My Thoughts On Nintendo’s March 2018 Direct

Sometimes a tweet is worth a thousand words:

Nintendo’s last direct felt a bit underwhelming, as it included very few games that piqued my interest and left out several important pieces of information. I declared the whole thing to be as sleep-inducing as Chris Young’s latest single, and implored Nintendo to put on a better show the next time around. Judging by the reactions I saw on Twitter yesterday (including my own), it’s safe to say Nintendo pulled it off.

My overall feeling is that yesterday’s direct was a success on a number of different levels. It featured a bunch of high-profile first-party announcements, included a number of prominent third-party releases, addressed the future of both the Switch and 3DS (and spoke volumes about Nintendo’s support strategy for its older handheld going forward), suggested how Wii U ports might be handled going forward, was structured perfectly to build momentum and excitement as it went on, and featured the big splash (two of them, really) at the end to bring down the house. It was a brilliant display of marketing and presentation skills, and it left quite an impression on the crowd.

Here are my specific thoughts broken down by game:

  • WarioWare Gold: I thought this was initially a port, but it’s actually a brand-new game in the series featuring both new and classic minigames to play. I’m not really interested in WarioWare, but it’s nice to see Nintendo placate another starving fanbase with a new game, and it feels like the sort of low-risk, quick-turnaround title that’s going to characterize 3DS games going forward.
  • Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers: This one piqued my interest more than I expected. It’s a strange fusion of Star Fox GuardMiitopia, and Mario Kart‘s battle mode where you and a collection of Mii-flavored helpers have to beat down enemies both on the battlefield and on the track. I’m not quite sold enough to buy the game right now, but I just might pick up the demo when it comes out in May.
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey: This game, on the other hand, annoyed me more than I expected because it has no reason to exist. I thought the remake of M&L: Superstar Saga was pointless and unnecessary, but you could make the argument that as a Game Boy Advance game, at least you could finally play the game on the 3DS. As a DS title, Bowser’s Inside Story has no such excuse. (I know old copies of the game are selling for a mint on Amazon, but if that’s the main concern, why not just re-release the original game on the 3DS eShop? And if we’re really going down this road, can’t we at least go in order and get an M&L: Partners In Time remake first?) This game is arguably my least favorite entries in the series, and Bowser Jr.’s Journey looks like a copy of the pointless Bowser’s Minions mode from the M&L: SS remake. Nothing about this announcement makes me happy.
  • Detective Pikachu: Detective Pikachu’s character design is excellent, and I’m always in favor of exploring the complexities of people/Pokémon relationships. I’m not terribly excited by this game, but I can definitely see its charm, and wouldn’t begrudge people for trying it out. (An XL amiibo is not more useful than a regular one, though.)
  • Luigi’s Mansion: Hey, a remake I can actually get behind! I never played the original Gamecube version of this game, and have been mulling over buying its Dark Moon sequel for a while, so I might take a flyer on this one. Also, it looks like ports are going to be a central theme for the 3DS going forward.
  • Kirby Star Allies: I’m still on the fence about this game, but adding more capturable villians and bringing back some old friends from the past (Rick! Gooey!) is a brilliant move, and leaves the door open for even more fan favorites (Nago? Adeleine? Susie?).
  • Okami HD: I’ve never heard of this game and really don’t care about it, but one gameplay mechanic really caught my attention: The ability to mimic touchscreen controls simply by using the Joy-Con like a Wii Remote to draw things on the screen. At a high level, this means that more touchscreen-centered games are likely to appear on the Nintendo Switch. There’s one that stands out for me in particular: Super Mario Maker Switch. It’s totally coming, and my money’s on 2019.
  • Sushi Striker: The Way Of Sushido: Yeah, this one’s not my cup of tea. I prefer my puzzle battlers to be a bit more puzzle than battle. Still, the presentation is good, it’s the sort of off-the-wall concept that only Nintendo can bring to the table. (Also, it’s a dual Switch/3DS release, so more love for the two-screened wonder!)
  • Octopath Traveler: I’d mostly forgotten about this game after trying out the demo, but I’m still interested in how it takes shape. The two new travelers seem like solid additions to the cast, and I like the idea of heroes dual-classing into different occupations. With a July release date and no major first-party titles in that Q2/Q3 slot (yet), this could wind up being my game of the summer.
  • Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes: Wasn’t this franchise touted at the initial Switch reveal way back when? It looks a bit too Fire Emblem/Hyrule Warriors-esque for my taste, but with so many different game types, there’s probably at least one thing for everyone here.
  • Dark Souls: Remastered: Meh. I’m no more interested in this game than I was during the last Direct. Even amongst amiibo, the Solaire of Astora one stands out as seeming particularly useless.
  • Mario Tennis Aces: I’m torn on this one. I’ve never been particularly interested in Mario tennis games, but I’ve enjoyed different sports games in the past (golf, baseball, etc.) and Aces really stands out for its strategic depth. (Plus, the courts are way more varied than in Ultra Smash for the Wii U.) It’s a game that should really benefit from its pre-launch online tournament, giving it a chance to win over skeptical players like myself.
  • Captain Toad Treasure Tracker: I’m pleasantly surprised to see this here, as the original Wii U version deserved better than to be left on a forgotten system. More touchscreen simulation plus a dual Switch/3DS release means the ground-bound captain will finally get the attention he deserves. If you haven’t played the original, this one is definitely worth your time.
  • Undertale: This is when things started to get real. Undertale is a massive get for the Switch, even if it’s a few years late (and let’s hope “eventually” isn’t too long a wait). It’s a unique take on the RPG genre, and features some truly outstanding characters and mechanics.
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy: For those of us old enough to remember the Mario/Sonic/Crash mascot wars of the 90s, finding them all on a single system is mind-blowing. The original Crash Bandicoot games had their flaws, but they were decent platformers that helped launch the Playstation into the stratosphere way back when. Aging Nintendo partisans now have the opportunity to try out all those games they boycotted decades ago, and that’s a good thing in my book.
  • Little Nightmares: Complete Edition: Meh. Looks like some decent puzzle/platform challenges, but the vibe’s a bit creepy for my tastes.
  • South Park: The Fractured But Whole: This is a game that I’ve heard a lot of buzz about, but didn’t really know anything about it until now. The battle system seems to be a cross between Fire Emblem and the Mario & Luigi series, incorporating both positioning and timing into attacks. It doesn’t quite piqe my interest enough to buy it, but it’s another cross-platform game to fill out the Switch’s third-party lineup.
  • Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition: I still don’t care about this franchise, but this should at least excite people who do.
  • ARMS Online Open and Testpunch: On one hand, I’m happy that Nintendo hasn’t given up this game, and is trying to overcome their mistake of shoehorning into its 2017 Switch lineup by trying to draw new players in and giving hardcore players a chance to show off their skills. On the other hand, nothing I saw here makes me any more interested in giving the game another try. Sorry ARMS, but you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • Splatoon 2 v3.0: I’m always happy to have new gear to buy, and while I was wrong about Piranha Pit and Camp Triggerfish not returning, I enjoyed them both (especially the Pit) and I’m happy to see them back. I don’t play ranked battles enough to care about the X rank, but I’ve heard some skilled players rave about breaking through the S+ logjam, and having Callie back in any capacity is a win. This would be a decent update by itself, but it didn’t come alone…
  • Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion: This was a stroke of financial genius on Nintendo’s part: People have been demanding playable Octolings for years, and most won’t bat an eyelash at dropping $20 for the privilege (especially given the amount of free content the game has gotten, and the fact that you get a full-fledged single-player Octoling campaign for the money). It’s a great opportunity to dig deeper into Splatoon lore, flesh out Pearl and Marina’s characters a bit more, and add even more replay value to the game. I was saying” Okay,this might be the big ending reveal, and I’m okay with that,” and then…
  • Super Smash Brothers + Inklings: Having SSB show up wasn’t a huge surprise (I’ve heard some chatter of about it being the game that launched alongside paid online services), but it’s always nice to have some confirmation. My Super Smash days are long behind me, but this is a huge tentpole franchise that will generate hype, get people talking, and be the final nail in the coffin of the Wii U.

