In the swirl of rumour and counter-rumour leading up to last week’s Nintendo Switch Presentation, there was the suggestion that a number of the best Wii U games would see straight up ports and remakes to Nintendo’s latest. That proved to be the case for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but Super Smash Bros. was notably absent, and we were surprised by a fully fledged sequel to Splatoon.
Nintendo hit a winning formula with the original’s release back in 2015, and Splatoon 2 barely even tinkers with that formula. The aim of the game’s Turf War multiplayer mode isn’t to kill the enemy, though that certainly helps, but to cover the arena with as much of your own team’s paint as possible. Each match is just a few minutes in length, keeping things short and snappy, before the winner is determined by whichever has the higher percentage of the ground covered.
If you’re familiar with Splatoon, picking up and playing Splatoon 2 is like slipping into a pair of old and comfortable boots. Everything is still there, from the mixed motion and analogue stick aiming – this demo didn’t let us fiddle with turning the motion control off – to need to turn into squid form to move quickly, hide from enemies, or simply recharge your paint-based weapons.
It all plays very fluidly on the Switch, whether using it in handheld mode or connected to the TV. In fact, the Switch Pro Controller now has motion sensors built in, meaning that motion controlled aiming is possible across the board. The only concession since the Wii U version is the lack of a second screen to show the level map and how the battle is going. That’s now brought up with a button press, so it’s ever-so-slightly less intuitive to launch yourself from the spawn point to join a teammate – the interface here could really use some work.
In fact, so familiar was it that I found myself romping through the other team, getting into double figures of kills all too easily – sadly my capture box decided not to cooperate and record this, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Yet, this game isn’t about killing, and despite my heroics, we lost both rounds as my team mates weren’t covering enough ground in the rest of the level.
So why is this a sequel and not a remake, when Mario Kart 8 sees a Deluxe release and not a brand new entry? I think it’s a simple case of Splatoon remaining a fresh new concept, while much of Mario Kart is retrofitted and reimagined tracks of the past. Splatoon is also an awful lot more diverse, letting Nintendo add new maps, new weapons and potentially even new modes to the mix.
Weapons like the Splattershot and the Splat Roller return, but they’re joined by the new Splat Dualies, which enable you to perform a quick dodge roll, and a number of new special abilities, such as a target locked rocket barrage capable of wiping out the entire enemy team, or a paint jetpack that send you up into the sky on two streams of paint and lets you throw paint bombs from above. Needless to say, there were just four configurations and there’s bound to be an awful lot more additions and changes for the full game, not to mention in post-release updates.
Splatoon 2 also leverages the Switch’s portability to good effect. You won’t be limited to online multiplayer – a good thing for those averse to paying for a subscription – but can also bring together ad hoc gaming sessions for up to eight people and eight Switches. That’s perfect when Turf War is a 4v4 game mode to start with.
At first blush, Splatoon 2 looks like a pretty straightforward sequel, taking the original and adding new content to it. That could be considered a little disappointing, but I would bet that Nintendo have a few twists to the game that they aren’t talking about yet. Either way, I’m looking forward to getting back into Splatoon this summer and painting the town blue, or red, or green, or whatever my team’s colour is.