Before reviewing Splatoon 3, I would like to make a few historical notes, as always.
Not long ago, at least until the end of Eighth Generation of Consul, talking about Nintendo with a more general audience was equivalent to shooting oneself in the foot. Not so much for the situation in which the company was, with a 3DS in the last year of relevance and a Wii U just waiting for a vacancy in the morgue, but more for a fort prejudice circulating among the various social networks.
“Nintendo is only good when it comes to Mario or Zelda. They do nothing else. "
A sentence that if taken into consideration would be dismissed in a few seconds, but which underneath could have a grain of truth. Far be it from me to start with such premises clickbaitistics, but for a while, Nintendo has been and continues to be Disney's gaming counterpart. Both in its merits with videogame experiences that when they work they move the industry forward or at least leave an indelible memory to the player, and in its flaws with regard to the scandalous management of its most famous intellectual properties and the paucity of successes when it comes to creating new ones or modernizing old gems from the past.
There are so many titles of Super Mario but there is also one Yoshi's Wolly World; we have Fire Emblem for tactical lovers but we also have Codename: Steam? Self Wii Sports he can sell himself, because then he can't ARMS? Net of the fact that you are talking about different experiences, the communication management of these unfortunate titles left a lot to be desired. And I would ask you not to talk about Star fox zero o Metroid Prime: Federation Force, those are real executions in public square, and which for a long time allowed the "bullies to make the following for every Nintendo fan between 2012 and 2016.
Yet, during the darkest time possible, something came. A game he managed to destroy these prejudices and to settle in the collective imagination: Splatoon.
I've got kids in my head, Squidfest!
The game had all the checks of a Nintendo title that could point to the sun: un "Overturning in design" of a videogame genre different from the comfort zone of the Kyoto house, one gimmick able to overcome the shortcomings of console shooters due to the use of the infamous self aim, a cartoonish and wacky design (reminiscent of the Free to Play titles of the time) and above all a solid game loop. In some ways it is very reminiscent of the story of another title that was very different from the "nintendary canons": Super Smash Bros. 64. And in fact like the latter, Splatoon had managed to build (more in Japan) a small niche of fans. The conditions for becoming something more were there, but he needed a less unfortunate platform. And indeed ...
Splatoon 2 took the good that was done with the first chapter and re-packaged it on Nintendo Switch, with small news and with the promise of new paid and free content that over time, among others Splatfest e the Octo Expansion, have actually arrived. Put simply, it started from a promising base, and then shaped an enjoyable online (and single player) gaming experience. And the results have been seen. Sales, fanart, animated shorts and the much sought after representation on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate they re-confirmed the public's interest or curiosity in the evolution of Splatoon.
And as always, the videogame world rarely stops at the second chapter (true Half Life?)
Three is better than two?
The announcement of Splatoon 3 in February 2021 he rekindled the light of Nintendo fans in the same way that the trailer for the first chapter did in 2014. Aside from third-party titles, titles developed by Nintendo and released on the Switch around that time were beginning to shrink. A bit for the awful aftermath left from COVID-19 and that has influenced the world of development, partly because interesting titles like Metroid dread or expected blockbusters we were not even talking about the return of Christ as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom were still hidden from the public eye, the latter in fact is still inside the oven and will be released in 2023.
To these was added a third factor, linked to post-launch management of the latest titles made by N. We saw it with Mario Tennis Aces, Mario Golf Super Rush and we are still seeing it with nintendo switch sports, that aforementioned promise of free updates was becoming such a big burden that it put the so-called flea in the ear of the fans, who started to see some insecurities in the lack of continuous and consistent communication on Splatoon 3.
“But why aren't new trailers coming out? Could it be because there is no new content? "
Yet another prejudice but which on the other hand I would not feel like condemning, given that it arose from the tendency of the parent company to want tuck a live service-like model into games that wouldn't need it and that many people believe it could have influenced the post-launch popularity of Splatoon 3.
