Behold, boys and girls, the glory of Splatoon 2, the Little IP That Could. A few years ago before Splatoon came out for Wii U when I heard that Nintendo was working on a new IP that would be a competitive shooter focused on online play, I was skeptical like many folks. Nintendo making a shooter? Unusual, sure, but not unheard of - just look at Metroid Prime. Nintendo making a competitive online shooter, though? No way this will end well. Nintendo has no idea what it's doing with online connectivity. And in fairness, they still have no idea what they're doing with online connectivity, but despite having all of the minor details mucked up horribly - matchmaking with friends is pants, voice chat requires that you be in a private game with friends rather than just in a party in-game, and the fact that the Switch requires a smartphone app for voice chat in the first place - the gameplay is so damn good and so damn smooth that you almost don't care about those glaring flaws. Almost.
On the surface, Splatoon 2 is really just Splatoon 1.5, and in a lot of ways, it is essentially an enhanced port of the Wii U original, but when you dig deeper, there's a fair bit of added content that justifies calling it a sequel. The Inkopolis Square looks more or less the same as the original game - just a few things moved around - the center of the square is still the online arena. You have your usual Turf War unranked game mode where you gain experience and level up based on your performance. When you reach level 10, you unlock Ranked Battles which vary between three different game modes. Once you reach rank B- in Ranked Battles, you unlock League Battles. League Battles are bit different in that they are large scale battles taking place over the course of 2 hours to see which team can accrue the highest score. Only the most extreme squid kids need apply. The last online game mode is Salmon Run, a horde-style game where you fight endless waves of enemies and bosses while trying to collect golden eggs.
As for the single player, it's still not amazing, but in my opinion, it's much improved over the first game. Again, the Octolings have kidnapped the Giant Zapfish, but Callie, one of the Squid Sisters from the first game, has also vanished. Is it connected? It is a coincidence? Who knows? Marie is dead-set on finding out, though, and enlists the help your fresh self. The single player campaign is divided into five different sectors with roughly half a dozen levels plus a boss in each. Starting partway through, Sheldon, the weapons dealer, will start assigning you a weapon to use in most levels, claiming that he needs field data. While this can get irksome with some levels, in general, it's a fun way to change things up and get a little bit of experience with the game's various weapon types. As one might expect with Splatoon if ones knows anything of the game's style, the highlight of the single player is definitely the music. Each sector has its own vibe, and the music is set to match each of them. The campaign's five bosses all have their own weaknesses and style; it's not just the "shoot it a lot until it dies" type of boss like a lot of shooters have. Most of the bosses are fairly easy once you figure out their attack patterns and weaknesses, but that doesn't detract one bit from the enjoyment of fighting them.
With the release of a new trio of amiibo for Splatoon 2, I have to address their functionality. There are now - including the amiibo released for the original Splatoon - 11 different Splatoon amiibo. You've got the original trio, the palette swap trio, Callie and Marie, and the Splatoon 2 trio. Unfortunately, the two sets of Inklings from the first game are read as the same amiibo, but even then, that's 8 unique amiibo that you can scan. What does scanning these amiibo get you, though? Super fresh exclusive gear! The 6 non-Squid Sisters amiibo will each get you three pieces of gear - one at level 1, one at level 6, and one at level 9. The two Squid Sisters will each get you one piece of exclusive gear after you clear the single player. They're not game-changers or anything, but they do look pretty sick and have three trait boosts each.
What a lot of people are probably wondering is how the performance differs from the first Splatoon. It's no secret that the Wii U's hardware was very weak when compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and while the Switch still isn't quite up the level of those two, it's significantly stronger than the Wii U (especially given that it's basically a handheld on steroids), and it definitely shows with Splatoon 2. The first game looked pretty good, remember, locking an almost flawless 60 fps, although that did come at the price of a 720p resolution with no anti-aliasing. Splatoon 2 ups the ante with a (mostly) full 1080p resolution while still maintaining a locked 60 fps. Granted, this resolution is achieved through dynamic scaling, going from 864p to 1080p in docked mode and between 648p and 720p in handheld mode, but it's done extremely well, so much so that you won't notice the scaling unless you're looking for it. It is worth noting, however, that obviously, the game renders at 720p in handheld mode). The game also features dynamic shadows - something the Wii U original lacked - although these shadows aren't the most detailed. One of the most satisfying improvements (despite sounding minor to those who haven't played the game) is the ink texture work. When looking at ink that's been sprayed on the ground, it sometimes looked rather flat and dull on the Wii U game. In Splatoon 2, however, the ink has a much "goopier" appearance with MUCH more impressive lighting effects and texture work. It sounds minor, but given that the purpose of Turf War is to spray as much of your team's ink on the ground as possible, you'll be looking at the ink way more than anything else.
Splatoon 2 is an EXCELLENT sequel and an absolute must-have for Nintendo Switch owners. It's not a masterpiece - the complete muck up of voice chat and inability to team up with friends in public games are major disappointments even if not surprising - but the online mode is devilishly fun and addicting, even for folks like me who usually don't get much enjoyment from playing shooters online. The attitude of the game, the feel and tone of the visuals and sound design, and the damn amazing feel of the controls all make Splatoon 2 one of the most addicting games on Switch, right up there with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. If you have a Switch and DON'T own Splatoon 2 yet, you're doing yourself a major disservice. Go out and pick up that game TODAY.
Also, Nintendo missed a huge opportunity by not stylizing the title "Spla2n." Just saying.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.