Running time: 16 hours
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Splatoon 2 was – in all respects and intents – little more than a port from the original Wii U squid shooter to the Nintendo Switch. The single-player campaign was a marginal improvement over the first game’s glorified tutorial, but the multiplayer suite still didn’t allow you to team up with friends outside of the ranked game. And while the newly added Salmon Run was tons of fun, it was pinched by arbitrary time constraints.
Until the release of its excellent Octo Expansion campaign, Splatoon 2 felt more like a tentative step forward where a real Squid Surge was needed. Splatoon 3 is the ‘eel’ deal by comparison.
Nintendo has clearly focused on solving all the problems fans have had since the 2015 original. While the main draw of the game – competitive multiplayer – remains largely known, it benefits from all sorts of quality-of-life upgrades. Improvements so welcome they made me audibly scream – mainly variations of “oh nice, them” And last but not least that changed”.
The changes are even more apparent in Splatoon 3’s single player campaign. In the first two games, the solo component felt like an afterthought, with a series of obstacle course-style trials to get you used to the game. That element still exists in Splatoon 3, but it’s enhanced by a wider variety of challenges and a detailed hub world dotted with collectibles.
Splatoon’s own horde mode, Salmon Run, also returns. And while it’s not much different from the first iteration, some key differences make it that much better. More Boss Salmonids have been added, making each run much less predictable. And best of all, you can now queue up for the mode at any time, rather than being locked out at specific times like in Splatoon 2.
In short, Splatoon 3 is the shot in the arm that the series needed. And with post-launch support in 2023 and beyond, I expect squids and kids alike to be pleased for the foreseeable future.
Splatoon 3 price and release date
- What is it? Nintendo’s latest squid-based multiplayer splat ’em up
- Publication date: September 9, 2022
- Price: $59.99 / £49.99 / AU$79.95
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch
Surf and turf
The delicious, filling fillet at the center of Splatoon continues its fast-paced and addictive Turf War multiplayer battles. Two teams have three minutes to cover as much of the surface of the card as possible. It’s a simple but always chaotic mode, especially if you’re trying to learn the ins and outs of the map and your opponents’ armor in 180 hot seconds.
Fortunately, you can now line up with friends, on the same team, in unranked regular battles. It sounds so basic to get it right, because it is, but it’s still something Splatoon 3’s predecessors couldn’t offer. Now that this has been fixed, it has never been easier to play Splatoon socially.
However, it is of concern that Splatoon 3’s ranked modes (now known as Anarchy Battles) are still lagging behind progress. Specifically, you’ll need to reach level 10 (or transfer a Splatoon 2 save file) to gain access.
That means most of the game’s more creative multiplayer modes — including Rainmaker and Clam Blitz — won’t be immediately accessible to the vast majority of players. Plus, there are no new modes (at least at launch) to really spice up the formula. If you’re a Splatoon veteran, you know exactly what you’re getting.
However, Splatoon 3’s hub is an excellent addition. It’s slightly larger than the hubs of Splatoon 1 and 2, and clearly heavily inspired by Japanese city neighborhoods. It’s really fun exploring Splatsville’s open shopping district and winding alleys.
And while it’s a little confusing to navigate when you first get your bearings, I’m sure it’ll be even more fun to stroll around once the real player avatars start populating the space.
In a brand new dressing room, you can customize your own space with a huge variety of collectibles, including posters, figures, weapons, clothing and props. This part of the lobby was a little tricky to see at first as it is initially obscured by opaque glass. But once I found it, I spent more time than I’d like to admit cheating on my locker with all kinds of fishy smells.
The quality of the online connection seems to be much stronger overall – most likely thanks to Nintendo’s new net code making the rounds in other games like Monster Hunter Rise.
It’s a far cry from the days of Splatoon 2, where disconnects and outages were a frustratingly common occurrence. In my time playing Splatoon 3 online, I’ve never experienced this. Something that I hope will be the norm when the servers fill up on launch day.
Until now, Splatoon’s campaigns have always felt like a missed opportunity. Sure, they’re effective at familiarizing you with some weapons and mechanics. But that was all: tutorials in disguise.
The first set of levels in Splatoon 3’s campaign sound similar. But my fears were allayed as the campaign soon expanded and became, in a word, brilliant. There’s a huge range of missions this time around, ranging from obstacle courses littered with enemies, to Octo Expansion-style micro-challenges.
Splatoon 3’s campaign takes place in Alterna, a now-defunct research base once inhabited by the last remnants of humanity. It has its own hub, a much more open world dotted with missions and collectibles.
You team up with your Salmonid friend Smallfry to earn Power Eggs in each mission to slowly but surely clear the Fuzz. This hairy organic matter initially blocks much of the hub. But once it’s all clear, you’ll have free rein to explore each area and move on to new ones as the story progresses.
The campaign doesn’t stay welcome for long, it takes about eight hours to complete 100%. And that’s why I highly recommend playing it even if you’re most excited about the multiplayer. Alternatively, if you’re big into the bizarre, sometimes murky lore of the Splatoon universe, the story is definitely a must-play.
The foundations of an innovative, outstanding multiplayer shooter have always been there in Splatoon. The series has traditionally missed the mark of making its magic as accessible as it should be.
Splatoon 3’s countless quality-of-life upgrades, combined with its refreshing solo campaign, new lineup of collectibles, and improved online connectivity – not to mention its wonderfully wild punk rock, EDM and industrial soundtrack – make it the game that Splatoon 2 had. must be.
If this is your first time taking part in the Turf Wars, or if you’re a seasoned squid, know that you’re getting the series to its peak with Splatoon 3. The multiplayer has never been more seamless, nor has its single-player offerings more robust than here.