Again, this was a strong presentation that did exactly what it needed to: It laid out the future of the 3DS (mostly low-effort ports from here on out), offered more evidence that third-party developers want in on this cash cow, provided some clarity for the Switch’s 2108 lineup (but where’s Yoshi?), and produced enough hype and excitement to get Nintendo out of the lull it started the year in. Its presentations can vary in quality from Direct to Direct, but the Big N did a really nice job this time around.

My only question now: What’s left for E3? (Metroid Prime 4 plz)

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What Should Be The Next Big Additions To Splatoon 2?

Why is Animal Crossing headlining a Splatoon blog post? Read on…

What do you mean, “It’s too soon?” There’s no such thing when it comes to a great idea. 😉

Splatoon was a great game, and Splatoon 2 did a great job expanding the franchise with new maps, weapons, and modes. On top of that, the developers continue to release new content for the game, and recently announced a huge batch of new features, maps and customization options that would be coming within the next month. There’s already plenty of stuff here for players to have fun with, so why am I asking for more?

My rationale for this post is twofold:

  • Splatoon players have been shoehorning their own ways to play the game into this combat-centered game, and while things like Hide and Seek, Laser Tag, and even simple squid parties are fun, they’re sometimes an awkward fit in the game’s existing combat-centered modes.
  • Customization has always been a big part of Splatoon, but up to now it’s been limited to characters. Other games (like Animal Crossing) have made customization a huge part of their appeal, and I think Splatoon has a lot of untapped potential in this area.

To address these points, I propose the following two ideas for the next big Splatoon update, whenever that may be.

  • Player Rooms: Imagine your childhood bedroom. What did it look like? Did you have a bunch of cool stuff in it, like rock band posters or vacation mementos? Did you have friends over and hang out there? Given the canon age of playable Inklings (they’re kids or squids, but not adults), adding personal rooms for each player seems like a natural extension of the game’s customization options.

Much like the PC’s house in Animal Crossing, each Splatoon player starts with a plain, boring room, and is given the option to choose a floor style and wall color (and like everything else in the game, this could be changed later). Room items could be purchased from a special shop added to Inkopolis Square (there’s plenty of room in the back for new buildings) or ordered via Merch (and maybe SplatNet 2?). Finally, players could visit the rooms of other Inklings on their friend lists, and even place an order with Murch if they see a trinket that matches their own decor.

This could also tie in with Nintendo’s rumored achievement system, as the game could give you trophies and certificates that let you show off you awesomeness. Reach S+ in Splat Zones? Win a Splatfest? Become ‘SUPERFRESH!’ with your main weapon? There could be an app reward for that.

All in all, rooms would be a good way for players to show off their skill and style, and I’d be surprised if something like this doesn’t appear by Splatoon 3.

  • Codified Minigames: Sure, we can continue to muddle along using Turf Wars and ranked battles to host our beloved minigames, but there’s always confusion about the rules, and there’s no way to signal “Hey, we’re playing X!” and there’s always one player who just ignores the game and splats everyone… It’s time for the shenanigans to end.

Certain games (such as Hide and Seek) have become popular enough that they should be standardized and included as regular Splatoon game modes. They don’t have to be put on a two-hour rotation like normal ink battles, but they should at least be included as options for Private Battles. A non-combative, splat-free Free Play mode should be included as well, so people can have squid parties without having their fun ruined (or ruining the fun of players who just want to compete). Ideally, there would also be a way for players to advertise their games for anyone to join, so that players just looking for specific kinds of matches could easily find them.

By organizing different games in this manner, it would keep people that were looking to do different things from stepping on each other’s toes, and make the game more fun for everyone.

While these ideas are a little crazy and the game is pretty darn good as it is, I think they would do a lot to further increase peoples’ enjoyment of Splatoon 2. Part of the game’s appeal is that it is continuously changing things up and adding new pieces, so ideas like these are a good way for the franchise to, as Callie and Marie might say, “stay fresh!”

Which Splatoon Maps Will Return For Splatoon 2?

Over three months into its run, Splatoon 2 remains a fresh and popular title even in the face of strong competition (*cough* Super Mario Odyssey *cough*). Part of this has been the game’s strategy of releasing weekly content updates, which introduce “new” weapons and multiplayer stages and keep the game from becoming stale. For the most part, however, “new” has meant “old stuff from the original game,” as many of the added weapons and a few of the new stages (Kelp Dome, Blackbelly Skatepark, etc.) are moved over to Splatoon 2 with minimal changes.