Thank goodness I do Splatoon 3 Direct succeeded in the intent of bombard the community with information and news, both in terms of gameplay and content, giving a sort of overview of what will be added in the coming months. However, the initial lack of news created a small rift among fans, who still today support the idea of considering this game as "Splatoon 2.5", not considering it valid 60 euros required for its purchase.
But will it really be like this? Well I'd say it's time to find out but before I start, I have to give you a little information. As you know I try to make these reviews a little more "personal", combining the technical analysis of game design with my subjective first-person experience. But there is a problem, which applies beautifully to the topic of this article: I've never played a Splatoon.
And for this I was full of prejudices.
Down the hairy tube
Let's go back a few years, great Nintendo Switch preview of 2017, a few weeks before the launch of the console. During that event I had the opportunity to play a short game of Splatoon 2 and… I didn't like it. I don't remember exactly what led me to this conclusion: could it have been the general confusion of the event? The fact of having to learn a new control system in seconds? The fact that you weren't particularly used to shooters at the time? Dunno, the fact is that that single test alienated me completely, making me forget the existence of Splatoon 2 for some time.
Returning to August 2022, the preview at the Videogames Party was a different story. In addition to the fantastic welcome from the staff and the small number of people, I did something that many would see as insane and villainous: I deactivated the controls with the gyroscope, preferring the classic scheme to analog.
Now, I can already hear your screams after reading one Blasphemy, but I want to clarify how the gaming experience at VGP has benefited and not a little. Without the worry of having to use any particular precision, he was able to enjoy the whole session, erasing my prejudices about the game and above all projecting myself towards the coverage of the final release. However, I invite you to remember this little information on the control system, because we will need it later.
The day of the official release arrived and unfortunately skipped (we'll talk about it) it Splatfest World Premiere, I catapulted inside the Single Player Mode: Return of the Mammiferians. As a non-player to Splatoon 2 and its single player mode I appreciated the structure given to the player's path, starting from a bloated tutorial and at its full potential, to then deprive you of all the cool toys, encouraging the player to get them back during the unfolding of the campaign, divided into 6 areas.
In addition to the various kettles which represent the levels and bosses you can face, and that highlight all the weapons available with endurance, platforming and tests puzzles, approaching the player to discover their own style of play, each of these areas has goodies, collectibles and anecdotes dedicated to lore scattered everywhere, obtainable both through exploration and through the completion of environmental puzzles and skill tests. In general, it is based (most of the time) on a pleasant introductory experience or general review before getting into the real flab of Splatoon 3: multiplayer and the city of Splattonia.
Next Stop, Next Stop: Splattonia!
Walking through the streets of the city is possible explore the shops in search of collectibles for the locker room, new weapons e new equipment looking for the perfect mix and synergy for their combat set-up, as well as view the players currently online, making Splattonia a sort of Miiverse in a lite and contained version, for good and especially for bad. Inside the lobby it is possible take part or organize online matches between friends or strangers, through a dedicated matchmaking to casual play and a separate competitive mode and that highlight the best part of the experience: the gameplay.
As mentioned in the preview phase, Splatoon 3 follows the plot of the "winning team does not change", maintaining a third person shooter gameplay formula unchanged compared to the previous chapters and without (for now) any new game modes. However, the development team seems to have focused a lot on the balance of firefights, adding new defensive options such as they screw it up to avoid encirclement and gain a short period of invincibility, or the splashed, which is an ideal loaded jump for surprise attacks. These new strategic options, along with new weapons (Calamarco and Wiper), new special abilities and the possibility of chain more than 4 power-ups for every wearable garment, they give life to frantic and heart-pounding clashes, where every mistake can lead to one tabula rasa or the elimination of each member of his team, leaving his area at the mercy of the opponent.
In addition to the classics Mollusca blends, the daily rotation of the maps also allows you to try your hand at salmon run, the horde mode in which a team of 4 people are catapulted into a dynamic arena, capable of widening and shrinking during the waves. Their goal? Collect enough eggs to meet the demands of the Ursus & Co. The only obstacle between players and a well-deserved reward is the Salmonoids to defeat.
