Splatoon 2 is upon us, and the game feels like an upgrade in almost every possible way. The multiplayer options are wonderful draws. Its Turf Wars and Salmon Run feel like the real reasons anyone would want to play. I mean, the single player campaign has some wonderful level design, but it’s working against and with others that makes everything feel worthwhile. Though some areas could use a bit of refinement to perfect them, both mainly do all they can to impress.
Turf Wars are Splatoon 2’s bread and butter. Two teams of four compete to see who can ink the most territory. Shooting opponents with ink will splat them and force them to wait to respawn, buying precious time to ink more territory in their absence. You get two maps in each multiplayer section, which rotate every two hours. (Pearl and Marina tell you which ones are active each time you start the game.) Each match lasts three minutes. A summary at the end shows how many points you earned, how many people you splatted, and how many people you splatted with your specials.
What really sets Splatoon 2’s maps apart are the elements taken from the campaign. You’ll see gimmicks from there appear in multiplayer. The expanding sponges show up in Port Mackerel, making it possible to more easily reach the shipping containers and stay on top of them during matches. Moray Towers has paint rails that you can activate and ride to more quickly reach different areas on the map. Sturgeon Shipyard has moving platforms that ascend and descend, offering you new paths or vantage points depending on their current states.
But even when you have maps that don’t have intricate bits and pieces that let you exploit effects, Splatoon 2’s locations feel as though they offer more viable strategies. I can think of good vantage points for Charger users in each area, where they can camp and continually wait for enemies. –There are nooks with walls where sloshers can continually chuck ink and hopefully hit on the other side. It even feels as though rollers are more viable, with maps like Humpback Pump Track, Inkblot Academy, Musselforge Fitness, Moray Towers, and Sturgeon Shipyard offering stretches where you can continually roll out.
There are areas in which Splatoon 2’s multiplayer has yet to catch up to others of its ilk. Namely, there’s no way to quickly swap equipment once you are in a room. You have to leave your lobby to get things done. It is unfortunate. Whether you want to switch to a better weapon for the situation or swap clothing to start getting points toward unlocking new ability slots, you actually need to pop out and leave to make things happened.
Having to wait for Salmon Run to appear is another unfortunate design decision. I’ve had about a week to play Splatoon 2 online. In all that time, online Salmon Run was only available one day. Considering how entertaining it is, it feels wrong to restrict it to certain hours and days. Especially when you can see that storefront just beyond Marie’s story mode tunnel. I would have preferred daily access to it, especially since its rewards can end up including extra pieces of clothing.
Which brings us to Salmon Run. Salmon Run is a mode I feel like I could play ad nauseam. It is such a satisfying option. Bosses appear often, with their Golden Eggs, and the smaller minions come at a pace that is challenging, but not completely overwhelming. The preset phrases, which let you tell people to go “This Way” to find important items or “Help!” to be revived, convey the right amount of information. The maps offer plenty of vantage points to find the enemy and paths to get Golden Eggs dropped into the proper container.
It isn’t without its issues. I don’t care for how it assigns you a weapon for each phase, rather than letting you choose your own loadout. Especially since some of the Salmonid bosses feel like they need a specific sort of gun when attacking them. The Steelhead, with its expanding bombs on its head that are its undoing, is one that is best addressed with a Charger or Slosher. A Blaster feels essential for Grillers, the enemies covered in armor. Salmon Run also threatens to not offer you promotions for your efforts unless you try to be paired with people at your similar level. But overall, it is such a satisfying affair.
Then there’s Murch. Murch is one of my favorite additions. He is an expensive buddy who helps you perfect your clothing. While it is impossible to increase slots or reroll at the moment, you can order copies of other Inkling’s pieces of clothing, scrub your own clothings’ slots, and use ability chunks to create new abilities in the spare slots of clothing you use most. I like Sloshers, but they use up a lot of ink. I like to have Ink Saver and Ink Recovery Up abilities when I can. Whenever I have clothing that get those abilities, I scrub them clean for 20,000 coins. It is expensive and time consuming, since you need 10 ability chunks from scrubbing a specific skill before you can assign it to an outfit. Still, it is worth it when you really want or need specific skills. Considering how many outfits the new vendors sell, having the option to get the pieces you really like the skills you want most is wonderful.
The only character who may be able to top him is Crusty Sean. Remember how Monster Hunter games have that cook in town who can make a meal for you that provides some kind of buff before a battle? The Crust Bucket serves a similar function in Splatoon 2. Coupons for food and drinks, which can be found in the campaign’s levels or other activities, can be exchanged for a meal that provides 1.5 to 2x more experience or money than usual or an increased chance of a certain ability coming up when your gear levels up. The catch is, there are specific coupons for each item. So you couldn’t just get a Main-Saver Lemon drink that may help you get the Ink Saver Main ability or Deep-Fried Shwaffle that boosts earned cash by 50% with any coupon.
Splatoon 2 has these wonderful multiplayer experiences. They aren’t exactly perfect. Turf War could use an option to swap equipment while in a lobby and Salmon Run could lose the restriction that only makes it available for certain time periods. But when you get past these minor issues, you have a game where both the competitive and cooperative excursions are totally entertaining. The maps feel better. The Salmonid enemies force you to work together and think smarter. The Crusty Sean and Murch NPCs give you more motivation to keep fighting. Everything just works really well.
Splatoon 2 will come to the Nintendo Switch on July 21, 2017.