At this point, I’m assuming that every weapon from Splatoon will eventually end up in Splatoon 2 (I’m still waiting for my N-Zap ’89), but whether or not all the old maps return is another question. So far, the maps here tend to share some distinct characteristics:

  • Aside from Sturgeon Shipyard, they’re all completely static (no moving parts).
  • They tend to have multiple paths out of each spawn point to discouraging spawn camping.
  • They tend to be very wide, almost to the point that they feel square (Port Mackerel and Manta Maria being the notable exceptions).
  • Their centers tend to be open, but they also feature a lot of uneven ground to serve as minor obstacles/lookout points and make things more interesting.
Map Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality
The Reef Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Minimal
Musselforge Fitness Yes 3 Wide Open, Small Lots
Starfish Mainstage Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate
Humpback Pump Track Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Uneven
Inkblot Art Academy Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Lots
Moray Towers Yes 2 Narrow Open, Small LOTS
Port Mackerel Yes 3 Narrow Obscured, Small Minimal
Sturgeon Shipyard No 3 Narrow Open, Small Moderate
Manta Maria Yes 2 Narrow Open, Medium Lots
Kelp Dome Yes 2 Wide Open, Large Moderate
Snapper Canal Yes 3 Wide Open, Small Moderate
Blackbelly Skatepark Yes Narrow Open, Small Moderate

*This was my attempt to measure the ease of spawn camping on a map, but its actual usefulness is questionable.

Based on this criteria, can we make any inferences about what other original maps might return in the future? Let’s take a look at the stages that have not yet made it into Splatoon 2, and see how they stack up against their newer brethren:

Arowana Mall:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Narrow Open, Small Moderate Yes

The adoption of smaller maps like Port Mackerel bodes well for the return of Arowana. It’s a difficult map to spawn camp on given the presence of a side path that leads directly to the map center, and the terrain has plenty of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. I think it gets expanded with minimal rework (more than Kelp Dome, but less than Blackbelly Skatepark) and re-released in the near future.

Saltspray Rig:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Offset, Moderate Lots No

SaltSpray stands out from other Splatoon maps because of its symmetry (vertical rather than horizontal), its offset center with an obvious chokepoint, and its lack of inkable terrain on the bottom side of the map. Its crane also gives it a dynamic component (which admittedly wasn’t that useful), which is not something you see from most new maps (and none of the returning ones thus far). I just don’t think this map suits the playstyle Nintendo is looking for in Splatoon 2.

Urchin Underpass:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 2 Narrow Open, Moderate Lots Yes

After all the work that went into Urchin Underpass, I’d be surprised if this didn’t reappear in Splatoon 2. It’s not an easy map to camp on despite its lack of direct paths from spawn, and the center is fairly open with plenty of verticality to take advantage of. Just like Arowana, I think it gets widened a little bit and otherwise left alone.

Walleye Warehouse:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 1 Narrow Open, Moderate Little No

Looking back, it’s kind of crazy to realize how boring Walleye Warehouse really was. The spawn points are set fairly deep in a passageway that makes spawn camping a major concern, and the center area is mostly flat and uninteresting (it’s basically a less-exciting version of Inkblot Art Academy or Blackbelly Skatepark). I don’t think this one come back.

Bluefin Depot:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 2 Narrow Split, Moderate Moderate No

One interesting trend in Splatoon 2 is the lack of split-center maps that force players to work their way around a specific side of the map to reach the enemy (Snapper Canal is about as close as Splatoon 2 comes, and it’s not that close at all). Throw in Bluefin’s diminutive size and lack of interesting center features, and I don’t think it’s a great candidate to return.

Camp Triggerfish:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 2/3 Narrow Split, Small Moderate No

Camp Triggerfish is basically a more-extreme version of Bluefin Depot: The entire map is divided in half (with limited opportunities to cross the gap), the center is pretty small with little turf to ink, and the design is narrow despite the map’s decent size. Throw it the dynamic gates, and this looks like a no-go to me.

