To 3, or not to 3
If you’ve been keeping up with discussions surrounding Splatoon 3 for the last few months, it’s been commonplace to see concerns popping up anywhere you look. The biggest and most vocal of these complaints have centered on “why” we need Splatoon 3. Many fans of the series felt that there was no real need for a 3rd game, and Nintendo should’ve just continued updating Splatoon 2 instead. While I don’t believe this line of thinking was ever completely invalid, when looking at the history of the Splatoon franchise, you notice these same concerns happened with the second installment as well. Along with that, those worries were alleviated right before the launch of the game.
All the way back with the announcement of the first Splatoon, there were concerns that there wasn’t enough depth to the gameplay to last. Roughly a month before release, we got the first Splatoon Direct, which showed us just how much there was to offer. This included looks at a full single-player campaign and the game’s Ranked Modes, just to name a few. Two years later with the launch of the Switch, we got the announcement for Splatoon 2. Like clockwork, we saw a similar response to what we’re hearing now: Do we really need a new Splatoon?
Just as with the first game, roughly a month before the launch of Splatoon 2, we got the second Splatoon Direct, and it showcased all the sequel had to offer. This included the fan-favorite Salmon Run, the first entirely new mode for the Splatoon franchise. Salmon Run certainly wasn’t the only new addition, either. Just as 2 years had passed in real life, 2 years had passed in-game. This time skip allowed the developers to give Splatoon a fresh coat of paint, changing up the world and adding in more weapons, maps, and gear.
Here we are, 5 years since the release of Splatoon 2, which is more than double the amount of time we had to wait between Splatoon to Splatoon 2. That in itself constitutes some need for a new entry, as 5 years is a considerable amount of time. Even with Splatoon’s more “live-service” content releases, the player count is sure to drop off after some time. Splatoon 3 is the perfect way to revive the player base, as well as pull in new players who are put off by Splatoon 2’s age.
It seemed obvious to me that Nintendo would follow this same Direct pattern with Splatoon 3, so I was never too worried about a lack of information for Splatoon 3. Earlier this August, we finally got Splatoon 3’s Direct, and it was received mostly positively. This Direct contained a huge amount of new information similar to older Splatoon Directs, including a blend of the new with the old.
This Direct’s main focus was to show off how Splatoon has changed in the past 5 years. While there was no addition as large as Salmon Run, the 5-year time gap allowed for much more dramatic changes in the world of Splatoon. Due to team Chaos winning Splatoon 2’s final Splatfest, Splatoon 3 was thrust into a world of Chaos, set in the newly revealed Splatlands. Initially, it may seem disappointing to lack a big new mode. That said, I think the combined small changes far exceed the changes made in the transition from Splatoon to Splatoon 2.
As expected, the Direct started by giving an explanation of how Splatoon games work for players unfamiliar with the franchise. To keep these parts fresh for experienced players, the old is interwoven with new details, starting off with two new weapon types, the Stringer and the Splatana.
The Stringer seems to function as a more versatile charger by featuring two modes of fire; one for long range and one for covering turf. While the Stringer had been known for a while, the Splatana is a completely new announcement from this Direct. While I’m not completely sold on the Stringer, I’m personally very excited about the Splatana, as it seems to function very similarly to the Inkbrush. The Inkbrush is my weapon of choice, so having a somewhat interchangeable weapon with added range will make for a great addition.
In addition to the new weapon types, we got a quick look at the initial map rotation, with 12 total maps. Because Splatoon 3 is set in the Splatlands, a good chunk of the maps have a completely new style compared to the old games. Instead of a cleaner, urban look, stages in the Splatlands are grimy, dilapidated, and set in the middle of stunning rock formations. As with past games, new and returning maps are planned to be added in the months following release, so we are sure to get both old favorites and new classics.
The base gameplay of Splatoon 3 also has a few small tweaks that change the gameplay drastically. The smallest change is the removal of a ground spawn point, which is replaced with multiple launchers floating above the stage. These launchers shoot your character right into action, and should help to prevent spawn-camping due to their less-predictable nature. The biggest change has to be the addition of the Squid Roll and Squid Surge.The Squid Roll is a type of jump done when swimming in ink that deflects shots when timed correctly. The Squid Surge is a more vertical option for jumping up walls to get the drop on opponents waiting above. While these may seem like small additions, this new movement fundamentally changes the game’s combat, adding a new layer of depth.
