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‘Splatoon 2’: Our First Take

'Splatoon 2' brings one of the Wii U's best games to the Switch, with a little extra

When Nintendo first showed Splatoon 2 during its initial teaser for the Switch, many believed the game was a port, or an enhanced edition with some extra character customization options. It turns out the new Splatoon game is a fully fledged sequel, but the preliminary assessment does not seem to be too far off the mark. Splatoon 2 looks great and will offer fans the chance to play their favorite PG-rated third-person shooter on the go, but there are no notable changes to core play. Splatoon 2 is effectively a Switch port of the original Splatoon. But given that very people bought a Wii U, and those who did typically love this game, it doesn’t seem like anyone’s going to have a problem with that.

Just a touch-up…

The main conundrum of transplanting Splatoon to the Switch stems from the Wii U gamepad, or lack thereof. Since Switch games have to work on TV as well as with the portable console, the game no longer relies exclusively on the combined touch- and button-based control scheme found in the original. Some moves, like the super jump, now have controller shortcuts, but the feeling is mostly the same. That’s because the game’s defining control feature — aiming your paint guns by moving your controller’s gyroscope — remains available whether you’re using the portable console or playing the game docked with a pro controller.

As a result, the nuances of playing Splatoon 2 remain familiar. That’s a mixed bag for anyone who isn’t already an expert player. In a four-on-four match, you could clearly tell the difference between the novices versus veterans, though maybe not well enough to learn the ropes. There’s always some element of this challenge in a sequel to a competitive game, but between the fact that this game is so similar to the original and that there are few games like Splatoon, the learning curve is poised to be incredibly high unless the community is flooded with new players.

…and a fresh top-coat

Don’t get me wrong, though, there are new things in Splatoon 2. There are new hairstyles and clothing items. There are new maps. There are new guns and special attacks. Players who gobbled up all the extra content Nintendo released for the original Splatoon can hop right in and feel satisfied.

We tried an almost entirely new loadout, the “Splat Dualies,” a pair of paint-spewing pistols that target a narrow area at high speed. Combined with a new special that lets you use a Super Mario Sunshine-style paint backpack to float in the air and toss bombs, the loadout seemed custom-made to engage enemy painters, rather than painting territory.

While we’re hopeful that the new stuff will make a substantial change to how everyone plays Splatoon 2 — change up the meta, if you will — those changes will be incremental and rooted in the community, rather than based on innovation and systemic improvement. That is perfectly okay, as plenty of games rely on such changes for years before making a proper sequel. In this case though, it’s hard not to wonder whether calling this game Splatoon 2 means that there will never be a new, exciting, unpredictable Splatoon sequel.

Splatoon 2 will hit the Nintendo Switch in ‘Summer 2017.’

Highs

  • Same great Splatoon mechanics
  • Gyro-based aiming works on Pro controllers
  • New weapons are fun
  • Play Splatoon on the go

Lows

  • Doesn’t really feel like a numbered sequel
  • New players will have trouble competing with series veterans