Breadth Over Depth: A Defense Of The N-Zap ’85

Hey, it looks like my music post view numbers are growing again. Time to once again squash their momentum with another random gaming post that nobody will read!

If it wasn’t readily apparent from my Twitter account, I play a lot of Splatoon 2. While I’m not a true competitive player by any stretch of the imagination, I’ve had some decent luck surviving the Hunger Games facsimile that is the ranked mode solo queue, mostly by playing flexible support weapons that focus on the main objective. I wouldn’t say I have a true “main” weapon, but among my win totals there’s one particular ink-flinger that stands out:

Weapon Wins
N-Zap ’85 474
Undercover Brella 276
Hero Splatling Replica 184
Kensa Charger 181
Splattershot Jr. 179
Neo Sploosh-o-matic 164
.96 Gal 154

I switch weapons like Carrie Underwood switches wardrobes during an awards ceremony, but in Splatoon 2 I find myself drifting back to the N-Zap ’85 when the money is really on the line. It’s served me quite well in ink battles, which is why I was so surprised to hear renowned competitive Splatoon player ThatSrb2Dude be so down on the weapon in one of his videos from several months ago.

Dude’s argument essentially boils down to this: When comparing the Splattershot Jr. and the .96 Gal, it comes down to the role you aim to fill in a match.

  • The .96’s incredible combination of power and range gives it some solid slaying support in addition to its support abilities.
  • The Jr.’s unparalleled paint coverage and oversized ink tank make it the ultimate support weapon for map control, armor spam and bomb spam.

In comparison, the N-Zap ’85 is more of a “tweener” weapon: It has better accuracy and slaying power than the Jr. and is more efficient at map control and ink consumption than the .96 (plus it has bombs instead of sprinklers), but it doesn’t excel at any of these things (and in fact, at 200 points it’s also the slowest-charging armor weapon of the trio). It’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” sort of weapon, which is why Dude dismissed its potential in the competitive scene. As someone who’s had a lot of success with the N-Zap ’85, it was only natural to wonder: Did the critique have merit? Should we all be throwing our N-Zaps away and using different weapons instead?

Let’s consider both questions individually:

  • Does Dude’s critique hold water? It actually does, for the simple reason that he was careful to specifically define the parameters of his argument. Competitive Splatoon and ranked Splatoon are two very different animals, and Dude’s argument focused solely on the former category, where players use voice communication tools, plot their strategies for each map and mode beforehand, and work to fill a defined role during the match. Therefore, when choosing a weapon, you’re generally looking for something that best fits the role you intend to fill.

If you plan to be a pure support player who eschews slaying in favor of map control and bomb span, the Splattershot Jr. will be your weapon of choice because it’s the best tool for the job. Similarly, if you’re looking to play aggressively and chip in to help your slayers, no other weapons can fill that role like the .96 Gal can. While the N-Zap’s flexibility could let you fill either role credibly, it won’t fill either role optimally, which means you’d be better off doing one or the other and making sure your teammates can handle the role that you don’t. From a competitive standpoint, the N-Zap ’85 doesn’t make much sense to use.

That being said…

  • Should we be using the N-Zap ’85 at all? In fact, there is a role for the N-Zap ’85, and it can be found in the swirling mass of chaos we call ranked solo queue.

In competitive Splatoon, you’re safe to optimize a pure or aggressive support build because you know that someone else is around to do what you can’t. In ranked solo queue, however, there are no such guarantees: Teams are randomized, and players’ communication options are limited to ‘This Way!’ and ‘Booyah!’ At any match at any time, you could find yourself in any position and forced to play any role (as least for slayer and support weapons; backliners can be a bit more choosy with their positioning). With so much uncertainty, optimizing your build to fill a certain role can be dangerous, as none of your teammates may be willing and/or able to cover other tasks. (This is why I find the Splattershot Jr. so frustrating to play in ranked mode: If none of your teammates can hit a shot, the game devolves into me doing figure-eights around the middle of the map with three Splattershot Pros in hot pursuit, all the screaming “WHERE THE #$%& IS EVERYBODY?!?!”

In other words, in ranked solo queue, you’d better be prepared to fill darn near any role, and your weapon better give you the ability to actually pull it off. This is where the N-Zap ’85 shines:

  • If you need to slay, you’ve got the accuracy and range to make it work.
  • If you need map control, you’ve got the painting power and ink efficiency to make the entire map your color.
  • If you need bombs, you’ve got Splat Bombs to pitch in.
  • If you need Ink Armor to give your team some extra defensive bulk, you’ve got that too!

Being a jack of all trades is perfect for Splatoon’s ranked mode, because you’re likely going to have to fill every one of those trades multiple times in a single match. If you’re running the N-Zap ’85, you can be confident that your weapon will give you the power to do whatever you have to do to win.

The N-Zap ’85 may not be a top-tier competitive weapon when you’re trying to squeeze every last advantage out of your competitive squad, but it’s a great choice for a mode that’s as random and chaotic as Splatoon’s normal ranked mode. You can adapt to nearly any playstyle, you can plug any holes that your team comp lacks, and you can find value somewhere in your toolkit no matter what pieces are around you. If you’re trying to make headway in this crazy environment and break into the higher ranks of play, I’d say the N-Zap ’85 is a decent place to start.