Flounder Heights:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Wide Open, Moderate Lots Yes

Flounder Heights feels like a perfect map to bring back from Splatoon. It’s large, it’s got lots of different vantage points and places to explore, and it’s pretty darn hard to spawn camp on. The center might need to be expanded a smidge to allow for more action there, but I think this would be a great map for Splatoon 2.

Hammerhead Bridge:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 1 Narrow Obstructed, Moderate Lots No

Forget the map details for a moment: It’s been two years since Splatoon, so shouldn’t this stupid bridge be finished by now? The spawn point is set too far from the map’s branching paths (making spawn camping a concern), the center is not open or conducive to massive battles, and its size is due to its length more than its width. I never liked this map, and with any luck I’ll never have to deal with it again.

Museum D’Alfonsino:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Open, Moderate Lots Yes

Its dynamic qualities are a strike against it, but I still think this map is a good candidate to return. It’s got the wide open design that Splatoon 2 craves, there’s some decent verticality and lots of little places to explore, and its side paths make spawn camping fairly difficult. I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing this map come back in the future.

Mahi-Mahi Resort:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
Yes 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate No

Mahi-Mahi takes map dynamism to the extreme, with half the center left underwater until halfway through the match. It’s got a lot of the qualities Splatoon 2 wants (wide open design, decent spawn camp difficulty), but having the map change this drastically during play is probably a (Hammerhead) bridge too far for this game. You could potentially remove the dynamism and just make the map large from the start, but that would remove some of the resort’s uniqueness and hurt its appeal to longtime fans. Unless some of these other changing maps return and signal a shift in map philosophy, I’d say this one doesn’t come back.

Piranha Pit:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 2 Wide Open, Large Moderate No

My favorite thing about Piranha Pit was that it was a big map that played small due to its spawn camp placement. However, Splatoon 2 tends to favor interaction/conflict between the teams, and having large side areas where players can disappear for sixty seconds and never see the opposition doesn’t match the game’s philosophy. Throw in the moving platforms and large center structure that divide the map, and it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for Splatoon 2. (Dear Nintendo: Please prove me wrong and bring this map back!)

Ancho-V Games:

Static? Paths From Spawn* Layout Center Verticality Returning?
No 3 Wide Open, Large Moderate Yes

Despite there being no comparable feature in Splatoon 2 multiplayer to this map’s propeller lifts, I could totally see Ancho-V make a return in the future. It’s a Reef-sized map with plenty of spawn paths, and the moving platforms help to make up for the lack of terrain features in the map center. I think this makes a late-game debut similar to how it appeared in Splatoon.

Of course, Nintendo could prove me wrong and just re-release everything in the next year or so, but they seem to be shooting for a specific multiplayer experience in Splatoon 2, and not every Splatoon map can clear this bar. Still, another five maps from the original game would placate longtime fans and introduce new ones to the joys that Wii U players have known since the beginning.

When Should You Ink Your Spawn Point in Splatoon 2?

If there’s one piece of advice that new Splatoon players are repeatedly hit over the head with, it’s “Ink your spawn!” Veteran turf warriors tend to get frustrated when newbies, especially those with backgrounds in different shooter games, get caught up in the excitement of battle and head straight for the enemy with guns blazing. Splatoon, of course, is different: Your goal is to claim territory rather than splat the most foes, and every inch of horizontal surface in a map is valuable. I can’t tell you how many times my team has scratched out a narrow advantage in the center of the map, only to lose because our base was completely uncovered. So…yeah, ink your darn spawn point.

With that question settled, the conversation has shifted to when you ink your spawn point. This debate isn’t so cut and dry, but two lines of thinking have emerged:

  • You should cover your base immediately, and only move on to the center of the map once this is complete.
  • You should move to secure the center of the map immediately, and cover your base later (such as after re-spawning). This theory seems to be gaining the most traction, and is being pushed by prominent community members like Allochii of the Gaijin Gamers:

It’s a thoughtful, convincing argument. It’s also usually the wrong choice.

