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Splatoon 2 Review: All the Fun of the Original and Much More!

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Two years after Splatoon made its debut splash, Splatoon 2 has finally arrived with new hairstyles and gear, new ink colors, a new story mode, and a whole new mode of play. While seasoned players will appreciate the updates and additions, players new to the world of Splatoon will find that this killer sequel is a great way to dive head-first into this colorful, bright, and unique Nintendo franchise.

THE BASICS (feel free to skip this part if you’re already a seasoned player!)
In Splatoon, you play as an Inkling—part kid and part squid—whose hairstyle, eye color, skin tone, and gear are completely customizable. (This sequel features fresh, new hairstyles and gear that have never been seen before!) You also carry your choice of weapon, which dispenses jets of bright, colorful ink. Of course, you must regularly fill your weapon with ink, and you do this by transforming into a full-on squid (with the push of a button) and swimming in puddles of ink that match your current color.

Inkling with a weapon.
Inkling with a weapon. Check out the new hairstyle and fresh clothes!

Splatoon features a wide variety of weapons—including rollers, brushes, buckets, and guns—but you’ll start out with a basic gun. As you progress, you’ll unlock the ability to purchase new weapons. Each weapon features a powerful sub-weapon, like ink-filled bombs. But sub-weapons take up a good deal of ink when used, so be sure to use them wisely!

Each weapon also features a special move, which can only be used once your special meter is filled. These moves deal massive damage and automatically refill your ink, so it’s a good idea to use them as often as possible. However, Splatoon 1 fans should note that none of the specials from the original game have returned for Splatoon 2. That means no more Kraken or Killer Wail—but not to worry; the new specials are just as fun as these old classics, if not more so!

Splatoon Weapons
The selected gun here is the Aerospray MG, which has a rapid fire rate and a fairly decent range but doesn’t do much damage. The sub-weapon is the Suction Bomb, and the special is the Curling-Bomb Launcher.

As you progress through the game’s multiplayer mode, you’ll unlock the ability to purchase more and more weapons using money accumulated from playing multiplayer matches. (You can also purchase gear with this money at various gear shops.)

Weapon shop, where you can buy new weapons!
Sheldon’s weapon shop. You can try any weapon before you buy it, too!

As you continue playing in multiplayer mode, you’ll also increase your player rank, which determines certain things that you can do in the game. For example, once you’ve reached rank 10, you can play Ranked Battles, and reaching certain other ranks unlocks the ability to purchase new weapons.

Playing in multiplayer mode also allows you to gradually upgrade your gear and unlock special abilities, like enhanced defense, increased running speed, and resistance to your opponents’ ink. Your gear options include a shirt, a pair of shoes, and a piece of headgear, and you can combine different pieces of gear with different abilities to give yourself an extra competitive edge in multiplayer mode!

This shows how your gear gets upgraded with special abilities, represented by pictographs.
This Inkling’s shoes have been upgraded with special abilities, represented by pictographs. The question marks represent slots that are still available to upgrade by continuing to play in multiplayer mode.

Splatoon 2 features a variety of gameplay options, but the basic concept remains the same in each: you’ll always face enemies who use a toxic ink color against you, and you’ll have to take them out by injuring them with your own ink, which is equally toxic to them!

While Splatoon 2 starts you off using motion controls, you have the option of turning them off and using the L and R sticks to look around and aim instead. You’ll have to decide for yourself which kind of controls work best for you, but rest easy with the knowledge that you don’t have to use motion controls if you don’t want to!

As with Splatoon 1, the centerpiece of Splatoon 2 is Turf War, a multiplayer mode that pits two teams of Inklings against each other. You and your three teammates are assigned a bright color, which shows in your hair and the ink dispensed by your weapons. Your opposing team of four Inklings is assigned a different bright color, and each team has 3 minutes to cover as much turf as possible with their ink. The team to ink the most turf after 3 minutes wins. As you ink the turf, you’ll also want to stop your opponents from spreading their ink around, and the best way to do that is to take them out by splatting them with your team’s ink!

