In 2015, Nintendo released a new IP called Splatoon, featuring weapon-wielding squids duking it out in different arenas. Nintendo mangled the shooter genre — supplying it a great deal of reinvention.
What was it about Splatoon that made it feel inventive? Perhaps it was the fact that, with its stellar gaming development and principles, Nintendo was able to make a shooter that felt true to the genre and yet totally novel all at once.
Splatoon had a refined sense of what a shooter should be. Sure, it needs to be competitive — but does it have to be violent and dull? So Nintendo made a shooter not populated by daunting war machinery, abstract life forms from another planet, and a dark, grim storyline. Splatoon was about, well — colors. Lots of it, in fact.
It sounds dumb for a shooter. But it's actually genius. Splatoon gained widespread popularity in many parts of the world, but particularly in Japan. It spawned a manga series, and in August, a Splatoon anime will debut.
Years later, Nintendo is close to releasing the sequel to Splatoon exclusively for the Switch, its new console. Splatoon 2 critic reviews are now hitting online ahead of the game's release date. Read on to find out if Splatoon 2 is a worthy sequel to its predecessor.
Splatoon 2 Is A Blast
"Splatoon 2 is easy to love," as GameSpot's Kallie Plagge puts it. "It's colorful and quirky and unafraid to be different, and it's consistently a blast to play." Plagge reiterates how inventive the underlying mechanic in Splatoon truly is, adding that because of it, each match is exciting.
"Splatoon 2 is a vibrant and exuberant sequel with enough fresh additions and changes to set it apart from the original."
Like its predecessor, human-squid hybrids called Inklings populate Splatoon 2. Nintendo's character design and world building shine in this kind of game, with environments awash with vibrant colors. For those who don't know, Splatoon 2 is essentially a game about shooting ink from different weapons. In a typical match, Inklings can jump to ink puddles and turn into their squid form to reload. Yes, you can navigate walls too — where there's ink, your Inkling can swim in it.
Splatoon 2: Online Multiplayer
For all its inventiveness, however, Splatoon 2 seems like a victim of Nintendo's apparent lack of modernity. Several reviewers note that the game's online features deserve a bit of added polish.
Splatoon 2 features a new mode called Salmon Run, and it's a bit of a surprise given how challenging it is. In this mode, the bosses guard their weak spots well, and for a group of four players, communication is a huge component in order to win.
"The only downside? The mode is generally only available in local co-op; there will be online play, but only during special events run by Nintendo," Polygon's Chelsea Stark notes, who guesses that this is more of a Nintendo limitation than a Splatoon 2 limitation. The Switch doesn't feature voice chat options readily and requires a companion smartphone app for that function — to the searing disappointment of many players.
"Local play is very enjoyable, but in 2017, the lack of a consistent online option is a huge bummer for what is easily the game's best feature."
"Playing locally with friends is a blast — my teammates and I frantically screamed out boss names and locations of golden eggs to direct each other to counter problems and capitalize on opportunities," IGN's Brendan Graeber notes. "But this also highlights how key communication is to survival, something that doesn't currently translate well in random online matchups, where you can only give basic callouts."
Despite Its Shortcomings, 'Splatoon 2' Remains A Great Game
The flaws in Splatoon 2, however, are forgivable. The only legitimate concern here is Nintendo's problematic plans for online multiplayer, but that's not an isolated issue because all Nintendo games are affected by the company's uncertain infrastructure.
Yet Splatoon 2 manages to improve the original in more ways than initially expected, featuring better graphics and fresh new mechanics, but are those enough to call it a great game?
"It's a lot more of the same, seeing how it folds in all the improvements and additions that were introduced to the original over time and gives returning maps a significant makeover," notes Eurogamer's Martin Robinson, adding that "it's most definitely an improvement on what remains one of Nintendo's finest games in many a year. It was only inevitable, though, that this one was never going to feel quite as fresh."
Ars Technica's Sam Machkovech offers a different perspective:
"Splatoon 2's basic gameplay has clearly benefited from a full two years of patching and examination of the original title's uneven launch. This is all we've wanted from Nintendo for years: to come up with wild new ideas, then actually adjust and respond to player demands for a better experience."
Splatoon 2 launches July 21 for the Nintendo Switch.