For my money, the first approach is the best approach: You should ink your spawn right out of the gate, and worry about securing the center later. Here’s why:

  • From my experience, maintaining map control in Splatoon 2 is much harder than in the original game, and come-from-behind victories are as common as Aerospray mains. That volatility means that being the first to grab the center of the map doesn’t mean a whole lot, as that advantage can be lost surprisingly fast. (One could argue that Splatoon 2 has the same problem as the NBA, in that nothing really matters until the last few moments of the match.) Territory around your spawn point, in contrast, is the easiest for you to cover and the hardest for your opponents to take. In short, you should worry about the turf closest to you first, because there’s more than enough time to claim the center (in fact, the later you do it, the better).
  • By the time you get splatted for the first time, things have likely gotten frantic on the battlefield, and you’ve got better things to worry about when you respawn than inking your base: Where is the enemy advancing? Where should you counterattack? How much time do we have to make a push? Do any teammates need support? Is there a safe place to super jump? In comparison, things are relatively calm at the start of a match, and you have the time to breathe and focus on the task (and turf) in front of you. This, in turn, gives you one less thing to worry about later on. (On rare occasions, you’ll find that you play so well that you never need to respawn at all, and you have to make a special trip back to your base to cover it. When this happens, however, the match is usually so one-sided in your favor that it doesn’t matter.)
  • Inking turf means building up your special meter, and having your special ability in your pocket can be a huge advantage when the initial fight breaks out. This is especially useful if you have a defensive special and aggressive teammates, as a well-timed Ink Armor activation can turn a battle into a rout.

Of course, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all mantra: Certain weapons (especially chargers) are going to want to grab strategic positions early (and they might as well, since they aren’t going to be terribly helpful inking the base anyway). However, for most players (especially new ones), the best option is to take the time to cover your spawn point in ink before moving out and engaging the other team.

Splatoon 2: Is It Worth Buying?

Yes. Gosh, this was an easy post to write!

…Wait, you still have more questions? Okay then, fire away!

  • Is there enough new content here to justify being labeled as a true sequel? Not only is there enough new content, but it’s good stuff with no filler.
    • The single-player campaign feels about the same length as the original game thus far, but the ability to use different weapons (and the bonus of using a hero weapon in multiplayer if you beat all the single-player stages with it) adds replayability without making it feel too much like filler.
    • The Salmon Run horde mode is challenging, choatic, and fun as heck to play, especially when teaming up with friends.
    • The Ranked Battles have been changed up a bit to make them more competitive (Splat Zones are in more-contested areas, Tower Control features checkpoints that gave the defending term a bit more time to regroup), and the ranking system has been tweaked to let players skip entire ranks if their skill warrants it (for example, I crushed the competition in C- Splat Zone lobbies and was immediately kicked up to B-).
    • The new maps are great, the old ones are expanded, the gear upgrade system now includes a way to specify what abilities fill those slots…I could go on forever.

Bottom Line: The game definitely earns its 2.

  • How noticeable are the changes that push Splatoon 2 in a more competitive direction? There are two major changes that I noticed:
    • The map designs are a lot more open and…well, square. There’s still a lot of verticality involved, but aside from Port Mackerel, the maps are widened to combat spawn camping and more open in the center to encourage more action (and even Port Mackerel has been widened and opened up a lot). This may give us a hint as to what maps might make the jump from Splatoon to Splatoon 2: Look for maps like Kelp Dome, Ancho-V Games, and Flounder Heights to reappear, while narrow levels like Walleye Warehouse, Arowana Mall, and Hammerhead Bridge will likely get left behind. (I’m curious to see if “split” levels like Bluefin Depot and Camp Triggerfish make a comeback.)
    • I feel like the special weapons have been watered-down for Splatoon 2, and their impact on the game is more subtle than before. (They’re also noticeably slower, in order to give players around you more time to react.) How this makes you feel will be determined by whether you were more often on the sending or receiving end of these specials in the original game.
  • I’m new to the Splatoon franchise! Will I enjoy the game, or just get wrecked by the Wii U veterans? Both, actually. Because everyone is at Level 1 right now, I’d encourage brand-new Splatoon players to start by taking a week or two to master the single-player mode, and avoid multiplayer until the experienced players work their way out of the lower-level lobbies.
  • I’m upgrading from Splatoon! Do my favorite weapons still work the same? If you’re not a roller main, you’re fine: Some of the sub weapons may have changed, but for the most part the weapons still feel about the same. If you are a roller main, however, your re-learning curve will be a bit steeper: In addition to the vertical jump fling (which is a pain to aim) and increased run speed, the weapon seems to consume ink a lot faster than in the original game, and its general fling power doesn’t feel all that powerful anymore. I didn’t find it nearly as fun to play as before.
  • Is there any reason I should not buy this game? Actually, there is: If you don’t have a fast, reliable Internet connection, you should think twice about buying Splatoon 2. Just like the original, the game is heavily reliant on online modes, and Splatoon 2 threatens to be more punitive if you disconnect from a match. Without a network connection, you’re only left with the single-player mode, which isn’t enough to justify the purchase by itself.