Here's a Turf War in progress. This Inkling has just splatted two opponents, preventing them from continuing to spread their ink color around!
Here’s a Turf War in progress. This Inkling has just splatted two opponents, preventing them from continuing to spread their ink color around!

The two team colors switch after each match and are always dramatically contrasted. This makes for a joyfully colorful experience and helps avoid any confusion about which color you’re playing for.

Beautiful contrasting colors in a Turf War, the centerpiece of the Splatoon franchise!
Beautiful contrasting colors in a Turf War, the centerpiece of the Splatoon franchise!

Turf Wars take place in a variety of settings, called maps. Some of these maps hail from the first Splatoon game, like Moray Towers and Port Mackerel, but Splatoon 2 also features new maps, like Inkblot Art Academy and The Reef. The available maps for Turf War rotate every 2 hours (as opposed to the 3 hour rotation of Splatoon 1), and the game briefly announces the map change when it happens (unlike in Splatoon 1, where Callie and Marie go on and on in cutscene-like style about the latest map rotation). The map rotation feature helps keep things fresh, but it can be annoying if the only maps on offer are ones that you don’t like playing.

This is Moray Towers, one of the maps imported from Splatoon 1 (and one of my personal favorites!).
This is Moray Towers, one of the maps imported from Splatoon 1 (and one of my personal favorites!).
This is Muscleforge Fitness, a new stage to Splatoon 2!
This is Musselforge Fitness, a new stage in Splatoon 2!

Turf Wars last only three minutes each, which is the perfect amount of time: you never feel like you’re stuck in a match forever, and you feel free to play a few matches if you’re in a hurry or a lot if you’re in the mood for a Turf War marathon.

At the end of each Turf War, you’ll see the whole map in aerial view, and Judd the spotted cat will reveal the percentages of turf that each team has covered, revealing the winner of the Turf War. Matches can get pretty close, so keep in mind that every squirt of ink really counts!

There's Judd letting us know that we've won this Turf War!
Judd’s letting us know that we’ve won this Turf War!

The cons of Turf Wars? Well, it’s always frustrating when you’ve got a teammate (or two or three) who isn’t pulling their weight. (Sometimes, a teammate won’t touch the controller the entire match!) While you’ll be put on a “bad” team once in a while, this is to be expected in an online multiplayer game like this one. Overall, we feel that these are minor nuisances, not cons, and we give this mode of play an A+!

Once you’ve reached level 10, you can participate in Ranked Battles, a more competitive mode of play. There are three types of Ranked Battles: Tower Control, Splat Zones, and Rainmaker. In each mode, two teams of contrasting colors battle against each other to complete an assigned task. For example, in Tower Control, the teams fight to control a moving tower.

In this shot, we're the green team, but we're being poisoned with blue ink. Ack!
Fighting for control over this moving tower in Tower Control!

The cons of Ranked Battles? For one thing, only one of these modes is available at any given time, which can be annoying if you really want to play Tower Control but the game is only offering Splat Zones for the next two hours. Another drawback is that Ranked Battles, like Turf Wars, can be frustrating when your teammates aren’t pulling their weight. But overall, we think the pros definitely outweigh the cons in this mode, and it’s perfect for the more competitive player who’s up for a real challenge!

Salmon Run is a whole new mode of play that puts you on a team with three other Inklings—but in this mode, you battle Salmonoids instead of Inklings! Salmonoids are new enemies that drop eggs when killed, and Boss Salmonoids drop golden eggs, which you and your teammates must collect and put in a basket; you need to collect a certain number of golden eggs to meet your quota and proceed to the next wave.

These creatures are Salmonoids, and those spherical, glowing balls are eggs they have dropped.
These creatures are Salmonoids, and those spherical, glowing balls are golden eggs!

There are a total of three waves in each session of Salmon Run. At the beginning of the first wave, you and your teammates are each assigned a weapon from a pool of four weapons, and as each new wave begins, you’re each assigned a different weapon from that pool. This means you use three different weapons each time you play Salmon Run, which helps you become familiar with a wide variety of weapons.