One area that initially seemed unchanged is Ranked Battle, now known as Anarchy Battle. While we sadly didn’t get any new game modes for Anarchy, it seems that the entire format for the Mode has changed considerably. Instead of having a singular mode for Ranked, now there are two separate modes, with one exclusive for solo play. This solo mode, known as Anarchy Battle Series, places you in a series of matches with the goal to win 5. Losing 3 seemingly ends your series, forcing you to restart the process. It’s unclear what the purpose of playing in a series is, other than the advantage of avoiding playing against established groups, however completing a series is sure to help rise in the ranks.
Salmon Run was also touched on, but sadly seems to have the least changed from Splatoon 2. This is not to say that there are no changes, only more subtle, expected ones. New bosses, Special Events, and new Maps were the main focus for Salmon Run, but we did hear a quick mention of a new type of timed event for Salmon Run similar to Splatfests called Big Run. We don’t know too much about how Big Runs will work, only that they will feature the Salmonids going on the attack in Multiplayer maps.
Some of the best reveals of this Direct stem from the smaller changes, including loadouts, an improved training area, more ways to play with friends, new customization options, and the ability to create and share replays. Some may argue that many of these features should’ve been present in the Splatoon franchise since the beginning, and for some features I agree. However, while we had to wait quite a while for some of these options to come to Splatoon, I think it can be argued that the wait was worth it due to the unique flair in the execution.
The best example of this is with Lockers. These new lockers function as a way to express yourself in a completely optional way, both for you and your opponents. Every player has their own customizable locker that they can put weapons, gear, and other items in that fit their style. If you don’t feel like cramming your locker full of every item you can get your hands on, that’s fine! On the flip side, you never have to view other lockers if you don’t want to, as they are completely separate from the core gameplay.
This optionality is not dissimilar to the new card-battler, Table Turf War. Players are able to build their own custom deck of cards, with each card containing a different pattern used to fill up a grid faster than their opponent. Out of all of the announcements in this Direct, I don’t think anyone had this in their predictions.I’m excited to learn more about how it works, as it looks like it could be a fun side-mode for when you want a break from laying down ink.
By far the biggest (and most unexpected) announcement had to be the reworked Splatfests, now featuring 3 teams instead of 2. Every past Splatoon game only had 2 teams to choose from, so the addition of a new choice means Splatfests have to work completely differently now. Because of the third team, Splatfests are now split into halves, with the first half determining an early winner, who then must fight to stay on top in Tricolor Turf war. We got a chance to try this out for Splatoon 3’s first Splatfest. While the idea seems sound, it still needs a little work, as it was quite difficult for the defending team (Scissors) to win matches. Thankfully, Nintendo has already said they are working on tweaking how Splatfests will work in the future, and specifically the Tricolor Turfwars.
One topic that the Direct strangely didn’t touch on was the single-player mode. All that was shown was a quick recap of what we already knew, with no new features anywhere. A few weeks later we learned why, as Nintendo was planning a Treehouse stream for Splatoon 3, where we got our first real look at how the campaign would operate.
Anyone who played the Octo Expansion DLC for Splatoon 2 is sure to quickly recognize the changes made because of that DLC. The biggest change came in the form of weapon loadouts unique to each level. While Splatoon 2 allowed for any Hero-type weapon to be used on any stage, this limited just how different each stage could be as it had to be beatable with each weapon. The weapon loadouts introduced in Octo Expansion allowed for each level to feel much more unique, leading to an all-around more memorable experience.
After the Treehouse had finished up with Story Mode, we got a closer look at the all-new lobby. While many of the new features were explained pretty well in the Direct, seeing them used in real gameplay made this change appear much more worthwhile. This new lobby is by far the largest training room we’ve seen yet, with plenty of obstacles set up to mirror real in-game scenarios players might run across. The best new feature added to the lobby (and something that wasn’t mentioned in the Direct) had to be the new Copy Machine.
This Copy Machine acts as a sort of test dummy, except it copies your attacks. This means when you shoot, it shoots, and when you throw bombs it throws bombs. This is really useful for getting down the timing of certain moves, as you have much more control over when to expect them and can get used to their patterns.
There are for sure many features I didn’t touch on (including new members of the games cast), but these are the biggest ones that stood out to me in terms of setting Splatoon 3 apart from previous entries. I want to say that all of these new features are enough for most, but a few people are still not happy with the fresh offerings. This isn’t too surprising, as this is the internet and there is always something to complain about. All in all though, when looking at everything new Splatoon 3 has to offer, I feel safe in saying this looks to be a worthwhile threequel.