Overall, despite some minor complaints, Splatoon 2 is a really fun game that I can’t recommend highly enough. If you’ve got a Switch and a sturdy network, Splatoon 2 is totally worth your time.

Splatoon 2: Early Impressions

Why do I always blink in photographs?

Over the weekend, Nintendo opened Splatoon 2 up to the public for a full-fledged stress test in the form of the game’s inaugural Splatfest. My initial Switch-buying stance caused me to miss out on the Global Testfire back in March, so this was my first hands-on time with the game, and after four hours of ink-flinging, I can confirm that the while there are some tweaks around the edges, Splatoon 2 still contains the fun and magic of the original game, at least for the multiplayer mode (which represents most of the game anyway). My specific thoughts are as follows:

  • I’m a big fan of the new map designs shown during the Splatfest. Starfish Mainstage has a lot of verticality to it and includes a ton of nooks and crannies to ink/explore, Inkblot Art Academy reminds me a lot of Blackbelly Skatepark with its central tower and side alleys (though it lacks the slopes near the bases), and Humpback Pump Track has a large central hill for the teams to fight over and an outer ring that lets players outflank the opposition. My one complaint is that the nighttime motif of the Splatfest kept me from noticing any background details that might give the maps more personality.
  • Moray Towers is my favorite map in Splatoon, and the new ink rails offer a lot more options for attacking a team’s base. It makes it a bit tougher to defend your side than before, but there’s nothing more satisfying than sniping someone out of an ink rail. (I’m interested to see how the added sponges change up Port Mackerel, as that map developed a really bad reputation in the original game.)
  • I like the idea of rotating maps during Splatfest instead of sticking withe the same two or three the entire time. It helps ensure that people who can’t stand certain maps aren’t forced to play them all day.
  • don’t like the idea of randomizing your Splatfest for every match, so I’m really hoping that was just a temporary limitation for this demo.
  • I spent a lot of time with the Splat Dualies, and while they’re functional enough, they don’t suit my playstyle very well. I tend to rely on jump-dodging to avoid foes during combat, but the Dodge Roll leaves you ground-bound in kid form, and I didn’t find the roll to be as effective as avoiding shots.I probably won’t use them very much in the full game.
  • On one hand, the 5-6 disconnections/connection errors I got during the event aren’t bad in isolation. On the other hand, Splatoon has been rock solid for me ever since I upgraded my Internet (I see a connection error maybe once a month), so seeing an uptick in disconnections here was disappointing. Hopefully things won’t be as bad in the normal lobbies.
  • Honestly, I was underwhelmed by the new special weapons. Most were just okay, and the Stingray felt particularly useless (you could barely aim the stupid thing once it fired). Would it kill them to bring back a few specials from Splatoon?
  • The Splattershot, Splat Charger, and Splat Roller are still the same weapons people know and love, albeit with the few tweaks. The weapons felt like they consumed more ink than before, and burst bombs in particular felt a bit slower than in Splatoon (all bombs seemed to have a longer throw range, however). I stuck mostly to the main weapons, but that will change once I get my hands on some Sprinklers. (Happily, my beloved .96 Gal/Sprinkler combo has already been confirmed, as has my Quick Respawn Backwards Hat.)

Overall, I had a lot of fun with the Splatfest despite getting wrecked consistently by the opposition, and I can’t wait to try out the full game (especially the expanded single-player campaign) when it drops this Friday. Splatoon 2 seems to have pulled off the impressive feat of staying true to its predecessor while offering enough new material to “stay fresh.”

