Splatoon 2 carries over some familiar concepts from the original Splatoon. One is the use of amiibo, which give you little rewards and special features. The other is an improved version of Squid Beatz, a rhythm game that lets you play along to fresh songs from the soundtrack. While both features work a little differently here, the alterations to the formula feel both rewarding and satisfying.
The original Splatoon was compatible with five amiibo: Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, Squid, Callie, and Marie. As a reminder, the Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, and Squid each unlocked 20 challenges, and every figure had an outfit set and minigame tied to it. (In fact, you may not have even seen the original Squid Beatz game if you didn’t get the Squid amiibo!) Callie and Marie made the plaza look like a Splatfest was happening and caused the characters to put on a concert. Splatoon 2 is compatible with all five again, but things work differently.
Instead of challenges, the amiibo dole out rewards based on your current level. The first time you scan in the Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, and Squid, you’ll receive the Samurai Helmet, Squid Hairclip, and Power Mask. After reaching level five, you’ll get the Samurai Jacket, School Uniform, and Power Armor. Level ten gets you Samurai Shoes, School Shoes, Power Boots, and Squid Beatz 2 tracks. Now, I’ve only been able to reach level 10 in Splatoon 2 so far. (It hasn’t always been easy to find enough people to play matches ahead of launch.) But if there are further unlocks, it seems likely they’ll be made every five levels.
The other amiibo options are about making things convenient for players and getting great pictures. Every amiibo can save your current data. This lets you take an amiibo with you to a lobby and switch your equipment, look, and settings. After scanning an amiibo in, you can also take part in a photo shoot with it. You can choose set poses and switch between backgrounds, trying to put together the perfect shot. It’s essentially about letting you keep your preferences and show off your gear.
With Squid Beatz 2, Splatoon 2 is giving us a much improved version of the original’s Squid Beatz. The first minigame had 31 tracks, while the sequel has 42. No rewards are given for completing a song, that is getting through it without missing any beats, though it will save and put a squid icon next to the title to show you “beat” that track. There are still only two difficulty levels, Normal and Hard, and not selecting either will allow you to listen to the music in what is basically a jukebox mode. If you want more songs, you have to go through every Splatoon 2 mode and attend a Splatfest; hearing a song makes it available.
The difference between Squid Beatz and Squid Beatz 2 is clarity. All of the Splatoon minigames had this retro feel that meant they wouldn’t look out of place on, say, the Famicom. The original game had the D-pad and action buttons as inputs, and you would see the D-pad or ABXY icon to show which button you should be pressing. In Splatoon 2, the icons are color coded and have the buttons on them. You know right away if you’re pressing a face button or trigger button. If there is a circle around the icon, it means you press buttons on the left and right side at the same time.
This allows a greater sense of complexity than before. Combine that with moving bars to help you better gauge when you need to press and squid icons that keep up with the beats to show your precision, and you have a rhythm game that is far more exact than ever before. I believe this makes it more enjoyable. It is easier to become better at the game, because it is easier to see what you need to do and where you need to improve.
Sometimes, I find myself logging into Splatoon 2 even when I don’t have time for some Turf Wars or a desire to go through the campaign. Sometimes, I’ll check the shops to see what stock is available. Usually, I’ll pop into Squid Beatz 2 to listen to or play along with some songs. If I’ve gotten some new clothing recently and one is nearby, I may grab an amiibo and scan it in for some shots to show off. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s nice to have some low-key activities to enjoy.
Splatoon 2 will be available on the Nintendo Switch on July 21, 2017.