Salmon Run. Those glowing balls are the golden eggs that you need to collect!
Collecting golden eggs in Salmon Run! You can only carry one at a time in a net on your back—hence, the need for coordinated teamwork!

Teamwork is key in Salmon Run. For example: when a boss dies, it drops three golden eggs, but you can only carry one at a time! You’ll need your teammates to pick up the other eggs before a Salmonoid comes along and steals it back! Also, it’s important to revive teammates who’ve been splatted and are calling for help, since you really need them in order to meet your quota of golden eggs.

This Salmonoid is stealing my golden eggs!
This Salmonoid is stealing golden eggs! It must be stopped!

This hectic, hard, and fun mode may seem overwhelming to beginners, but don’t worry: there are several required training courses before you can actually play in this mode, which helps you get the feel for what you’re supposed to do.

Salmon Run is a fun new challenge in the Splatoon franchise, and we hope to see much more of it in the future!
Salmon Run is a fun new challenge in the Splatoon franchise, and we hope to see much more of it in the future!

The cons? Salmon Run is only offered at certain times of the day—and sometimes, it might be days before Salmon Run is up when your schedule is open for video games. We hope this is only temporary and Nintendo plans to offer this mode much more often in the future, but we can’t say for sure. But when it’s available to play, this fun and unique challenge is a fantastic addition to the game!

Splatoon 2 is very amiibo-friendly. For instance, each amiibo offers an exclusive set of gear that can’t be found in shops. And, Splatoon 2 allows you to take pictures of a scanned amiibo with your Inkling. In camera mode, there are a variety of poses and backgrounds to choose from, and you have a great deal of creative control. Snap some photos with your amiibo and share them on Twitter or Facebook for a little extra fun!

Say "cheese"! That's me on the left, and my amiibo on the right.
Say “cheese”! That’s my Inkling on the left, and my amiibo on the right.

Another cool new amiibo feature is the ability to save an amiibo with a certain combinations of gear and weaponry that you enjoy using together. For example, perhaps you like to pair a certain roller with a certain hat, shirt, and shoe combination; maybe you also like using a certain gun with a whole different outfit. You can save these loadouts to amiibo so that you don’t have to scroll through your inventory and find the pieces you want every time you pick up the game and play with those specific combinations. Nifty, huh?

The cons? These amiibo don’t offer bonus missions, which is a bit of a letdown. But overall, we’re pretty satisfied with amiibo compatibility in Splatoon 2, and we especially enjoy the camera feature!

As with Splatoon 1, this sequel offers an exciting single player mode with new mechanics, new weapons, new environments, new ink colors (and new sparkly ink!), and cool remixed tunes. Set two years after Splatoon 1, the Great Zapfish and Callie have gone missing, and it’s your job to find out what’s happened to them!

Here's Marie—but where's Callie?!
Here’s Marie—but where’s Callie?!

As you play, you’ll gain helpful skills that will enhance your multiplayer play and familiarize yourself with a variety of weapons, all while facing interesting and unique challenges.

The sparkly ink of single player mode! It may be hard to see in this picture, but it's easy to see on your TV or gamepad.
The sparkly ink of single player mode! (The sparkles may be hard to see in this picture, but it’s easy to see on your TV or gamepad.)
A glimpse into what you may find in Single Player!
Riding the Ink Rails in single player mode!

Splatoon 2 is an incredibly vast game, and we have not been able to cover every single aspect of this game in this review. For instance, the HD rumble is perfect, and there’s a new smartphone app (Nintendo Switch Online) that helps you track your stats, use voice chat, and find other helpful information about Splatoon 2, like the current stages on offer. While this app has not exactly been well-received, we’ve had some success with using it, and there’s always time for Nintendo to improve it!

Overall, we highly recommend this game to lovers of Splatoon and anyone who thinks they might enjoy spraying colorful ink all over the place while listening to fresh, fun tunes. For us, the only major drawbacks are that Salmon Run isn’t always available, and the voice chat feature has had major connectivity issues thus far. But otherwise, Splatoon 2 is a truly great game, and you can pick it up right here!

We love Splatoon 2, and we hope you do, too!
We love Splatoon 2, and we hope you do, too!

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