As in the case of the more classic online mode, Salmon Run has also undergone revisions linked to the flow of the actions involved. Now it is possible throwing eggs from afar, optimizing map cleaning actions and avoiding unnecessary trips to the goal, allowing the player to always stay in the thick of the action. New and fearsome new ones have also been added Salmonoid Bosses, with the possibility - once enough games have been made - to face the King Psalmonoid, a giant shark-kaiju that can further increase stats. Compared to clashes between teams, Salmon Run offers an even greater level of challenge also due to the random rotation of the available weapons, thus requiring not only a good team play but also an excellent knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of one's equipment, and that between one attempt and another further extends the longevity of the online experience.
So let's recap: a strong single player mode full of things to do and a deep and nice solid multiplayer sector. What could possibly go wrong?
One splatter too many
As mentioned earlier, Splatoon 3 gameplay favors speed of execution and accuracy, perhaps even too much from certain points of view, regardless of the type of controls used.
In fact, some instances of the campaign, they require eye-hand coordination at the limit of perfection and within a window of action that is far too short, especially when dealing with levels like Welcome to Bersagliopoli, a path without checkpoints in which the player is called to destroy every single visible target at the first shot, between grates that block the passage and a positioning of the targets that in some cases leads me to exasperation. It is useless to hide it, this is the worst level of the whole experience, with a difficulty and premise of counterproductive design with respect to the educational purpose that these levels should have to prepare the player for the heat of the online arena and which after 2 hours of attempts led me to avoid the continuation of the single player adventure.
At this point, "A little badI thought, let's go online and let's start overturn some molluscs. But even here, my expectation collides with the harsh reality represented by Nintendo Switch Online and archaic network infrastructure that still uses peer-to-peer to connect players from all over the world. Sure, there are titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe whose online component is miraculous, everything works wonderfully and without particular problems. Here you are, Splatoon 3 for now is not even close. It's okay that in my case (student away from home and with a 4G sim as the only available connection) I would have very little to criticize, but in certain instances of the online mode the frightening lag that plagues this game's netcode is out of the user's control.
A player could have one of the best connections around, log into a game of Splatoon 3, and risk joining anyway in a vicious circle of errors in the connection between users and invalidated games due to another player having the misfortune of owning a modem that runs on charcoal. As if that weren't enough, in a very, very noble attempt to avoid the phenomenon of throwing during competitive matches, any disconnection is considered as an automatic defeat and without the possibility of appeal. This problem could have been avoided by making a distinction between those who throw the game away and those who have real connection problems, especially considering the fact that the latter case represents the majority of players since the Splatfest World Premiere.
Strange to say, but all of this led me to live a real one burnout from Splatoon after only a few days of its launch, which is also the reason why this review took a while to arrive. I'm sorry, because all in all the desire to even want to have fun with some friends online or to try motion controls (which I later did) is there, but it fails to express itself at its best due to an online structure stuck in the years of peer-to-peer software such as Limewire and of which I have quite frankly had enough.
An ending with hiccups
Net of everything, of the initial prejudices, of the defects but also of its incredible merits, Splatoon 3 is a great product and is proving it day in and day out.
Answering the question asked at the beginning ...
"Splatoon 3 is Splatoon 3 because the love around its predecessors made it so"
We are talking about one of the very few cases in which Nintendo listens to community feedback, of players who share the same passion of the developers for a game that in a few years it has become a global phenomenon and must now aim even higher, leading Nintendo itself to evolve. And if it is a shooter that, even if in a more timid way, wants to create a healthy and thriving competitive landscape, the solution is only one: an online structure worthy of being called such. We'll talk about it again in a few years, with a new expansion or even in Splatoon 4 if it ever happens, but this "slap" is needed.
Because yes, the colors, the style, the gameplay, the characters, the comedy and everything that revolves around Splatoon are wonderful and most likely the Splatfests and the upcoming content promise hours and hours of fun, but what good are all these elements if there aren't enough players to appreciate them?
At this point the ball goes back to Nintendo, hoping they too destroy prejudices about their company. As I did during this long and tortuous journey together with an Octoling from a post-apocalyptic world.