Is it just me, or is Splatoon 2 still kind of crazy in its existence? At the beginning of this year, we weren't even sure if there was going to be a sequel, and now, it's been out for a few months. We've had several new weapons, and new stages are on the horizon, so it's like Splatoon never missed a beat. Splatoon is back? Splatoon never left. To me, the Wii U hit still feels like this totally new game from Nintendo, not a series that now has two games. Like I said before, it feels like it has always been apart of Nintendo despite how crazy new it is, but at the same time, I can't shake the feeling of Splatoon being just one entity. Like how Shenmue I and II feel like one game with two halves. Is that because Splatoon 2 treads old ground too much, or is it something else? I intend to find out by the time this review is over.
Splatoon 2 is billed as the sequel to 2015's most unique online shooter, Splatoon. Two years have passed in the Inkling world, and the fresh kids are hanging out in a new spot: Inkopolis Square, as opposed to Inkopolis Plaza from the first. Mostly new stores (exception being Sheldon's weapon shop), new areas to explore, new hosts in the form of Pearl and Marina, and all around more things to do in a slightly bigger area. The original game was divided into two main modes and some crappy local balloon shooting thing that no one played. Those two modes were the story mode and online battles. Both return here and are better than ever. The story mode revolves around Marie, one of the Squid Sisters from Splatoon 1, hunting for the other sister, Callie, as she believes the returning Octarians have got her. The Great Zapfish has been stolen again, there are more sunken scrolls to find, go nuts in a variety of stages. In Splatoon 2, however, you get more than your basic Splattershot for these missions. In fact, there are beefed up versions of every weapon called the "Hero Weapons" that you can unlock for multiplayer by grinding the 27 Single Player Missions really hard. Now, by this point in writing the review, I realized "Oh crap, I should really beat the single player before talking about it", and that sort of sums up how I feel about the Story Campaign. It's pretty much exactly what you expect: New stages, New Bosses, New and old stage gimmicks, and now with a choice of weapons, but it does little else in the new department. It's a sequel to Splatoon 1's single player in the same way Mega Man games are sequels to each other; New stage lay outs and things to do, but feels like it's continuing the last game without fixing any of the problems or pushing the concept forward. Not that it's bad, it's just predictable, which doesn't really motivate me to play it. It's definitely good above anything else, but once again, I can only play it short spurts due to how long these levels can get. Then again, that single player shouldn't be binged anyway because it's not the main attraction. That goes to the multiplayer.
Like Splatoon before it, Turf Wars are what you come to this game for. You fight online in 4v4 turf battles in a variety of stages, with the goal of inking the most space on the ground. At launch, the game had a bit beefier of a line up than the original Splatoon, with eight stages instead of five (two of which are the returning Moray Towers and Port Mackerel) , all the weapons including the DLC ones returning, as well as a new weapon in the form of the Splat Dualies, a set of dual pistols that includes a dodge roll. There are online private matches, Ranked, and even Team Ranked, both of which are on their own set of stage rotations . Yes, Splatoon 2 continues the mildly unpopular design choice of having two stages available at a given time for Online play. It's at least been sped up from four hour rotations to two hour, which helps keeps things fresh, something Splatoon 2 is very good at for the moment. At the time of publishing this review, there has been a new weapon pretty much weekly, three new stages (One of which is the returning Kelp Dome), and Splatfests coming in roughly every month or six weeks. So at the moment there's plenty of content at a steady stream to keep you coming back, as opposed to having seen everything in a week and get bored. The comparison to ARMS is inevitable, since Nintendo is trying the exact same strategy for that game as well, but with less content to boot and longer wait times for more. That's not really fair since Splatoon 2 had an established base to work with and ARMS is still testing out its potential. But for sure, the better value here is Splatoon 2 for multiplayer goodness. And it doesn't even have to be online, as Local battles are officially a thing, albeit only between two separate Switch consoles. Which is nice because it means that there's at least a way to play the multiplayer once the servers inevitably go down, unlike the first game. This goes well ditto for the new main mode, Salmon Run.
Salmon Run is a brand new online mode that's available for only certain hours of a day. Which to be fair, it's available way more often than it's not, running from times like 6am to 4am the next day, and then the next one starting up later at 12pm. It's a hoard style mode where a team of four players match up together, get a random weapon, and take on a stream of mutated salmon. The goal? Defeat the boss salmons and collect its golden eggs. There are eight variety of boss salmon, as the tutorial will tell you, and you no doubt will be killed by many of them. For as many advantages as the game gives you for playing Salmon Run, like being able to revive your teammates or spacious level design, there's about twice as many disadvantages. They will throw four different bosses at you at a time, on top of the normal enemies, and if all your teammates die in just one of the three waves, you lose everything. If the single player and turf wars aren't itching that gamers urge for challenge, Salmon Run will. There's a nice little reward system where you earn points and buy things like gear, other currencies, and meal tickets, so it overall adds to the main game itself, but it honestly doesn't need the other modes to give it a reason to exist. It's cut and dry fun, at least for the masochist in me. It's not, say, Mega Man And Bass controller snappingly frustrating, but it's challenging in a way that makes you want to get better at the game. There's enough reward in collecting even one salmon egg that keeps you motivated, and enough variety between enemy types, random weapons, and bosses that it never feels like you're doing the same thing over and over. It's great game design and a welcome addition to Splatoons line up on modes. I do wish it was available all the time, just out of the petty gripe that I want it ready and waiting for me to play it, not waiting for the game to let me play it. But that's the only real complaint I have about the mode. It's just another reason to come back and play Splatoon 2, even when I have other games like Mario and Rabbids or the storm coming that is Super Mario Odyssey.
Splatoon 2 is in the school of "second verse same as the first", but with more of pretty much everything. Kind of like how LittleBigPlanet 2 is has many of the same tools with more on top. Same framework but more to do. If you didn't really enjoy Splatoon on Wii U, this will likely not change your mind. If you liked Splatoon 1, then welcome aboard, you're in for more content, marginally update graphics, and that whole portability thing. It's good old fashioned inky fun for a brand new system. Just, not really that old fashioned. I probably have some canned food older than Splatoon 1. But like I said, it feels like Splatoon has always been there, so maybe it is older than I thought. Now if we can just get the Inklings in Smash...
FINAL VERDICT: More Inky Fun
ONE SENTENCE REASONING: Splatoon 2 is more of the same but with cherries on top and plenty of new to explore