 21 — but we already know a ton about the upcoming sequel.
'Splatoon 2,' like the first game, is a third-person shooter. Rather than bullets and guns, you've got paint and paint guns. Sounds kid-friendly, right? It's definitely that, though 'Splatoon' is heavy on smart humour and style that adults will appreciate.
Rather than 'killing' other players, the focus in 'Splatoon' is on painting as much of the world as possible -- whichever team paints more stuff wins. You can cover your opponents' paint with your own, and you can outright take down enemies by covering them in paint (the 'Splatoon' equivalent of a 'kill'). There are paint grenades, and paint rollers that act like shotguns, and lots of other stuff that approximates more traditional third-person shooters (like, say, 'Gears of War').
While the first game was primarily focused on multiplayer, the second game has a major single-player story expansion (we'll get to that in a moment).
'Splatoon' is Nintendo's first real push into the shooter genre, and it's a spectacular success. That's because 'Splatoon' is a perfect demonstration of Nintnedo's ability to take a genre and turn it into something entirely its own.
The foundation of 'Splatoon' is a third-person shooter, but the series twists that into something entirely fresh in two crucial ways:
1. Rather than killing the other enemy team, or holding an objective, or capturing a flag, the focus is on working together as a team to cover as much ground as possible with paint. This forces teamwork from otherwise disparate teammates -- the team that doesn't work together, focused on the big picture objective, is almost guaranteed to lose.
2. Movement is unique, and a major part of gameplay. Since all the characters are a hybrid of human child and squid, you're able to morph into and 'swim' through the paint on the ground. If you're not adept at swimming around, you're almost certainly toast.
Anyone who's played a third-person shooter will immediately feel at home in 'Splatoon,' but both newcomers and veterans alike will find plenty that's fresh and delightful in the game. As a bonus of using paint as the main projectile, aiming is somewhat less important -- paint splatters. This is one of many tiny details that make the game more accessible.
The first 'Splatoon' felt like the most 'modern' game Nintendo's made in years. That's largely due to its tone and style.
There are two trademarks of Nintendo's history in video games:
1. Memorable characters who live in bizarre, unique worlds.
2. Smart, accessible gameplay design that teaches without feeling overbearing.
'Splatoon' embodies both of these pillars, having created a cartoonish, Japan-inspired world full of delightfully memorable characters, which frame a unique and enjoyable game. What makes it feel 'modern' is that it takes those traditions and applies them to the most popular genre of modern games: Shooters! Instead of eschewing the genre as non-kid-friendly, Nintendo makes smart decisions. Shooting appears to be the focus, but it's just a mask for the real focus: teamwork.
At its heart, the 'Splatoon' series is about working with a team to complete an objective -- paint as much as possible. But it feels much cooler than that.
'Splatoon 2' doubles down on style -- and that style directly impacts gameplay. It's one of many details that's intrinsic to how good 'Splatoon' is.
The first 'Splatoon' introduced an elaborate system of upgrades based around clothing and accessories -- essentially playing dress up. There were clothing brands, each competing for style dominance. It's details like this that endeared players and critics to the first game. It's also a smart detail that appeals to kids and adults alike. In many ways, 'Splatoon' feels like something Pixar made rather than Nintendo.
'Splatoon 2' is bringing that back, and actually bringing a twist to the concept: There are new fashion brands that came to prominence in the time between the first and second games, and those brands are battling it out with those of the first game. That there is an evolution of style in the world of 'Splatoon' is ridiculous, yes, but it's something that Nintendo takes delightfully seriously.
Clothing (and accessories) have impacts on your character's gameplay as well, so this isn't purely an aesthetic situation. Will you give up that sweet hat for a silly-looking hockey helmet that provides more protection? The choice is yours!
More than just style, 'Splatoon 2' is adding substance -- most notably, a major addition to the single-player campaign.
Though the first 'Splatoon' had a traditional single-player campaign, it was essentially an extension of the same gameplay found in multiplayer. In 'Splatoon 2,' Nintendo's blowing that out into a full-on campaign.
As seen above, there are enemies to take on, and chasms to cross, and -- assuredly -- plenty of surprises to encounter. Rather than taking on waves of enemies in multiplayer maps, you're traversing areas full of unique bad guys. This component is exactly what fans wanted from the first game; Nintendo's delivering that in 'Splatoon 2.'
The game's campaign, known as 'Hero Mode,' looks like a blast. Skating down this rail, for instance, looks particularly ridiculous and joyous.
There are massive bosses as well! That's one aspect of the first game's single-player mode that's making a triumphant return in 'Splatoon 2.'
And, of course, the game's multiplayer is still a major focus. There's online and local play, though the focus remains on the online side of things -- another major innovation for Nintendo, a company often slow to adapt to the internet.
There are at least 10 multiplayer maps in 'Splatoon 2' that we know of so far, and it's likely that Nintendo will add more as time goes on. The concept of 'Splatfests' is back as well, where Nintendo holds a timed event that pits massive, worldwide teams against each other for dominance.
There's an entirely new multiplayer mode, called 'Salmon Run,' that's focused on co-operative play rather than the traditional competitive stuff.
In 'Salmon Run,' players team up to take on wave after wave of enemies -- think of it like a traditional 'Horde' mode from games like 'Gears of War.' You and your friends can set whatever difficulty you like, from five to 100 per cent, and do your best to survive as long as possible against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. How long will you last?
With all the focus on playing with friends over the internet, Nintendo is releasing its 'Nintendo Switch Online' app alongside the game on July 21. You'll use the app to team up with friends, chat with your party, and share battle accolades over social media.
The 'Splatoon 2' section of the app offers the ability to team up with friends, chat with that team, and check out your play history. You can share the results of your last online battle, or you can put out a call for friends to join your party.
Beyond the multiplayer functionality, the app also allows you to earn various in-game items -- it also looks like you can directly equip those items from within the app. You can read more about that right here.