How Concerned Should We Be About Toxicity in Splatoon 2?

Image From Nintendo of Europe

Toxicity has been around for at least at long as humans have. (I can just imagine some caveman telling a fellow hunter “Hey man, could you stop throwing the fight here? You aren’t hitting anything with that stupid slingshot, and that sabertooth tiger is wrecking us.”) When the stakes are high in a team competition, there are bound to be people who openly question whether their teammates are doing what they should do to win. Toss in the relative anonymity and sour attitudes of the Internet, and online team games are ripe breeding grounds for toxic behavior.

Because of these concerns, Nintendo made an explicit choice to not include voice chat when it made its initial foray into the shooter genre with Splatoon. While the game still had a few “attack vectors” for toxic players to abuse (squid taunting, booyah spamming, going after other players on Miiverse), the lack of direct verbal communication kept the game from suffering from the massive toxicity issues that plagued its peers.

For Splatoon 2, however, Nintendo decided to include voice chat as part of its effort to establish the game as a serious e-sport. While this allows teammates to better coordinate their movements in battle, it also leaves players vulnerable to toxic teammates. Given that similar games like Overwatch seem to be going through especially turbulent/toxic periods right now, how concerned should Nintendo be about a similar cloud hovering over Splatoon 2?

I think it’s good news/bad news time…

  • Nintendo has obviously put a lot of thought into their voice chat deployment, and they’ve tried to limit contact between random players. Game producer Hisashi Nogami provided the following quote to My Nintendo News:

“The reason we included voice chat is because we wanted users who already know each other to enjoy the game more deeply using a communication tool that’s linked to the game…Voice chat can only be used when playing with someone you know, such as in private matchmaking; voice chat with someone you don’t know in random matchmaking won’t happen.” (emphasis added)

People are less likely to take potshots at players they know than at anonymous squids that they don’t, so these restrictions are good news.

  • However, the bar to becoming friends with someone via a Nintendo system is pretty low in my experience. I’ve gotten quite a few random friend requests from players who I’ve only known for a few Turf Wars or Mario Kart races, and I tend to accept them without doing a whole lot of vetting. I’ve also sent out a lot of friend requests to Splatfest teammates who I’ve never met, and they’re rarely rejected. (In fairness, I should note that I’ve met a lot of cool people via these random friend requests, so it’s not a completely broken system, just a risky one.) In other words, it’s not too hard to become friends with people you’ve never met and don’t know, and when it comes to toxicity concerns, that’s bad news.
  • Because voice chat is done through a separate smart-device app rather than the Switch itself, there’s an extra cost burden placed on players who want to participate in it:
    • You need a smart device (phone, tablet, etc.) that can run Nintendo’s app.
    • You need a suitable headset if you want to hear both your teammates and the in-game audio.

In other words, not just any random squid can jump into voice chat—you have to make a dedicated effort/investment to receive that privilege. It’s not much of a barrier, but it’s good news from a toxicity standpoint (if you’re going to say mean things to someone, you’ll have to pay extra to do it).

  • For players that don’t want to pay for the privilege of voice chat, however, there are freely-available tools like Skype or Discord that can allow players to communicate outside the scope of Nintendo’s walled garden. While this option requires some coordination ahead of time between players, it’s not hard to imagine people giving out their Skype user names as freely as they accept Miiverse friends. This is technically bad news, but these tools have also been available for players to use for the original Splatoon, and they don’t seem to have wrecked the community yet.

Overall, while I do think that the risk of exposure to toxic behavior is higher thanks to the inclusion of voice chat, the restrictions that Nintendo have put in place (both implicitly and explicitly) mitigate this danger somewhat. We’ll inevitably hear reports about the new voice chat feature being abused, but I don’t we’ll reach the widespread toxicity that games like Overwatch are experiencing right now. The key for players is basically to choose their friends wisely, and be considerate of others when  they chat with them.

There’s no way to completely eliminate toxic behavior, but if we all aim to be more understanding and less confrontational towards our fellow squids, we can minimize its impact and make the game more fun for everyone.